I was honored to be visiting with a church member and a friend from our church yesterday. The conversation was very good, and at times very deep. One of the questions and conversations had was about contentment. 

The comment was made by my friend,

"Why does it seem that many, in poorer countries, seem to be happier than we who are living in wealthy nations? Unless it is absolute poverty, they seem to have little but they have more joy."

My answer, and I believe it is absolutely the truth, was because those who live in wealthy nations, such as America and Europe, are blinded by our possessions. 

As I pondered that answer a little longer, the truth and weight of that answer, and the question that prompted the answer, really is one that should be explored by all. Of course we can approach this topic from many different angles but we arrive to the same conclusion. Our materialism has blinded us. 

Whether this "blindness" is by personal choice, or it came upon us subtly, I will not speculate. We know the answer to this for ourselves and it is this blindness that causes us much sorrow, grief, and angst. 

Our nation has been, for the past several hundred years, blessed by God. This was due to the very fact that our government, society, and laws were based on the knowledge and acceptance of God. Our nation was a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and majority of the early leaders were in fact Christian. To illustrate this, I quote John Jay, one of the first Supreme Court Judge, a founding father of our nation, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Here is what he says,

"Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian Nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers."

We could spend hours quoting and looking at the fact that majority of our founders were Christian and held to the Christian morals as found in the Bible. Even our earliest documents, the Mayflower Compact, the Old Deluder Satan Act, and others found their roots in the Bible. 

Our educational insitutions were designed for the preparation of Christian service. Harvard and Yale were established to train up preachers and further the gospel. On and on we can go with this thread. 

Even in society we have the proof of respect and honor due to Christianity and the tenants of the Bible. This can be seen in the Blue Laws which certain businesses shut down for Sunday, and gladly many went to church and sat under solid preachers. 

We could, of course, point out some outliers to this and those who hate Christianity are quick to point out the few illustrations to counter this. But those were the outliers and the abnormal. It is because of being a Christian nation, God's hands have been on our nation and He has blessed us with protection, and possessions. 

But in the 1800's through today there has been a MAJOR change. Today, our nation does not resemble anything remotely close to our founding. Our politics are just a shell of what they should be, and our society is gladly jumping into the very lake of fire warned about in Scripture. 

With that comes the decline of appreciation, grattitude, and personal responsability. Our country, and other "wealthy nations" like ours are experiencing such a decline in anything remotely to do with manners, and showing gratefulness for the simple things they possess. 

If a twelve year old does not have the latest $1,500 IPhone, they act out in childish behavior. When a sixteen year old does not get that high sports car or that special gaming system, we can see their reactions on YouTube where they throw their temper tantrum. To boot, the parents are to blame because they then cave in and give to these little babies, that which they want. 

But this is where the blindness comes in. There is no longer the appreciation of receiving. The EXPECTATION is they are owed everything they want, and they had better be given it. If they don't, they riot, loot, fight, argue, curse, and throw their temper tantrums. A good spanking would be a good answer in these moments but many parents themselves are blinded by their own materialism. Therefore they help feed this monster that grows and festers on the inside. When it comes out, it is an ugly sight to behold. 

But this is where blindness comes in. The pursuit is about things. The desire is for better and for more. The push is to get to the next level. The real American dream of life liberty, and pursuit of happiness, has been replaced by the new American dream of, a home, car, and a government that takes care of me. What an empty shadow of what our nation started as. If the pursuit is all about things, then when those things get threatened, it causes a lot of heartache and frustrations. 

It is in this state, the stuff becomes god, and God, who is the giver of all things, is ignored and denied. Now we look at society, do we see why there is such a depravation that is showing absolute corruption and deterioration from the inside out? 

This blindness has caused us to lose focus on the important things that really matter. One time a year, we have Thanksgiving. Of course, with our politically correct society, they want to change the name of that holiday, and or change the meaning of Thanksgiving. But the first Thanksgiving was when the Pilgrims offered to God their thanks for bringing them to a new land where they were able to worship God freely and provided for them what they needed. Today, thanksgiving is about...FOOTBALL! FOOD! FAMILY! Between the three, one actually is most important.

What happens the day after (actually it is now streatched out over the course of a whole week)? It was posted somewhere that,

"Only in America do we all have a day where we rush out to buy things we do not need, with money we do not have, to impress people we do not like, right after the one day we claim to be thankful for the very things we already own". 

So what is the Christian's answer and response? First, we should pray for our nation that their eyes are opened and their blindness falls away both physically, and most importantly, Spiritually. Second, we must consider what the Scriptures say:

1) We first find Paul telling Timothy (1 Timothy 6:6) that contentment with GODLINESS is great gain. Not wealth, not possessions, not positions. Godliness while being content with what God has given us is true gains. 

2) We then see that all we have comes from God (1 Corinthians 11:12). Yes, we are able to work, and we should work (this is another topic for another time), but it is God who enables us to work and thereby He provides for us. 

3) Recognizing God as the giver of everything, we should offer to Him all of our thanks (Psalm 50:14). Then, we bring those thanksgivings to Him in prayer and praise (Psalm 100:4) 

4) If we find we have a need (notice not a want), we must go to the One who can provide for that need (Philippians 4:6). 

5) In this, we realize that God knows our needs and therefore will provide for us (Matthew 6:8). 

6) We do not and should not overwork and stress ourselves simply to gain (Proverbs 23:4-5)

7) We know He can provide for our needs because He has an unmeasurable storehouse from which to provide (Psalm 50:10)

8) So therefore, we do not have to worry about what we will drink, wear, or eat. These are the needs God will provide (Matthew 6:25). 

9) Therefore, we can be thankful which is the will of God for all of us (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Notice it is in all circumstances. Not just when things are good, and happy. But we can be thankful knowing that God will provide our needs. Even when inflation is higher than it has ever been. Even when the dollar is weaker than it has ever been. Even when those who are in control spend way more than they should. God can still work over all of that and provide. Are we being thankful? 

We could go on for hours on this topic, because it is really big. However, this is hard for those whose life is bound by possessions. But a good way to start changing the mindset is through prayer. Then, as I have heard said,

"If God wanted me to have __________, He would have given it to me. Since I don't have it, I know I don't need it." 

I am not, and I have taught on this before, attacking wealth. I believe that if God blesses someone with material wealth, that is something that should be looked upon with praise and honor to God for His goodness. If someone is faithful and a good steward with what God has given them, then I believe they should be honored because God has honored them. So I am not of the modern cultural mindset of wealth = evil. Can it be? Yes. But there are many who are wealthy and who are Godly. Do not mistake the two. Our society is foolish in doing so. 

It is the love of money that is evil, not money itself (1 Timothy 6:10). If someone saves, is a good steward, and uses their money wisely, and God blesses that, I believe we should rejoice with those people and lift our praises to God for His blessing. 

But we now must address the reason why those who do not have seem to be happier, more joyful. The answer is simple but hard. It is because of their lack, they have nothing to lean on other than God Himself. Those who do not have cannot look at their own possessions and wealth as a way of escape. They can ONLY look to God. They are more open to God and His Spirit. They are more willing to accept the truth and fact of God's existance because they are not blinded by the wealth we have. 

It is therefore a more joyful thing for them because they have what many in our nation are missing. A relationship with their creator. Materialism does not provide this joy. Instead it brings bigger heartaches. But to fear the Lord, and to have humility in His site is of greater riches (Proverbs 22:4). 

Are you seeing a pattern? In their lack, they have more joy, hope, peace, and yes, freedom, than we do with all of our "stuff". Maybe, in our wealthy nations of the US and Europe, we can learn a lesson from the humble of our nations. Maybe, through them, we can learn much. Maybe, through our return to the fundamental principals of Christianity, and our nation, we too will find sight.