Tag Archives: contentment

How Much Do You Need To Make To Be Happy?

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the perfect salary for happiness is US$75,000 a year. This is based on a Gallup poll conducted between 2008 and 2009.

Yet that number seems incredibly arbitrary. Do people in poverty-stricken countries need to make US$75,000 a year to be happy? In those cultures, they would be considered rich. And what about past generations—did this rule apply, with inflation adjusted numbers?

In my travels to Mozambique on the continent of Africa, my friends who all lived well below the US poverty line seemed every bit as happy as any of my friends in America.

How much do you really need to make a year to be happy?

Please join us in today’s daily Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Jeremiah 37:1-38:28
1 Timothy 6:1-21
Psalm 89:38-52
Proverbs 25:28

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Jeremiah 37:1-38:28. The life of a prophet certainly isn’t glorious. First, Jeremiah is beaten by the king’s officials, then the king asks Jeremiah for an encouraging word from God. Jeremiah pleads for protection from the king’s officials, and the king grants his request…for awhile. The king then allows the officials to do with Jeremiah as they please, so they throw him into a muddy cistern where he’s left to die. Then at the request of another official in the royal palace, the king orders 30 men to pull Jeremiah from he mud. Finally, King Zedekiah sends for Jeremiah again. We like prophets when they tell us what we want to hear and we don’t like them when they tell us what wee don’t want to hear.

Proverbs 25:28. “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. ” Here’s the Klassen updated paraphrase of this verse: “Like a computer without a firewall is a person who lacks self-control.” Without self-control, we live with the constant threat of attack—not only in the form of temptation, but from an outright assault from Satan.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Do you ever lay in bed at night and wonder what your life would be like if you were rich? I admit that I do. But at this point in my life, I doubt riches will ever find me.

Even if it did, though, Paul’s words in today’s reading keeps things in perspective. He writes, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). What are some of those traps?

  • Indebtedness and bankruptcy
  • Workaholism
  • Broken marriages and families as a result of the above
  • Spiritual anorexia

You don’t recognize the last malady? Actually, it’s a phrase that just hit me as I thought about how we can replace spiritual food with activity and the pursuit of a better life. Scripture gives it another word that isn’t so sexy: idolatry.

What we think is the “better” life can lead to a life of spiritual destitution. It’s kind of like eating candy bars at every meal instead of the solid food that comes from an intimate relationship with Jesus.

While US$75,000 a year can bring a measure of happiness, I know plenty of people at that income level who aren’t happy—and besides, no one can ensure they will be able to maintain that for the rest of their lives. Paul describes riches and wealth as “uncertain.”

Happiness is so fleeting. It’s dependent on an infinite number of variables ranging from good health to making a specific amount of money. And strangely enough, Scripture never promises happiness nor does it offer happiness as a worthy pursuit.

But Scripture does offer us a worthy pursuit: “But…flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11 italics added). Notice that none of these qualities involve the accumulation of income or stuff. In fact, it doesn’t even involve sound financial stewardship.

When I lay in bed and consider what my life would be like if I were wealthy, I remember Paul’s words: “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). If I were wealthy, I’d probably decide that I need more in order to be happy. But godliness and contentment affords me a meaningful life regardless of my income level.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does contentment look like in your life?
  3. What prevents you from living content?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Another of the World’s Most Trite and Tired Phrases

It’s an overused phrase. So much so, it’s become almost a meaningless expression. People use some form of it everywhere from describing a positive time in life, or asking for something from God, to an exclamation after someone sneezes.

As a pastor, I find myself using it and then kicking myself mentally for uttering such a trite and tired phrase. It’s the religious equivalent of “Don’t worry, be happy.” What is it?

God bless you. But what does that mean? To be blessed by God or for us to bless others?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Isaiah: 22:1-24:23

Galatians 2:17-3:9

Psalm 60:1-12

Proverbs 23:15-16

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Isaiah: 22:1-24:23: Through Isaiah, God lets it be known that he is a two fisted God. In one God holds blessing (see below). This hand God opens readily for those drawing near to God in faith, love and obedience. The other fist God holds tight but warns that it holds a curse: the curse of what comes from not being in relationship with God but in opposition to him.

Somehow this is the hand God needs to describe most often for us. Thus we see God as wrathful but not ourselves as receiving the consequences of our disobedient actions.

Psalm 60:1-12: The above is repeated in this Psalm. God’s rejection or acceptance lies, in part, within our own choices. The psalmist readily admits and accepts God’s rejection and then pleads for restoration and salvation. “With God we will gain victory,” the psalmist reminds us. The unsaid? Lining up against God is sure defeat.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Late one night, I took a wrong turn and got lost just east of the Mississippi River near down town St Louis. Suddenly I found myself in the wrong place, in a dangerous part of town. Every store front was locked down with heavy bars and huge locks over the doors and windows. With each new turn, I turned back on myself like a rat in a maze. Making it worse, I could see where I should be, my hotel well lit and inviting, rising into the night over on the west side of the Mississippi.

On my fourth trip down one dark street two guys attempted to block my way. I swerved around them and gunned my car toward the river. I had to get out of there or die trying. Then I saw a bridge spanning the river. It seemed to lead right to my hotel. The only problem was that the bridge was closed for construction. Terrified, I edged my car around the barricades and, white knuckled, picked my way through the construction rubble, imagining myself driving off the end and falling into the Mississippi. I was not happy.

The word “bless” is used nearly 400 times in the Bible. It is a key concept. God says to Abram, “I will bless you . . . and you will be a blessing . . . and all the peoples on earth will be blessed by you.” Psalm 1 begins “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.” Jesus tells us “Blessed are they who mourn . . . .” And in today’s reading, Paul repeats the Abrahamic promise from Genesis 12. But what does it mean to be blessed?

Most people understand the word to refer to some kind of happiness or well being. Don’t worry, be happy. Robert Schuller even wrote a book called “The Be (Happy) Attitudes” based on Jesus’ contradictory sermon. That simple definition doesn’t work, however. Did God promise Abram and all peoples of the earth happiness? If so, God has not kept his promise. Did Jesus tell sad people, like the famous song, to just be happy? Hardly.

No, being blessed is more than happiness, more than an attitude, and–certainly–more than a trite, tried phrase used to express a desire or extinguish an explosive sneeze.

Most often blessing in the Bible carries the meaning of contentment even in difficult situations because you know you are in a right place with God. Being blessed does not only connote receiving something from God but rather walking through life with faith in God. “So those of you who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith,” Paul reminds the Galatians. Jesus wants us to have faith that whether we are hungry, mourning, poor, or persecuted we can still know God is with us and cares for us.

What could be more of a blessing to yourself and others than having unflappable faith in tough times? God blessed the peoples of the earth with Abraham’s faith.  God can do the same with you and me.

Somehow the bridge did not collapse nor did I drive into the river. That dilapidated bridge lead over the dark waters of the Mississippi and right back to my hotel. As I pulled in the parking garage, strangely I felt not happiness but relief, peace–almost contentment. It wasn’t just that I was now safe. Finally I was in the right place. I was where I was supposed to be. It dawned on me, I could have had that peace in Christ, even on the other side of the river.              

  1. What do these for passages share in common?
  2. When have you felt in the right time and place with God?
  3. What passage spoke most to you?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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