God’s Financial Advice: Contentment Versus Want

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What can living within our means teach us about maintaining contentment?

I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty (Philippians 4:11–12, MSG).

Howard Dayton tells of an American company that built a plant in Central America because of the inexpensive labor. Everything went well; they built the plant and hired excellent employees. Then they had their first payday, and everyone was very happy. But a strange thing happened the rest of that week—nobody showed up for work! Management was bewildered and went to the village leader for an explanation. “Well, now we’ve got all we need. Why should we come back to work?” So management devised a powerful game plan. They sent each employee a four-color mail-order catalog. And all the workers immediately showed back up for work.

We understand that mindset in American culture. In his excellent book The Debt Squeeze, Ron Blue says, “[Banks and retailers know that] merely putting a credit card in a potential user’s hand will lead the person to spend 34 percent more [than if they paid cash].” That says a lot about learning to live within our means. A key to this learning is to be content with what you have and not purchasing what you can’t afford! Our nation has been learning this the hard way.

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