"Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor."
In the fifth century, a man named Arenius determined to live a holy life. So he
abandoned the conforms of Egyptian society to follow an austere lifestyle in the desert.
Yet whenever he visited the great city of Alexandria, he spent time wandering through its
bazaars. Asked why, he explained that his heart rejoiced at the sight of all the things he
didn't need. Those of us who live in a society flooded with goods and gadgets need to
ponder the example of that desert dweller. A typical supermarket in the United States in
1976 stocked 9,000 articles; today it carries 30,000. How many of them are absolutely
essential? How many superfluous?
Our Daily Bread, May 26, 1994.
Philip Parham tells the story of a rich industrialist who was disturbed to find a
fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat. "Why aren't you out there fishing?" he
"Because I've caught enough fish for today," said the fisherman.
"Why don't you catch more fish than you need?' the rich man asked.
"What would I do with them?"
"You could earn more money," came the impatient reply, "and buy a better
boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even
more fish, and make more money. Soon you'd have a fleet of boats and be rich like
The fisherman asked, "Then what would I do?"
"You could sit down and enjoy life," said the industrialist.
"What do you think I'm doing now?" the fisherman replied as he looked placidly
out to sea.
Our Daily Bread, May 18, 1994.
Be content with what you have, never with what you are.
Years ago, Russell Conwell told of an ancient Persian, Ali Hafed, who "owned a
very large farm that had orchards, grain fields, and gardens... and was a wealthy
contented man." One day a wise man from the East told the farmer all about diamonds
and how wealthy he would be if he owned a diamond mine. Ali Hafed went to bed that night a
poor man--poor because he was discontented. Craving a mine of diamonds, he sold his farm
to search for the rare stones. He traveled the world over, finally becoming so poor,
broken, and defeated that he committed suicide. One day the man who purchased Ali Hafed's
farm led his camel into the garden to drink. As his camel put its nose into the brook, the
man saw a flash of light from the sands of the stream. He pulled out a stone that
reflected all the hues of the rainbow. The man had discovered the diamond mine of
Golcanda, the most magnificent mine in all history. Had Ali Hafed remained at home and dug
in his own garden, then instead of death in a strange land, he would have had acres of
G. Sweeting, in Moody Monthly, May, 1988,
A number of years ago there was a popular program called The Goldbergs. In one episode,
Jake Goldberg came home for supper and excitedly told his wife, Molly, about a great idea
he had. He wanted to go into business. Molly had some money put away, anticipating just
such a thing, and she gave it to him. As they sat at the dinner table, enthusiastically
discussing the future, Jake said, "Molly, some day we'll be eating off of golden
plates!" Molly looked at him and replied, "Jake, darling, will it taste any
A man became envious of his friends because they had larger and more luxurious homes.
So he listed his house with a real estate firm, planning to sell it and to purchase a more
impressive home. Shortly afterward, as he was reading the classified section of the
newspaper, he saw an ad for a house that seemed just right. He promptly called the realtor
and said, "A house described in today's paper is exactly what I'm looking for. I
would like to go through it as soon as possible!" The agent asked him several
questions about it and then replied, "But sir, that's your house your
Leaning on his fence one day, a devout Quaker was watching a new neighbor move in next
door. After all kinds of modern appliances, electronic gadgets, plush furniture, and
costly wall hangings had been carried in, the onlooker called over, "If you find
you're lacking anything, neighbor, let me know and I'll show you how to live without
I had no shoes and complained until I met a man who had no feet.
Statistics and Stuff
Dream On. Postwar Americans always cherished the expectation that their standard of
living would improve with each generation. In polls at the onset of the Reagan era, 2 of
every 3 respondents said they expected to be better off than their parents. Now, that
figure is being reversed. Almost three fourth of the 1,000 people who answered a Roper
poll for Shearson Lehman Brothers say the American Dream is "harder to attain"
than a generation ago. And 60 percent say achieving the dream requires more financial risk
than it did for their parents.The poll also finds that some of the values held most dear
during the 1980s -- like wealth, power and fame -- are those that Americans are now most
likely to deem "unimportant." The most important elements of today's American
Dream center on family and friends. But money remains something to dream about. For
Americans with household incomes under $25,000, it would take $54,000 a year to fulfill
the American dream. Those who make $100,000 plus crave an average of $192,000. In other
words, the American Dream usually lies nearly twice the distance away.
U.S. News & World Report, July 27, 1992, p. 11.
Before movie companies were careful about Swahili translations--assuming no one in the
U.S. would understand--a director needed an African messenger who was to gasp out a
sentence to the big chief, collapsing as he delivered his message, since he had run for
days with his vital news. A local Englishman who spoke Swahili was asked to write an
urgent-sounding sentence in the language. He did, tongue in cheek. An American actor
played the part beautifully. All went well until the movie was shown in Nairobi (where
everyone spoke Swahili, of course). The drama of the moment was reduced to high comedy.
What the messenger actually said as he threw himself, exhausted, before the chief was,
"I do not think I am getting paid enough money for this part."
B. and J. Leslie-Melville, Elephant Have
Right of Way.
He that is down needs fear no fall;
He that is low, no pride;
He that is humble, ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
I am content with what I have,
Little be it, or much;
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
Because Thou savest such.
John Bunyan, quoted in Anthology of Jesus.