|Public Market–Chaing Mai (© tkbeyond)|
American culture is a funny thing—it's ironic. We have unparalleled liberty and prosperity, yet generally lack contentment as a people. Based on this, advertisers and public media have reaped multi-billion dollar revenues. We have so much and still want so much more. A good portion of the world's population wants what we have. When they can't have it they hate us for it, or want to destroy it. Who can blame them, really?
Take the current protests aimed at Wall Street. Our US Constitution guarantees freedom of rights (the 1st Amendment in Bill of Rights). Of course, a segment of our population wants to shut them up, and another group wants to ride the wave of their sentiment. But, so far, what they want isn't clear except some form of access to greater wealth—envy and discontent (greed) protests greed.
Like so many things in life, and with our culture, much energy and talk is expended on surface issues—the effect rather than the cause. Greed, whether corporate or individual, is what got us into this economic mess. It's easy to blame others for our own misfortune, claiming the role of victim. It's a waste of time finding fault. The fault lies at all of our feet—the banks, the lending and investment institutions, the government (both parties), personal debt, and you and me. We're just not content.
Americans, even the poorest, still have more than MOTROW. The average annual income of many nations is far less than our poor on welfare (see–http://goo.gl/GZZXG). Just recently I saw a reported stat that our poor (lowest 20%) live at a higher standard of living now than 10 years ago. Yet, we want more. The problem with greed is—there will never be enough! Greed (covetousness) is equivalent to idolatry (Col 3:5). That's our problem. Just like the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, we keep wandering in a wilderness of wishing we had more, or wishing we could go back to what we had before.
Recently I was reading through Isaiah and came across this question—O Lord, why do you let us wander from your ways and become so stubborn that we are unable to fear you? (Isaiah 63:17) "Why," this is the dilemma of liberty—the dilemma of having free will. Some might say we don't really have free will—only what God allows within His sovereignty. I don't accept that, otherwise we'd be content because we wouldn't know any different (I oversimplify to make a point). This is why some people want a government that controls freedom—it removes options and decisions are easier. The desire of many in Russia after the fall of the USSR illustrates this—wanting things to go back as they were under communism. So, some may want God to do the same—just take away our options so we won't wander from His ways.
Our hearts become hardened when we think there's more to be had. Somehow, God, the government, Wall St., or someone else is holding out on us, keeping us from getting our due. This is how I see the dilemma of free will within the Garden of Eden. The serpent convinced Eve (and Adam with her) that God was holding something back from them (Gen 3:5). Of course, when they ate and their eyes were opened, it wasn't what they wanted (or expected). Wouldn't everything have been better if only God had kept them from eating that fruit!
Our hearts will always wander because of innate selfishness. That's what we inherit from Adam and Eve, because they weren't content with what God had given them. The only cure is having childlike trust in God, which is how things started out in the Garden. Anything short of that and our hearts are off wandering, and in the process, hardening towards God. "Why Lord?!" Because He desires genuine trust, with sincere love and adoration, not robots.
So, while on this earth and in this life, we walk with God by faith—trust. And when we wander off the path of faith, we need to return to trusting Him for everything in this life. Trust in God is the key to genuine contentment. I've experienced genuine contentment in this life from time to time. But, too often I'm out there wandering with everyone else. How about you?