By Dr. Mark H. Creech
Christian Action League
In regions of Mexico hot springs and cold springs are found side by side, and because of the convenience of this natural phenomenon the women often bring their laundry, boil their clothes in the hot springs, and then rinse them in the cold springs.
A tourist watching this procedure commented to his Mexican guide: “They must think that Mother Nature is generous to freely supply such ample, clean hot and cold water.” The guide replied, “No, senor, there is much grumbling because she supplies no soap.”
That reminds me of another story. Several years ago a magazine publisher polled a number of prominent people all over the world to see what it was that they wanted the most in life. He got a number of interesting responses. One man, an architect, wished for good health. One public official said, “Give me a little Vermont farm with a brook and an apple orchard and I’ll be satisfied.” A gifted author wanted the ability to understand the language of animals. However, perhaps the best answer was that of a man who said, “What I desire most of all is an ever greater ability to appreciate what I already have.”
It seems that we all have an insatiable desire for more no matter how blessed we are in life.
We have a tendency to grumble and complain about what we don’t have, rather than recognizing how abundant our blessings in the things that we do have. In comparison to most other nations, America is overrun with prosperity. Yet we are seemingly bankrupt in the virtue of thanksgiving.
As we look to celebrate one of our nation’s most important holidays, Thanksgiving Day, perhaps we would be well served to be reminded of an incredible text of Scripture. The apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:11-13: “I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret [of being content] – whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.”
In this verse, the apostle tells us what is at the bottom of our unthankfulness. He tells us the secret of a grateful heart is to be rid of a covetous spirit. Rev. Carl Haak in “Thanksgiving with Contentment” puts it this way: “The Bible teaches that covetousness is the opposite of thankfulness, or the opposite of contentment. If we, as sinners, are covetous, if the sin of lusting after what God has not given to us…lives in our hearts, then, obviously we cannot give thanks to God for what we have. If we live our life dissatisfied with our looks, with our home, with our money, with our job, with our wife, with our husband, with our parents, with our car, with our clothes, we cannot give thanks. And if we do this Thursday, we give the thanks of a hypocrite.”
The story of the life of Howard Hughes is a tragic one. Hughes basically wanted only one thing in life – more! Because he wanted more money, he parlayed inherited wealth into a billion-dollar pile of assets. He wanted fame, so he went to Hollywood and became a filmmaker and star. He wanted more sensual pleasures, so he paid handsome sums of money to indulge in all of his hedonistic urges. He wanted more thrills, so he designed, built, and piloted the fastest aircraft in the world. He wanted more power, so he secretly dealt political favors so skillfully that two U.S. Presidents were essentially at his beck and call. All Hughes ever wanted was more – more – more.
Despite the fact that Hughes had everything in life that he needed and exceedingly more, he finished his life emaciated and colorless. His fingernails had grown to look like grotesque inches-long corkscrews. His teeth were black and rotten. His body was covered with innumerable needle marks from drug addiction. He walked around naked most of the time, with his hair and beard to his waist. He hid from the light of day. He was an exceedingly lonely man who died weighing only 95 pounds. The only way the Treasury Department could even identify him was by his fingerprints.
Hughes, I think, is a picture of every life bound by covetousness. He resembled outwardly the way every covetous soul inwardly appears before God.
Jesus warned: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consist not in the abundance of the things which he possesses” (Luke 12:15).
Today we seem to concentrate more on what we accumulate, what we may possess, than anything else. We live our lives dissatisfied on numerous levels. Yet Thanksgiving is a time to set matters right – to commit ourselves to those issues of much greater weight, like, recognizing God’s sovereignty over our lives, seeing that everything we have comes from his hand of grace, embracing the riches of his salvation in Jesus Christ, avoiding excess and rejecting illegitimate, exploitive, or selfish desires, loving our neighbor as ourselves and giving generously.
A man was tired of his friends owning nicer homes than his, so he went to see a realtor and put his home on the market and started to search for a new one. One day, he was reading the newspaper and came across a listing for a home that was everything he was searching for. So he called his realtor. The realtor said, “But Sir, that’s your house. That’s the house we’ve been trying to sell for you.”
The first step to a truly grateful heart this Thanksgiving season is to spurn covetousness and choose contentment, regardless of your station.