關於滿足,「專家」所沒有告訴我們的事──WHAT ‘EXPERTS’ DON’T TELL US ABOUT CONTENTMENT

MONDAY MANNA

幾週前,教會的牧師要求我們寫下一個單詞,來描述自己當下的情緒狀態,我寫了「滿足」。也不是說我一直都很滿足;最近幾個月中,有時我也會對所發生的一切感到不安、甚至焦慮。但是更多時候,我可以說自己開始感到盼望與樂觀。在這一切起伏中,我最主要的情緒狀態就是滿足。

後來,我在字典和辭典中查找「滿足」一詞。我發現了諸如「滿意」、「愉悅」、 「安寧」、 「輕鬆」、 「無慮」和「快樂」之類的同義詞。滿足確實似乎是體驗幸福的敲門磚。

近年來,整個商業界似乎都在努力散播不滿足的情緒。實際上,我們的文化很強調不滿足感。我們常被告知,如果沒有最新的玩具或工具、最閃亮快速的汽車,或是更大而精緻的房屋,就永遠不會幸福。我們也常常被教導,除非使用正確的體香劑、減重成功或團隊贏得大獎之後,我們才會感到被接納。

勵志演講者和自助書籍都告訴我們:「如不進取,就會失敗。」我們被引導要保持忙碌,不能對現狀感到滿足。總有某些事情的出現,會加深我們對已經擁有的一切的不滿。

我想起一位著名的商業大亨被問到「多少錢才算足夠?」時,他的回答很簡單:「只要再多一點點。」如果我們總是想要更多,就永遠無法滿足。「更多」和「滿足」兩個詞水火不容。滿足感來自於對現在的處境和擁有的東西感到幸福。我永遠都想做得更好、感覺更健康、財務更自由。同時,我也想變得更加喜樂、成為更好的朋友和丈夫,並且花更多的時間享受我已經擁有的祝福。

滿足不是一個終點,滿足是一個決定,會帶來平安、喜樂和感恩。獲得更多的東西不會帶來更多的幸福,而感激我們已經擁有的才會。這是耶穌登山寶訓的中心思想。祂談到「虛心」(心靈貧窮)「溫柔(力量得到控制)」「飢渴慕義」「憐恤」「清心」(馬太福音5章3-8節)

耶穌教導我們,上面這些美德才會帶來滿足,而非獲得物質的東西。祂接著說:「不要為自己積攢財寶在地上;地上有蟲子咬,能銹壞,也有賊挖窟窿來偷。只要積攢財寶在天上;天上沒有蟲子咬,不能銹壞,也沒有賊挖窟窿來偷。因為你的財寶在哪裏,你的心也在那裏。」(馬太福音6章19-21節)

所羅門國王用傳道書的大半篇幅闡述他所領悟出的知足,使徒保羅也寫道:「我知道怎樣處卑賤,也知道怎樣處豐富……隨事隨在,我都得了祕訣。」(腓立比書4章12節)

一位在中美洲撰寫自給農業博士論文的朋友,潛心研究最窮困的窮人。我問她是否有任何意外的發現。她立刻​​開始談論這些人是多麼快樂。他們雖然是在一小片土地上勉強謀生,卻無比快樂。就像鄉村歌手馬蒂.斯圖爾特(Marty Stuart)說過的:「如果我的口袋裡有一百美元的鈔票,還有一輛凱迪拉克,就很滿意了。夫復何求?」我同意,而且我甚至不需要凱迪拉克。

©2020JimMathis是堪薩斯州歐弗蘭帕克的作家,攝影師和企業主。他的最新著作是《駱駝和針The Camel and the Needle》,《基督徒看財富和金錢A Christian Looks at Wealth and Money》。他曾任堪薩斯州堪薩斯城和密蘇里州堪薩斯城的CBMC咖啡店經理和執行理事。

反省與問題討論

  1. 你個人對「滿足」的定義是什麼?你對自己的生命和環境感到滿意嗎?請解釋你的答案。
  2. 過去一年的事件如何影響你的滿足感?新冠肺炎引發的問題是否削弱了你的平安與滿足感,還是給你帶來更大的滿足感?請解釋你的答案。
  3. 為什麼物質的東西和不斷追求更多晉升和地位,很少帶來真正的滿足感?你同意這個說法嗎?如果你有「只要再多一點點」的東西,是否就會擁有真實、持久的幸福?請解釋你的答案。
  4. 請列舉一些最會影響你的滿足或不滿足感的因素。如何能減少或消除它們對你生命的負面影響?

備註:如果你手上有聖經,想要閱讀更多相關的經文,請參考(因經文篇幅較長,請參閱未列出的經文,傳道書1:9-14、2:17-24)

傳道書1章1-4節
1:1 在耶路撒冷作王、大衛的兒子、傳道者的言語。
1:2 傳道者說:虛空的虛空,虛空的虛空,凡事都是虛空。
1:3 人一切的勞碌,就是他在日光之下的勞碌,有甚麼益處呢?
1:4 一代過去,一代又來,地卻永遠長存。
傳道書2章10-11節
2:10 凡我眼所求的,我沒有留下不給它的;我心所樂的,我沒有禁止不享受的;因我的心為我一切所勞碌的快樂,這就是我從勞碌中所得的分。
2:11 後來,我察看我手所經營的一切事和我勞碌所成的功。誰知都是虛空,都是捕風;在日光之下毫無益處。
傳道書3章22節
3:22 故此,我見人莫強如在他經營的事上喜樂,因為這是他的分。他身後的事誰能使他回來得見呢?
傳道書5章18節
5:18 我所見為善為美的,就是人在 神賜他一生的日子吃喝,享受日光之下勞碌得來的好處,因為這是他的分。
腓立比書4章6-9節
4:6 應當一無掛慮,只要凡事藉著禱告、祈求,和感謝,將你們所要的告訴 神。
4:7  神所賜、出人意外的平安必在基督耶穌裏保守你們的心懷意念。
4:8 弟兄們,我還有未盡的話:凡是真實的、可敬的、公義的、清潔的、可愛的、有美名的,若有甚麼德行,若有甚麼稱讚,這些事你們都要思念。
4:9 你們在我身上所學習的,所領受的,所聽見的,所看見的,這些事你們都要去行,賜平安的 神就必與你們同在。
腓立比書4章11-13節
4:11 我並不是因缺乏說這話;我無論在甚麼景況都可以知足,這是我已經學會了。
4:12 我知道怎樣處卑賤,也知道怎樣處豐富;或飽足,或飢餓;或有餘,或缺乏,隨事隨在,我都得了祕訣。
4:13 我靠著那加給我力量的,凡事都能做。
腓立比書4章19節
4:19 我的 神必照他榮耀的豐富,在基督耶穌裏,使你們一切所需用的都充足。


WHAT ‘EXPERTS’ DON’T TELL US ABOUT CONTENTMENT

By Jim Mathis

A few weeks ago, the pastor of our church asked us to write down one word that described our current emotional state. I wrote “content.” Not that I am always content. A few times during recent months I have felt unsettled, even anxious, about everything that has been happening. Many days, I can say that I am starting to feel hopeful or optimistic – but feeling content is my main emotion.

Later, I looked up the word “content” in the dictionary and in a thesaurus. I discovered synonyms like “satisfied,” “pleased,” “tranquil,” “at ease,” “unworried,” and “happy.”  Contentment does seem to serve as a gateway to experiencing happiness.

These days, entire industries seem dedicated to sowing discontentment. In fact, much of our culture has that focus. We are constantly told we will never be happy without the newest toy or tool, the shiniest and fastest car, a bigger and more elaborate house. We will not feel accepted, we are constantly told, until we use the right kind of deodorant, lose weight, or our team wins the big game.

Motivational speakers and self-help books tell us, “if we cruise, we lose.” So we directed to get busy, never feeling satisfied. There is always something else emerging to deepen our feelings of discontentment with what we already have.

I think of the famed business magnate who was asked, “How much is enough?” His response was simple: “Just a little bit more.” If we always want more, we will never have enough. The words “more” and “content” are bitter rivals. Contentment comes from being happy where we are and with what we have. I always want to do better work, feel healthier, and be more financially secure. But I also want to be more joyful, be a better friend and husband, and spend more time enjoying the blessings I already have. 

Contentment is not a destination. It is a decision, followed by peace, joy, and gratitude. Acquiring more stuff will not bring more happiness; appreciating what we already have will. This is a central theme in Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.” He spoke about being “poor in spirit,” “being meek (strength under control),”  having a “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” being “merciful,” and being “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:3-8).

These lead to contentment, Jesus taught, not acquiring material things. He went on to say, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

King Solomon devoted much of the book of Ecclesiastes to telling what he had learned about contentment, and the apostle Paul wrote, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” (Philippians 4:12).

A friend who did her doctor’s thesis on subsistence farming in Central America, studying the poorest of the poor. I asked if there were any surprises. She immediately began talking about how happy everyone was. These people, barely scratching out a living on a small plot of land, were as happy as can be. I heard country singer Marty Stuart say one time, “If I have a hundred-dollar bill in my pocket and a Cadillac to drive, I am satisfied. Who could want more?” I agree, and I don’t even require a Cadillac.

© 2021. Jim Mathis is a writer, photographer and small business owner in Overland Park, Kansas. His latest book is The Camel and the Needle, A Christian Looks at Wealth and Money. He formerly was executive director of CBMC in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A.

Reflection/Discussion Questions

  1.  What would be your personal definition of contentment? Do you consider yourself a person who is contented – with life and your circumstances? Explain your answer. 
  2. How have the events of the past year affected your sense of contentment? Did the problems that arose largely due to the COVID pandemic diminish your sense of peace and contentment, or did your experiences lead to greater contentment? Explain your answer. 
  3. Why do you think that material things and a constant striving for more – such as greater achievements, promotions, status – rarely leads to true contentment? Do you even agree with that conclusion? Do you think that if you only had “just a little bit more,” that would result in true, lasting happiness? Why or why not?
  4. Name some of the influences that affect your sense of contentment – or discontentment – the most. What can you do about reducing or eliminating their negative impact in your life?

NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more, consider the following passages: Ecclesiastes 1:1-4,9-14, 2:10-11,17-24, 3:22; 5:18; Philippians 4:6-9,11-13,19


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