I remember when working at a local daycare, there was a popular fad going on where everyone wanted to have pillow pets. I started to see one then two, and before you know it, almost every child was sleeping on a pillow pet during nap-time. One little boy however, came every Monday with a regular pillow wrapped in the bag. I heard many kids pick on him and ask why he never had one and he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know” and kept rolling a truck back and forth on the play mats. One Friday afternoon, the mother came to pick him up and she said, “grab your things from your cubby sweety so we can go.” The little boy grabbed all his things including his pillow to take home to be washed for the weekend. The mom laughed and said, “he asked me if he could have a pillow pet, do you have any idea what that is?” I explained it to her and she said “what’s wrong with just a regular pillow?” I said, “nothing at all” and she then went on to say, “well, this one serves the same purpose and I don’t want him thinking he has to have what everyone else does.” I thought to myself, what a powerful lesson to teach a child at such a young age. By the end of the year I started to see fewer pillow pets and by the next year they were nearly forgotten about.
Thinking back on this memory, I ask myself how many times I fell into the trap of the “I want it too.” I started to write down some of the times I felt that triggered my discontentment. Some of the things off the top of my head were: walking around in the mall and pictures on social media from family, friends and DIY or home décor sites. I started to ask myself “what about these things makes feel so discontent?” My answer was the opposite of the mother at the daycare. My answer was I just wanted to be like everyone else.
Over the past few years, this has been an area that God has really been working with me on. To say it’s been an easy lesson in spiritual discipline would be a lie. I’ve notice this becoming a struggle with many other Christians. I’ve personally seen it to be more difficult for woman more so than the men. The only way to see a heart change with our thoughts and be transformed from these thoughts is to let God lead us and put our focus on him and be real about it and keep it constant.
Last night I was reading Jesus’ parable in Matthew 20. This parable wonderfully depicts what happens when we need Jesus to do some adjusting on our thoughts when we start to put our focus on the things others have and we do not.
“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work. At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing. At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’ They replied, ‘Because no one hired us. The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard. That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat. He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others? So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” – Matthew 20:1-16
I can honestly say, I would have been just as upset as the first laborers had I been there. Just like most of Jesus’ parables, in this story he is telling and explaining what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. He is revealing to us that it doesn’t matter how long you have served the Lord, but what matters is you have served the Lord and followed Him. This parable illustrates greatly how we get our minds focused on what others receive rather than what God has already blessed us with. Living in a culture that seems to be growing more selfish and desiring more of this and more of that does not contentment easy. We want more money, more possessions, and more attention. We live in a world where people think they are owed something and deserve more. We need to prove to others we make more money and have more stuff. What a sad and shallow life to live because these thoughts and beliefs have no solid foundation in the truth. It is only a life built on the lies from the evil in the world. However, thankfulness and gratefulness can adjust our thoughts back to God and off the “wants and must-haves” of this world.
Matthew 20:26-27 says “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” One of my greatest memories as a child was waking up early in the morning with my pap, grandma and sister to pick green beans and other vegetables in our garden. Afterwards we would get dressed and pap would be loading up the trunk of his big yellow Chevy with boxes and bags of what we just picked. Pap would then take us all to town with him as he parked the vehicle along the side of a tall brick building downtown. I don’t remember much, but I remember seeing a man shake my pap’s hand and say thank you so much as pap and gram handed them the vegetables. I never knew what was going on until after my pap had graduated to heaven I had asked my grandma. My grandfather was feeding the hungry.
Being humble and thankful for what God has given us can help us to help others and meet their needs. The only way to have this though if you’re stuck in the cycle of discontentment is by seeking God and helping those who have less than you rather than trying to one-up everyone else around you.