The Greener the Grass

Part eleven of an eleven-part series on “Habits of Highly Successful People”

Habit #10 – A Successful Person Has Learned to be Content

By Kevin Riggs

The parable is told about a young man named Pakham who inherited his father’s farm. While the farm was large, Pakham wanted all the surrounding land. His dream was to have the largest farm around. He would not be satisfied until he owned more than anyone else.

One night, through a dream, an angel told Pakham he could have all the land surrounding his farm that he could walk off in one day. The only provisions were his journey had to end at sundown, and he had to start and end at the grave of his father. Excited about the opportunity, Pakham awoke the next day at the crack of dawn.

He started from his father’s grave in a slow, steady stride, trying to pace himself. Hour after hour he hurried through the fields adding acre after acre to his spread. At noon, urged on by the time, he skipped lunch and quickened his pace. By three o’clock he was running for all he was worth, sweating and panting profusely. As the sun started setting he ran faster in an effort to complete the deal.

Just as the sun dropped behind the last hill, Pakham sprinted as fast as he could over the last hundred yards up to his father’s grave. Pakham had made it! He owned land as far as the eye could see. His farm was now the biggest. He had all the land he needed. Now he could live his life in happiness. So he laid his head on his father’s tombstone . . . and died of exhaustion. While he now owned thousands of acres, all he would use was a plot six feet long, two feet wide and six feet deep.

Do you see yourself in that parable? Always striving for more than you now have?  Working hard to obtain for the sake of obtaining? Running yourself ragged while never enjoying life? Never satisfied? Never content? That parable convicts me of my own discontentment

The Tenth Commandment

Commandment Ten states, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” Covetousness is at the heart of most sins.

In Moses’ day wealth and success were measured by the size of a Person’s family, and the number of his servants and livestock. At the heart of Commandment Ten is looking at what someone else has, becoming jealous of that person for what he has, and desiring what that person has to the point you cannot be satisfied until you have it yourself.

Unquenchable Appetite

I struggle with covetousness. Every few years I start to yearn for a new automobile. I always want to update my laptop, and I continually wish my church were more like the one down the road. Why can’t I be happy with what I have? Why do I strive so hard for things that will never satisfy?

One reason is because of my hunger for significance. I have a desire to be important. I want to know people appreciate me. When I start to wish for more and more, I have to ask myself, “Kevin, are you wanting more so you can say to people, ‘Hey, look at how important I am?”‘ If that is my reason for wanting more, I have violated Commandment Ten.

I also have a hunger for security. I want job security, financial security, medical security and retirement security—all of which makes me strive for more and more. Don’t misunderstand; there is nothing wrong with these hungers, but there are wrong ways to satisfy them.

Contemplating these two hungers have brought me to two truths. First, the things of this world will not satisfy because God did not create me to be satisfied by them. Second, only a personal relationship with God will satisfy my hunger for significance and security.

Habit Ten

The Tenth Commandment reads, “Thou shalt not covet . . .” From this Commandment comes the Tenth Habit: A highly successful person has learned to be content. To be content means I am satisfied with where I am in life, with what I have, as well as with what I do not have.  As long as I strive for more, I will never be happy. If I want to be successful, I must learn to utter the words, “Enough is enough!”

Easier said than done. It is so tempting to want a better job making more money. Our materialistic culture makes it natural to want bigger houses and nicer cars. It is easy for a wife to wish her husband were more like someone else, or for parents to wish their children were more like someone else’s. Still yet how many times have you (or I) wished our churches and pastors (or parishioners) were more like someone else’s church and pastor (or parishioners)?

To be content doesn’t mean I don’t try to better myself or improve my situation, but it does mean I am satisfied with what I now have. It does mean I live within my means. It does mean I don’t overextend myself. If a highly successful person has learned to be content, that means contentment can be learned. How? The Apostle Paul gives insight into contentment in Colossians 3:1-11.

Rearrange priorities

Paul writes, “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.”  The Ten Commandments tell me what my priorities should be: (1) God first (Commandments 14); (2) Family second (Commandment 5); (3) Others third (Commandments 6-10).  I find it interesting that nowhere in God’s priorities are “things” or “stuff.” If I am ever going to learn to be content, I must make my priorities God’s priorities.

Remember who I am in Christ

Paul continued, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” My life is not some cosmic accident. My life “is hid with Christ,” no place is more secure, and no relationship is more significant. No achievement will make me more important than I already am in Christ, and no failure can change how God feels about me. The more I remind myself of this, the more content I will be.

Redirect Behavior

In Colossians 3:5-11 Paul discussed how the believers in the church used to act. In the middle of these verses, he states, “put off all these . . . .” Instead of being envious, I need to rejoice in the blessings of others. Instead of being selfish, I need to share what I have. Instead of wanting more, I need to be content.

One day a man went into his back yard and laid a small circle of poison around a hill of stinging ants. Thinking the tiny granules of poison were food, the ants began to pick them up and carry them throughout the colony. Later in the day, the man went to see how well the poison was working. Hundreds of stinging ants were carrying the poison down into their hill.

Then the man noticed a hole in the circle of the poison. Some of the poison was moving in the opposite direction—away from the hill. Some smaller, non-stinging ants had found this “food” and were stealing it from their neighbors. Thinking they were getting the other ants’ treasure, they were unwittingly poisoning themselves.

When you see someone with more than you have and are tempted to covet, beware: What you think is a treasure may turn out to be the very thing that poisons your life. A highly successful person has learned to be content.

Article adapted from Contact magazine, December 2002.