Constructive Dissatisfaction

The Apostle Paul wrote “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” He went on to tell us “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

The spiritual idealism that can take an individual, an enterprise, or a nation from one level of attainment to another is sometimes described as a form of “constructive discontentment.” There are indeed times when we realize that being in “whatsoever state I am,” is simply not sufficient. When we are hungry, we go in search of food. When we are in need, we make necessary changes to insure sufficiency. If we truly believe Paul’s statement that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” we take that to mean we should do all things that must be done.

Most dictionaries define the word contentment as satisfaction, as well as ease of mind. Is it possible to have one without the other? Could Paul have been at ease knowing God will make provision and, at the same time, longing for positive change? Our Heavenly Father sent his son to a strife torn world so that we may have everlasting life. Was the Father or the Son somehow “satisfied” with leaving our place in the cosmos subject to the deceptions and the sophistries promoted by the forces of darkness and death? Absolutely not. And, for all of us that are willing to envision, accept, and strive for our highest and best destiny, the Prince of Darkness was effectively deposed in our individual experience by the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

During our brief time on this world, the most profitable thing we can do is study the life and teachings of Jesus for it will undoubtedly inform the way we can best make the most of our lives and the way we may be of service to others. There is a reason we are admonished to wash the inside of the bowl first. When the oxygen mask drops from overhead on an airplane, we should put ours on before helping others to put theirs on. We must be spiritually and materially healthy to be of any real and meaningful value to our omnipresent God as well as to the others around us.

We should never confuse a fleeting and subjective gratification with an enduring and supreme objective satisfaction. Jesus promised a spiritual helper to help us better differentiate between the two. Our Sovereign said The Spirit of Truth will lead us into all truth. And that truth exists at the nexus of facts, meanings, and values; the corollaries of which are science, philosophy, and religion. We depend upon this triad to achieve a balanced understanding of the whole of truth.

There are believers who are fond of saying “When the Lord returns, the world will be made right.” And yet, in his Parable of the Talents, Jesus made it clear that the servant that was industrious, the one who made the most of the resources entrusted to him, was praiseworthy. This example stands in stark contrast to the servant who failed to leverage the assets, who merely protected them and effectively buried them. That servant was described as indolent, slothful, and even wicked. The religion of the Spirit is not an opiate. It was not bestowed to make us contented.

In the Book of Genesis God is quoted as saying “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness; and let them have dominion . . .” The verse, and of course the rest of the book, go on to describe the extent of our particular dominion. But here we need to understand just what is meant by the term dominion. Most modern dictionaries define it as the power or right of governing and controlling. And those of us that take our responsibilities seriously take this phrasing to mean God has delegated such authority in a way that confers upon us certain obligations. 

The written Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each, with minor variations, quote Jesus as having said: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it.” There is a principle that Our Father put forth that governs his far-flung creation. It is that we must each provide something of value for the common good. The people that are just going along to get along within the world must learn to re-focus their energies and make a difference, to effect positive change.

Will the Master, upon his return describe our stewardship as faithful, or will he say: “You knew I would require an accounting with reasonable profit, such as your diligent fellow servants have this day rendered. I’m taking the one talent from you and giving it to the one who has the ten talents.”

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