Wants, needs, and the path to contentment

Arun Thomas

There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

1 Timothy 6:6-9

When Apple released a new iPhone some years ago, our teenager grew unhappy with the one that had been a treasured birthday present only a few months earlier.

“I really need a new iPhone,” we were told with urgency and expectation. Sensible parents, we said no, pointing out that a new iPhone was definitely a want, not a need. Our teen stormed off, outraged by the injustice and deprivation.

Children and youth are forgiven for confusing wants and needs, but many of us reach adulthood without the knowledge. The distinction is especially hard to learn in our consumer culture, where every advertisement tells us that true happiness is forever just one more purchase away. When we believe this lie, we suffer lives of insatiable desire, ever grasping for the newer, the better, the larger, the more.

Mature faith and biblical stewardship challenge us to distinguish our wants from our needs, so that we may find contentment with “enough” — decent housing, healthy food, clean clothing and reliable transportation. No longer slaves to a desire for more, we are free to enjoy the abundant life that comes from loving relationships with God and family and neighbor.

Getting free may take discipline, but with God’s help we can grow. Faced with desire, we pray: “Is this a need or a want? If it’s a want, why do I sense it’s a need? Can I be content without it?” Finding contentment, we open ourselves to the life God intends for us, rich and abundant in love, joy and grace.

Copyright © 2019, Rev. Robert Blezard. Reprinted by permission.

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Rev. Rob Blezard

Assistant to the Bishop, LSS

A second-career pastor, Blezard worked as a writer and editor for 26 years, including a post as an editor at The Lutheran magazine in Chicago. Since 2000 he has worked as study guide editor for the magazine. He also works as content editor and writer for the Stewardship of Life Institute.

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