Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Contentment Is Great Gain

I am less than completely satisfied with myself. We recently bought our retirement home in another city. The builder should break ground on this construction project in the next two weeks. It is absolutely everything my wife wanted in our new home. It is almost everything I wanted, but the price went $12,500 over my price range and I expect there are a few surprises still in store. We can afford it. I have the cash set aside for the purpose. Afterwards, when we sell our current home, our liquid net worth should increase by a decent amount.

I have discovered that buying a new home is a lot like buying a car, “Oh! You wanted a steering wheel with your car? You have to buy the Bloomingdale upgrade to get a steering wheel.” I consider myself a pretty cagey buyer. I read the fine print. If I don’t understand the fine print, I ask for an explanation. This can take a lot of time. I have also discovered there are things that are not in the fine print. During the preconstruction meeting (after this meeting there can be no changes without an expensive written change order) I discovered the company would only landscape the yard back 15 feet from the house. That would leave a small dirt bank covered with pricker bushes and weed trees. Beyond the bank a 20 foot strip of bare dirt with a few pricker bushes. That isn’t happening, not with a new home. Grading and sodding the entire yard? That will be an extra $1,800.

I am once again reminded of this passage from First Timothy Chapter 6.

[6] But godliness with contentment is great gain.
[7] For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
[8] And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
[9] But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

The reason we can’t put our current house on the market until after the move, is stuff. After 25 years in the same house we have accumulated so much stuff it is a hindrance. We are in the process of giving it away, selling it, and just plain throwing it out. There is still so much stuff we can’t do the cosmetic things, carpet and paint, until we move out. I have been told that, “they that will be rich,” in verse 9 could be more accurately translated, they who would live richly. Unbridled American consumerism is truly filled with many foolish and hurtful lusts, but godliness with contentment is great gain. The first part of that trap is debt. The second part is too much. Ask yourself the question, “How much is too much?” before you buy it.

Again from 1 Timothy Chapter 6

[10] For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
[11] But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

What makes you happy? What makes you really, really happy? It isn’t stuff. Health, a loving family, a rewarding career, the experience of beauty, what is inside faith, love, patience; that is what matters. Not stuff.

Don’t worry, I am not planning to become a naked sadhu, leaving behind the material world to live in a cave to perfect my meditation techniques. I remain a pragmatic American Protestant. I agree with John Wesley, “Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.”

Or as Paul put it in 1 Timothy Chapter 6:

[17] Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
[18] That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
[19] Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

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