Settling for Less

ammunitionMy wife and I are thrifty people. (Well, in all honesty, she wouldn’t exactly use that word to describe me.) Still, we try to save for the future and spend money sensibly.

We always try to purchase generic products unless we find their quality inferior to the “name brands.” Once I learned that most generics were manufactured in the same plants that produce the more expensive products, that made sense.

Nevertheless, as the illustration suggests, there are some places where it just doesn’t pay to settle for potentially inferior goods. Take, for instance, medical care and your children’s educations. We all want the best we can get. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

No, the “wrong” enters in when we begin to envy those who possess something we think we would like to have. It might be a nicer home, a newer car, or a larger television screen.

Envy is a deceptive thing. It lies to us. It beckons to us, saying, “if only you possessed that one thing . . . then you’d truly be happy.” Envy usually whispers, but it makes up for its lack of volume with its persistence. Once we open the door to our heart and mind, envy suggests—over and over—that if we don’t secure the object we desire, that happiness will elude us.

Envy does more than nag us. It distracts us from all of God’s blessings. With eyes focused on our presumed “needs,” we forfeit the joy that would otherwise flow naturally from contentment with our genuine needs. “Give us this day our daily bread” is not, after all, a request for more of this world’s “treasures.”

Another quality of envy is that it promises what it cannot—due to its very nature—deliver. Envy has a relentless appetite; it is incapable of being appeased. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Envy is insatiable. The more you concede to it the more it will demand.” (“Democratic Education”).

Envy is so ravenous that it is used by Lewis to illustrate part of the torment of Hell. The following comes from his Preface to The Screwtape Letters.

We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.

It’s probably no accident God included repeated prohibitions against coveting in the Ten Commandments.

In light of the demands levied by envy, I choose to reject it whenever I recognize its whisper. I opt instead for giving thanks for the innumerable blessings I’ve received. And, I ponder the responsibility that comes with God’s generosity . . . not least of which is the duty to remain thrifty, so that I have more of those blessings available to share with others.

12 thoughts on “Settling for Less

  1. CalebAnderson

    Great picture! Lewis’ ideas on hell, in both “The Screwtape Letters” and “The Problem of Pain” are quite interesting… As are his ideas on heaven.

  2. “I opt instead for giving thanks for the innumerable blessings I’ve received.” Innumerable is right. The more we pay attention, the more we realize that blessings cannot even be counted!

  3. Paul Mayhan

    Nicely said. My wife and I were getting house fever a few months ago. We can be debt free in about 3 years on our current track, or we can go another $60K into debt for the house we really want along with the greater expenses of maintaining it. We decide to make do with what we have and take an attitude of thanks that we are in the position we are in. Being 40 and completely debt free with a $90k household income will give us a lot of options, and we have a feeling that God has a plan for that money that probably doesn’t include us spending it all on ourselves.

  4. Thanks for the thought-provoking post. And I love the photo! As I get older, I see that “less is more.” Less stuff to clean, less stuff to leave our kids to have to deal with, more time to enjoy what really matters. I find that things I thought I had to have can actually weigh me down. The best things in life can’t be bought–sucking in a breath of spring air, holding a new grandchild, finding a tiny wildflower hiding in the grass, watching a blazing sunset fade to night, gazing up at a glittering starry sky, hearing contentedly clucking hens in the barnyard, realizing that a pile of laundry waiting to be folded is a gift from God because it means I have everything I need . . . and on and on! And even when we think we’ve learned lessons about what’s really important, it’s good to look at our priorities once again. Our envious hearts have a way of doing an end run on us!

  5. Interesting comments and post! The title of this post got me thinking about whether we really do ‘settle’ for ‘less’? Should we preferably choose to live more simply without the constraints of secular society breathing down our necks pushing the ‘bigger is better, the latest is best, or just ‘because you’re worth it’, and live with a well-earned sense of peace and fulfilment earned by strategic planning.
    This discussion also suggests that we need to cut our cloth accordingly and not try to live up to the ideals of the secular world we live in.

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