We live in a society built around perpetual dissatisfaction. As I write these words on my two-year-old MacBook Pro, I cannot help but to think about how much better my life would be if I went out and bought one of Apple’s latest computers. Honestly, there is nothing wrong with my present computer; in fact, it is the best computer I’ve ever owned and still works as good as the day I bought it, maybe even better. The truth is, I don’t need a new computer, but I’ve been preconditioned by the culture around me and the genius marketers at Apple to believe that every time a new, updated MacBook Pro comes out, I need to run out and buy one. The Apple computer bug may not have bitten you, but I am certain there is someplace in your life where you’ve learned to be perpetually discontented. For some people it is cars, for others it is houses, or clothes, or books, or watches, or fishing boats. The list could go on and on. We have been conditioned to think that something will bring ultimate satisfaction to our lives, and we spend our lives on a never-ending quest to find the thing.
Most people spend their lives looking for something that will bring them ultimate satisfaction. Like Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes, we desperately try to find contentment in wealth, pleasure, education, and success, but these always turn out to be mere vanity. In Ecclesiastes, the word translated as “vanity” is the Hebrew word hevel, which refers to something that has no weight or substance. I like to think of the word hevel like cotton candy. When I was a kid, our family took a trip to Columbus, Ohio, every year to visit the Ohio State Fair. Every time we would go, I would beg my parents to buy me some cotton candy. They would always make me wait until we were about to leave the fair before they would buy me some. Standing there in line, watching those wonderful strands of pink and blue sugar spin onto a cone, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Round and round the worker would spin the cone, then finally she would hand it to me and at long last I would bite into this luscious cloud of pink and blue colored sugar. For a brief moment, I could taste and feel the strands of cotton candy in my mouth, but before I could really enjoy the moment, it would disappear. No matter how hard you try, you can’t really savor cotton candy. It is empty. You bite into it and, for a moment, it is sweet in your mouth, but then it disappears.
This is what Solomon had in mind when he said that the pleasures of this world are “vanity.” Like cotton candy, the pleasures of this world and the satisfaction they promise, quickly melt in our mouths and disappear. Temporal things can never satisfy a soul created for eternity. Like Solomon, the things of this world leave us unsatisfied and create in our hearts the constant longing for more, a sense of perpetual discontentedness that always leaves us empty.
Meekness, on the other hand, produces in our lives a quality nearly nonexistent in our culture: it will make us content. The attitude of meekness comes from having an honest view of our strengths and our weaknesses. We don’t often realize it, but discontentment is often the result of possessing too high a view of ourselves, which results in believing we deserve more than what we’ve gotten from life.
Contentment comes as the result of having an honest assessment of our lives. There is a direct relationship between our understanding of the gospel and our level of contentment. Our sinful pride tries to deceive us into believing our needs can be met apart from a relationship with God. Like Solomon, our wandering hearts go from one thing to the next in a desperate search for meaning but never finding any satisfaction. If you stop to think about it, nearly every sin we can commit represents an attempt to find satisfaction apart from God. The gospel demonstrates that the only way to find genuine satisfaction in our lives is to be reconciled to God.