Tantalus was a mythological Greek king who stole ambrosia from the gods. For this crime, King Tantalus was sentenced to a life of eternal hunger and thirst. Whenever he would stoop to drink, the water would recede away from him. And when he reached to pluck fruit from a tree, it would lift its branches out of his reach. From this fable we get the word tantalizing. And a godly lesson.
Philip Yancey has well-noted that one who “pursues pleasure runs the risk of raising expectations ever higher, so that true contentment always lies tantalizingly out of reach.”
Are you content with what you have and where you are in life? Or does satisfaction always seem to be just a little further down the road, just slightly out of your reach?
Paul offers two calls for contentment in his first letter to Timothy (6:6-7):
- Be content with godliness (v. 6). What is most valuable in life is godly character. A full spiritual life that is lived dependently in Christ will provide a peace, joy, direction, satisfaction, fulfillment and contentment that no bank account can purchase. As a corollary to this statement, if we are going to be discontent, let us have a holy discontentment — a continuing, relentless desire to appropriate and live more of what we are and have in Christ (cf. Phil. 3:10-11).
- Be content with your possessions (vv. 7-8). We came into life with no physical possessions and we will leave life with no physical possessions, so anything we have now is a bonus and extra — like Dad always said, it’s the jelly on the peanut butter sandwich! In our culture, there is always a quest to attain and acquire MORE. But if we have food and covering, we have enough. [Note that there is no discussion in the text as to the quality of food and covering — the implication is that if these are met in even the most basic ways, it is enough.]
The lesson? God not only will provide us what we need for daily, physical sustenance, but He will meet the deep longings of our heart, giving us joy and peace that is incapable of being attained in any way except through Him. As you look, therefore, at your possessions and your position, let yourself be tantalizingly tempted — tempted to be content with God’s provision.