Not too much and not too little

Dr Andrew Goh // April 16, 2023, 1:04 am


How much is enough? Contentment can be a powerful safeguard, says Dr Andrew Goh. It serves to check-mate deception and covetousness. Photo by Andre Taissin on Unsplash.

Whoever invented the buffet (“eat-all-you-can”) dining concept deserves a medal. What should be inscribed on it? Possibly that adage: “The eyes are bigger than the stomach.”

We think we can eat our money’s worth. Will the restaurant end up hopelessly in the red? Surely not, they would have done their homework and factored in their profit margins.

At the buffet spread, everything is ours, but not everything is good for us.

On our part, we’ve got it all mapped out – the strategy is to start with the expensive items like oysters and lobsters, and work our way round the value chain with glee. A win-win situation.

The restaurant is a good place to see how well we can exercise the power of restraint. How much is enough? “Just a little more” creeps in. For some others, “might as well” outweighs all arguments and signals the permission to proceed.

At the buffet spread, everything is ours, but not everything is good for us. Only what edifies and builds us up.

So, contentment with life may be our guide and protection. Ponder Socrates’ outlook: “Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.”

One is rich, not by the size of accumulation, but the degree of satisfaction with what one has.

Are we tempted beyond our ability to resist or is it within our power?

What price contentment?

Every man has his price. You have heard this expression.

Everyone is open to bribery if the inducement offered is large enough (Oxford Languages). The line drawn in the sand serves an important function – stay far away.

People are not always fooled because of stupidity. Sometimes, smart people who are complacent and let their guard down may fall victims to scammers and cheats just as readily.

The line drawn in the sand serves an important function – stay far away.

“What was I thinking?” they must have questioned themselves later. “Or, was I even thinking?”

Two biblical examples may be instructive:

Eve: She saw that the forbidden fruit was good for food, and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for making her wise. She took and ate (Genesis 3:6, NIV).

Ditto for Adam, her husband. They chose not to go God’s way and were tricked by the serpent. Instead of being wise, they were otherwise. The awful result was that sin entered the world and death by sin (Romans 5:12).

Achan: It was a triple whammy: A beautiful robe from Babylon, two hundred silver coins and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound (Joshua 7:21). Who wouldn’t be enticed? Yet the rest of the people remained steadfast.

Achan disobeyed Joshua’s instruction not to covet the things set apart for destruction and paid the price with his life and that of his entire family. He confessed his sin of wanting them so much that he could not resist stealing.

Let less be more

Contentment can be a powerful safeguard. It serves to check-mate deception and covetousness. Just a few points:

Happiness rests on the assurance that the Lord will not withhold good.

  • Contentment can be learned. Paul shared with the Philippians how he learned to be content – both to live simply and to relish plenty (Philippians 4:11-13). He recognised the source of supply and enabling.
  • Contentment is a great prize. Godliness with contentment is the secret to a truly healthy and well-balanced life, a protection against piercing oneself with the sorrows and heartaches that earthly riches may bring (1 Timothy 6:6-12). All good comes from Him (Psalm 16:2).
  • Contentment is an exceptional grace where we can embed our weakness into the perfecting work of His strength. This sufficiency paves the way for the sense of fullness that is deep-rooted in Him (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
  • Contentment relies on the confidence that those who seek the Lord shall lack nothing good (Psalm 34;10b). Happiness rests on the assurance that the Lord will not withhold good.
  • Contentment steers between “too much” and “too little”. Neither poverty nor riches but, rather, what will bring praise and honour to God’s Name (Proverbs 30:7-9). We aim to glorify God by our earthly lives.

There are scammers, cheaters and frauds out there, waiting to pounce on our vulnerabilities.

We have been forewarned about hearts being deceitful above all things and beyond cure. (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV)

Charles Spurgeon stated it bluntly: “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

Let less be more.

This was first published by IMPACT Magazine and has been republished with permission.


3 keys to contentment in the coming year

“Enjoy it but don’t die for it”: Pastor Benny Ho shares 3 ways we can have a right perspective on wealth

Are you happy?

About the author

Dr Andrew Goh

Dr Andrew Goh is the editor of Impact magazine.