From Brian Carpenter at Christian Reader:
In the late 19th century, a writer named Jerome K. Jerome wrote a book called Three Men and a Boat. It’s a comedy about three men who plan and take a trip up the River Thames in a boat as a vacation excursion. What follows is an excerpt that’s relevant to our discussion today:
The first list we made out had to be discarded. It was clear that the upper reaches of the Thames would not allow of the navigation of a boat sufficiently large to take the things we had set down as indispensable; so we tore the list up, and looked at one another! George said: ‘You know we are on the wrong track altogether. We must not think of the things we could do with, but only of the things that we can’t do without.’ George comes out really quite sensible at times. You’d be surprised. I call that downright wisdom, not merely as regards the present case, but with reference to our trip up the river of life generally. How many people, on that voyage, load up the boat till it is ever in danger of swamping with a store of foolish things which they think essential to the pleasure and comfort of the trip, but which are really only useless lumber. How they pile the poor little craft mast-high with fine clothes and big houses; with useless servants, and a host of swell friends that do not care twopence for them, and that they do not care three ha’pence for; with expensive entertainments that nobody enjoys, with formalities and fashions, with pretence and ostentation, and with — oh, heaviest, maddest lumber of all! — the dread of what will my neighbour think, with luxuries that only cloy, with pleasures that bore, with empty show that, like all the criminal’s iron crown of yore, makes to bleed and swoon the aching head that wears it!It is lumber, man — all lumber! Throw it overboard. It makes the boat so heavy to pull, you nearly faint at the oars. It makes it so cumbersome and dangerous to manage, you never know a moment’s freedom from anxiety and care, never gain a moment’s rest for dreamy laziness — no time to watch the windy shadows skimming lightly o’er the shallows, or the glittering sunbeams flitting in and out among the ripples, or the great trees by the margin looking down at their own image, or the woods all green and golden, or the lillies white and yellow, or the sombre-waving rushes, or the sedges, or the orchids, or the blue forget-me-nots. Throw the lumber over, man! Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need — a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing. You will find the boat easier to pull then, and it will not be so liable to upset, and it will not matter so much if it does upset; good, plain merchandise will stand water. You will have time to think as well as to work.
Do you need four cars? Do you need a 4,000 square foot house? Do your children really need to spend 30 hours per week running all over the countryside playing sports? Do we really need to profane the Sabbath day with activities and jobs and recreations that profit neither soul nor body nor pocketbook? So much of what we have going on in our lives is useless lumber. It is expensive and time consuming. It draws us away from God. Chuck it overboard voluntarily, and perhaps the Lord will not need to take greater measures in the future to force you to do so.
To be content, then, is to know your privileges in Christ. It is to live as though God were actually there and actually who He said He is. That is the largest hurdle we have to face in the life of contentment. You actually need nothing whatsoever that this earth affords in order to be content as 1 Timothy 6:8 defines contentment. If you were to be deprived of oxygen and fall over dead right now, you could do so contentedly. If the market crashed tomorrow, your 401K were wiped out, your employer laid you off, and your doctor told you that you had terminal cancer, and you possess Christ, you could still be content, according to 1 Timothy 6:8. We are all dying. Some are dying more quickly than others Some have more of an idea about when our death-date is, but we are all dying. When we possess Christ, we can be content to die in Him. We don’t actually need to go on living. We can die happy and at rest – Brian Carpenter
A reminder we need almost daily, here in the richest country in the world.
(Thanks to Neil Turner for the great ‘junk boat’ picture)