Recently I interacted with a fellow blogger, Jim, who was commenting on angry Americans. During a trip to Europe with his wife, he noticed people in England and Scandinavian countries they visited seemed far more happy and carefree – even though taxes there are much higher than ours in the United States.
Anger here seems epidemic: TV and radio commentators shout venomous rhetoric. Talk show callers perpetually call for someone’s head, whether elected officials, entertainers, or coaches of their beloved sports teams. So-called “crimes of passion” have reached alarming heights. Road rage is accelerating.
As my blogger friend suggests, anger over taxes is merely symptomatic of a greater, more pervasive problem. What’s that problem?
Allow me to quote from Jim: “I think it comes down to contentment. Our Constitution guarantees life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Pursuing happiness as an ideal almost guarantees that we will never be happy….”
Let me take his thought a step further. We confuse “the pursuit of happiness” with the attainment of happiness, which at best is a moving target. We become “happy” with a job promotion, pay raise, new car, or our team trouncing a hated rival. But happiness quickly fades when circumstances change.
Supposedly, in response to the question, “How much is enough?” one of our nation’s wealthiest industrialists responded, “Just a little bit more.” That’s the problem with pursuing happiness. It’s never enough.
So I agree – we are afflicted with a lack of contentment. The history of our nation has been largely written by discontent – the quest for religious freedom, gender and civil rights, for example. But we also have grown up in a culture of pervasive consumerism and materialism, spawning rampant greed, lust and covetousness.
We need a return to the basics: “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).