It is that time of year when kids everywhere begin to write out their wish lists for Christmas. At first, the new bike or gaming system is all they want, then the list begins to grow and grow and grow. We actually encourage our kids to 'complete' this wish list task by writing a letter to Santa. As the list grows, so does the discontent - the more we want the more discontent we become with what we have. Discontent can produce positive outcomes in life - such as when we are no longer content just barely being able to button our jeans and we begin a concerted effort to avoid the cookies and put in a little more exercise everyday. Discontent can also have a very negative outcome when it drives us to compare what we have with what another has, then begin to complain about what we don't have in this life. What makes the difference between the positive and negative outcome with discontentment? I believe it is where we turn with our discontent - turn in the right direction toward God and his graces in our lives and the outcome will be much more positive than if we turn inward and just focus on our wants.
Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. (I John 2:15-16)
Wanting your own way - does that sound familiar to anyone? As itty-bitty kids we begin to form this discontent with not getting our own way. We want to be held, so we cry until someone picks us up. We want to be fed, so we whine and whimper until someone breaks out the biscuits. We want dry bottoms, so we cry out as though our lungs were about to explode until someone replaces the wet diaper with a dry one, applying some soothing ointment to boot. As we get older, we still want our own way - it is just that we have gotten a little more 'discreet' in how we maneuver our wants into the conversation or the moment. When God asks us to do something that we don't want to do, how do we react to his request? Sometimes we ignore it, hoping he will forget he asked. At others, we outright refuse, putting us on some pretty shaky ground because of our rebellion. Either way, wanting our own way will not serve us well.
Wanting everything for ourselves - that began in the crib and oftentimes it continued into our adulthood. No one took our toys - no one interrupted what we wanted to have in our possession. From our toys to our time - it is ours and no one will take it away from us. Have you ever stopped at the end of a day and looked back at how much you thought you'd do and just what you actually got done? Someone interrupted your day and you didn't use that time the way you wanted it to be used. They made a drain on your day. We cannot control time any better than we can control the weather. We want it all for ourselves, but God specifically puts others in our path because he wants us to give of what is ours so the lives of those others will be made better in the process. We cannot always have everything - including time - for ourselves any more than we can have our own way.
Wanting to appear important - notice it says 'appear' important because importance is an illusion. It is evasive. It changes from day to day. What was important today will not be as important tomorrow. In the end, wanting to appear important is just a pathetic way of admitting we find our self-worth or 'value' in how others see us - the impression they have of us. If we focus less on wanting our own way, as well as wanting everything for ourselves, the 'value' others will see in us will be far greater anyway. Maybe this is why God puts those two first in this passage - because if we deal with those correctly, then we won't be as concerned with this one. We will be positive examples of his love and grace - the things that give us the 'reality' of being 'valued' individuals in this world.
Wanting, wanting, wanting - it isolates us from God. It sends us on a trajectory that will eventually have us spinning out of control in this world. If we desire to do what God wants and asks us to do, we will find a deeper satisfaction in life. We will live fuller lives and be less concerned with how we 'appear' and more concerned with how much others see of Christ in us. Just sayin!