175) Martin Luther on Contentment

     The fact that no one is satisfied with what he has is a very common plague.  Consequently, everyone says:  Why is it that the crops are always better in another’s field than in our own, and that the neighbor’s cows give more milk than ours?  And why is it that no one is satisfied with his station in life and that everybody imagines the other man’s station to be better than his own?  The merchant envies the laborer for sitting in undisturbed peace at his job, while he must travel madly about the country.  On the other hand, the laborer envies the merchant for being rich and for being among people and so forth.  Everybody is disgusted with his station in life and sighs for that of another.  If he is married, he envies him who has no wife; if he has no wife, he envies the married man.  So God cannot deal with men in such a way that they are satisfied.  If they served Him in that station into which He has placed them, the work would not be so bitter or burdensome to them.  But now, since they are sick of it, they are burdened by no one but themselves.  They make their lives bitter for themselves without any need or reason.

     If God permitted a man to change his station according to his every desire in order to rid himself of his disgust, he would nonetheless become just as disgusted, if not more so, in all other stations, and would finally wish to get back to his own.  So put away and change your disgust and your discontent!  Then one station will be as another to you, and all stations will be of equal value to you, no matter which one came to be yours; then you will require no change nor desire any.  

     If the troubles of all men were heaped together and were then to be equally distributed, it would come to pass that everybody would much rather keep his own.  So very equitably God governs this world that every advantage has connected to it a corresponding disadvantage.

     Everyone only sees how snugly the shoe fits his neighbor, but does not see where it pinches.  On the other hand, he who is wearing the shoe does not note how snugly it fits but how badly it pinches him.  The world lives on in the folly that everybody has eyes only for his own evil and his neighbor’s good fortune.  But if he saw only his own good fortune and his neighbor’s evil besides, he would thank God and be satisfied in all quietness, no matter how lowly and bad his station might be.

     If we are to avoid such restlessness, disquiet, and disgust, we must have faith.  Faith is firmly convinced that God governs equitably and places every man into that station which is best and most fitting for him.                              

Anthology of Luther, volume one, #1009.

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     …A person who wants to change and improve everything and who refuses to put up with any inadequacies, but insists on having everything clean and comfortable, will usually get in exchange something twice as uncomfortable, or even ten times as uncomfortable.  This is a general rule, not only in this matter (marriage), but in all others as well.

     So it must be on earth.  Daily there will be many troubles and trials in every house, city, and country.  No station in life is free of suffering and pain; not only from your own spouse or children or employees; but also from the outside, from your neighbors and all sorts of accidental trouble.  When a person sees and feels all this, he quickly becomes dissatisfied, and he tires of his way of life, or it makes him impatient, irritated, and profane.  If he cannot avoid this trouble or get rid of it, he wants to change his station in life, supposing that everyone else’s station and condition are better than his own.  After changing around for a long time, he discovers that his situation has progressively deteriorated.  A change is a fast and easy thing, but an improvement is a rare and doubtful thing.

Luther’s Works, volume 21; “The Sermon on the Mount,” page 95.

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     We Germans (only Germans?) are the kind of people who pounce upon anything new and cling to it like fools.  If anyone restrains us, he only makes us more crazy for it.  But if no one restrains us, we will soon, on our own, become fed up and bored with it, and soon chase after something else that is new.

Luther’s Works, volume 37, page 19.

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Ecclesiastes 1:8 — All things are wearisome, more than one can say.  The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.

Proverbs 27:20 — Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man.

Job 3:20 — Surely he will have no respite from his craving… 

I Timothy 6:6-8 — But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 

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“For what God gives I thank indeed; 
What he withholds I do not need.” 
This is my motto: to be able to be satisfied.   –Martin Luther