We, in our fallen humanness, have an insatiable need for more. More of everything, from the an extra scoop of ice cream to the person on his/her deathbed asking for just a little more time; in nearly all circumstances more is better. We want more money and when we get it we seek out more. Billionaire John Rockefeller was asked, how much money was enough for him. He famously responded, “One dollar more”. Our kids want more time, and more time, and more time (until they turn 13). Our spouse presses us to do more around the house or more in the bedroom. The ‘great’ military leaders in bygone eras became ‘great’ by conquering more land and making more people their vassals.
Yet when we reach the more that we’re seeking it isn’t satisfying. We move beyond it to, still more. Psychologists call this the hedonic treadmill or hedonic adaption, where we adjust our expectations upward once we reach the state we desired. The Bible calls it covetousness or discontentment (James 4:1-4). One of the earliest examples in the Bible to needing more is Rachel. Rachel desired to have a child with Jacob and God finally granted her request. She gives birth to a baby boy and what does she do? She names him Joseph, which means “may He add (to me another son)” Genesis 30:1-22. Rachel got what he always wanted, yet isn’t satisfied. She wants more.
Solomon was the greatest portrait in the Bible of coveting more. He was king of Israel during the apex of the nation (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10). He had more wealth than anyone of His day. He had more sex than anyone with access to 1,000 wives and concubines. He was wiser than all others. Yet, power, possessions, pleasure and proverbs didn’t satisfy his insatiable desire for consumption (Ecclesiastes 2: 11, 5:10), . He eventually learned from his never ending pursuit and concluded that chasing all these desires is vanity. He concluded that they were fleeting pleasures because they can’t permanently fulfill us. No matter what we accomplish or accumulate, satisfaction remains elusive (Ecclesiastes 1:14) and death equalizes all.
In present day, the path is to progress up to harder drugs, wilder experiences, more expensive and unique possessions and all lead to the same place as in Solomon’s time – a growing emptiness. And the results are in: the drug dependence of Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, the escapades of Tiger Woods, John Edwards and John Kennedy, the bankruptcy of Terrill Owens and Mike Tyson and the corruption of Dennis Kozlowski and Kenneth Lay and the suicide of Junior Seau and other athletes. More isn’t more in the end. Dare you think that some of these cases are limited, see SI’s article on athlete bankruptcy,
But what is it in our nature that drives us to seek more, or viewed the other way, what prevents us from being content? Augustine was much like Solomon. He pursued the best the world had to offer. In the end he concluded, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”
The Bible directs us to be content and pursue the things of God.
- Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 6:31-33 “do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
- 1 Timothy 6:6-11 tells us, “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”.
- In Philippians 4:11-12 Paul says, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
- Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
More will never satisfy you no matter how little of it you think you need. Only God can provide fulfill you deepest longings. Pursue Him and you’ll lack in nothing. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you” – Matthew 6:33
For some thoughts about how to overcome always wanting more, see this summary of a book about contentment