Tent dwellers

by Marilyn Mathis

Once a rich industrialist, disturbed to find a fisherman sitting idly by his boat, asked, “Why aren’t you out there fishing?”

“Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” was the reply.

“Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?” asked the rich man.

“What would I do with them?”

“You could earn more money and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.”

“Then what would I do?” asked the fisherman.

“You could sit down and enjoy life.”

“What do you think I’m doing right now?” the fisherman replied.

He was enjoying life! He was a tent dweller. Everyone lives in one of two tents — conTENT or disconTENT! The fisherman was content and satisfied with what he had.

Contentment has been defined as:

Not getting what you want, but wanting what you have.

Not possessing everything, but giving thanks for everything you possess.

We live in a society that is very discontent. We are unhappy with what we have, what we look like, who we are married to, where we work, how our children act, with the government, schools, churches, economy and the list goes on and on.

A young girl whose father was a chronic grumbler said to her mother, “I know what everybody in this family likes. Johnny likes hamburgers. Janie likes ice cream. Willie likes bananas, and Mommy likes chicken.” The father, irked because he had not been included in the list, asked, “What about me? What do I like?” The girl replied, “You like everything we haven’t got.” This father was a tent dweller like the fisherman, but he lived in discontent.  

The world of advertising feeds our discontent. We are always being shown what we don’t have that we really need and must have to be happy and successful. All of our problems can be solved (so we are told) by purchasing a beverage, car/truck, clothing, shoes or house. Out with the old and in with the new!

Contentment is hard to attain. Even Paul, the apostle, a hero of the faith, had to learn to be content. It was not a natural character trait for him or us.

“Not that I speak from want, for I have LEARNED to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11).

For Paul to write that he was content in every situation was amazing. At the time he wrote the letter to the church at Philippi, he was in prison in Rome. He could have been complaining, grumbling and very unhappy. Instead, he wrote that he had learned to be content. “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Philippians 4:12).

How did he learn to be content? What was his secret?

He learned to accept and enjoy life no matter the circumstances. He did not have to be pampered to be content. He could be content as a pauper or in great prosperity. Circumstances, people or STUFF did not control his peace and contentment.

Faithful friends who stood by Paul and supported him. “You (his friends) have done well to share with me in my affliction” (4:14).

And, most importantly, Paul recognized that God was supplying all he needed. “I can do all things (be content) through Him who strengthens me . . . And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (4:13, 19).

Jesus Christ is able to make us content regardless of our circumstances. Our needs will never exhaust His supply.

A content person is one who wants what he has. A discontented person is one who gets what he wants but never stops wanting. What tent do you dwell in? Are you like the fisherman or the father? Have you, like Paul, learned to be content? Are you, like me, a work in progress?


A Conway resident, Marilyn Mathis is a wife, mother, Nana and teaching leader for First Wednesday Lunch Break. Readers can reach her at [email protected].