I am currently working on a commentary of The Book of Proverbs for thebiblesays.com and have been really fascinated by a tiny verse in Chapter 3: “then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Proverbs 3:10). In essence, the verse is talking about the path to abundance and contentment.
Now, I know, like you, as soon as something claims to be this, the skeptic within us is awakened to full alert. Because basically everything in this world is promising abundance and contentment. TV commercials about beer and toothpaste promise it comes with their products. It is the sustenance of political speeches and Sunday morning sermons. Ten-minute abs, sure bets, microwaveable dinners. It is all promising a quick path to abundance and contentment. And it is all big on the front end but shallow on the follow through.
But the more I marinate on this verse, the more I discover that it, just maybe, is the key we are all looking for.
Why our Vats are Never Full
Isn’t this nice imagery? To be full. To be satisfied. To have what you need and live a life of thriving in abundance.
But our vats are never full. Our storehouses are always lacking. We can’t seem to get our glasses overflowing, to live the happily ever after our hearts are chasing.
Here is the heart of the matter. Our vats are never full because we never have enough. Perhaps that goes without saying. What I mean is: our vats are never full because we never believe we have enough.
What keeps us from abundance is not a lack of resources but a depravity of perspective. We live under the idol of MORE. Our vats are never full because as soon as we fill a vat, we think it is time to get another, bigger vat. We go from renting a small apartment to owning a home to owning a vacation home to wanting to own Manhattan. Our vats fill. And instead of thanksgiving and contentment, we exchange our full vats for bigger, emptier ones.
Here is the key to contentment: stop buying bigger containers. We think abundance means we get everything we want. Which, even if it does happen, we replace those wants with more. And so we assume abundance is an endless supplying of our endless desires. It is a blackhole of want, of dissatisfaction.
How to Fill and Stay Full
If you did an honest inventory on what you have, you would probably find, like George Bailey, that you really are living a wonderful life. You have a lot to be thankful for. Abundance and contentment are within arm’s reach – not through just one more product or one more digit on your income. But through one decision to be content.
We have a tendency to take for granted what is full in our lives. We focus and fascinate on what we lack at the expense of what we have. We assume what is ours and obsess over what is not. And so when we hear ideas like abundance and contentment, our mind immediately goes to the ways in which those things are lacking in our lives. Never mind the foundation of dreams that have come true, what about the ones that haven’t? Never mind the great joys we experience, what about the sorrow? Until we transform and reverse that perspective, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy; we’ll never escape it.
This black hole of discontent comes from one major issue. We all have it and we all face it everyday. Although we call it different things, if we acknowledge it at all, the basic truth is this: we are not God. And that really irks us. It is the original temptation in the Garden. The serpent tells Adam and Eve, “you can be like God” if you eat that fruit. That tree represents something you cannot have. Some abundance eluding you. And our desire to be God robs us of our ability to fully be human.
Because the truth is there are things you cannot have. You don’t get to understand why things happen as they do. You don’t get to feel safe and happy one-hundred-percent of the time. You don’t get to master or avoid suffering. These are well beyond your grasp because you are not God.
But that is not a reason for discontent. It is just the setting under which we must decide whether our fillable vats are good enough for us. Can I stand to be an imperfect, hurting, beautiful human being? Or do I need to keep exchanging one vat for another until I get the vat of Divinity; mine to control?
In order to live in abundance and contentment, we have to discern the difference between “settling” for something bad or broken and accepting the reality of our limitations. We have to decipher what we really need, what we really want. Because our factory setting is to assume what we want is… MORE. Just more.
The key to abundance is this: stop ignoring your current abundance. The key to contentment is to be thankful for what you have, not to focus on what you lack. Stop exchanging your storehouse for a bigger storehouse. Instead, try changing your poverty mentality for a perspective of abundance.