The term more defines so much of our lives – in little ways when we were kids and always wanted more cookies to much more serious ways as adults when we have the influence, energy, and resources to apply more in more significant ways. It’s all part of the human condition, and if we don’t contend with it, it defines our lives. It’s the Relentless Pursuit of More.
What does that mean? It’s when enough is never enough.
So, what’s the thing that drives us to relentlessly pursue more? We can dress it up in many ways, but it’s only one word: discontentment.
Discontentment is rooted in a feeling or sense of deficiency:
The word deficiency is important because it takes things much deeper. When we talk about acquiring more, usually in church, it’s about money and stuff. Those are an essential part of it, but some of us hear this and immediately give ourselves a pass. We don’t have the biggest house or bank account. We’re relentlessly pursuing more in other ways.
Because the relentless pursuit can also be really good things – working hard, serving, helping others, achievements, or something we’re passionate about.
With discontentment, there’s always a comparison involved. Sometimes it’s really simple, like your neighbor who has better toys or is higher up the corporate ladder, or the friend who is better at a sport, more attractive, or popular.
Sometimes we look around, and the comparisons instantly start to fly. Suddenly, we’re not content anymore. We became aware, and then we made a comparison.
The entire advertising industry is built on creating an awareness where one didn’t exist and then stoking a comparison, producing a sense of deficiency.
We’re all somewhat aware of this one, even if we struggle with it. Sometimes our sense of deficiency is within ourselves. We compare ourselves to ourselves but with a critical eye.
And very often, it’s not others demanding this of us. Certainly, we take our cues from our jobs and our culture. But it’s us demanding this of us.
Sometimes it feels like something bigger than us – a force, a momentum, a god. When we hear the small-g god or idol, we usually chuckle because that’s what ancient or primitive people worshipped – idols of wood or stone. But we don’t because we’re smart and sophisticated, right? We’d never fall for that.
In ancient times and more primitive cultures, when people worship gods or wood and stone, they offered their allegiance to them, and they usually offer sacrifices or valuables, sometimes even taking a life.
How do you know you’re dealing with a potential god or idol? It demands allegiance and requires sacrifice.
Does your pursuit of more call for your allegiance? Do you have to leave something or someone (like your family or loved ones) and follow it?
Does your pursuit of more demand a sacrifice? Now, all good pursuits require the sacrifice of time, discipline, or commitment. But does that sacrifice force you to trade away your life or pieces of your life?
And at times, that thing seems like it has a power and momentum of its own. You might not just be dealing with a thought pattern or internal dynamic.
You might be dealing with a god. It has a force, momentum, and a life of its own. It demands allegiance and requires sacrifice.
The ancients recognized this phenomenon too. They had a whole collection of informal deities – not actual religions, but things with the same kind of dynamics, power, and influence over people.
We’ve advanced as humanity and a culture in many ways. But there’s something that’s hard-wired into the human condition that makes us susceptible to gods. We are wired to be ruled by something or someone. We are our own people. We stand on our own two feet and make our own way, so this might be hard to hear.
But think about the pursuit of more we have.
Fashion trends, the allure of a bigger house, a certain weight, a new kitchen – the next step up the ladder. Our knee-jerk reaction is to trade our peace, even our sanity and health, to reach a little further or climb higher.
Our relentless attraction to politics and politicians who we subtly know will fail us and betray us. Those who told you that you needed those things or needed to be those things.
There’s this thing we are wired for – it’s worship. We think of worship as a Christian thing, something we do in church, but it’s actually something everyone does. We offer our allegiance. We sacrifice. Something rules us. That’s worship.
How do we know what it is?
Do you have something or someone in your life that fits that description?
This is not a new struggle or even one confined to people like us. As we said, it’s part of the human condition and our wiring. And it turns out that God shows us a way through.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a man named Timothy, a leader at a church in Ephesus. Paul was older. Timothy was younger. Paul had spent the first part of his life chasing more. It’s like a wise father who has seen a lot of life speaking to someone he views as a son.
We hear that, and some might think, “No, we won’t. No, we aren’t. We want more.”
We all have goals, aspirations, hopes, and dreams. Good things.
He uses the word godliness – pursuing God’s way. But with that pursuit must come something else – contentment. So, we have to pursue, chase down, and search for something else along with godliness. Otherwise, we add religion to our pile of more that we have to chase after.
Don’t flirt, flee. Don’t “try to be careful.” Don’t get in the cage with the lion and say you’ll be careful. Don’t pick up the poisonous snake. When it comes to discontentment, falling in love with the relentless need to pursue more, no matter how much more you have, is dangerous.
That seems like a swerve – but Paul is reminding us of who God actually is in the light of something else that wants to be our God – the relentless pursuit of more.
But then he gives an action step, and it’s the key to how we have to confront this if we’re not going to worship the relentless pursuit of more, be ruled by it:
If we go with the flow, we’re going to pursue something we think is life, but it’s not life because it slips away and doesn’t bring contentment.
So, how do we begin this journey?
1. We have to kick the old god off the throne of our lives – It’s not just a thought or pattern. It has more power than that. Usually, this means doing it again and again. What does that look like? Moving in the opposite direction that the old god would’ve demanded you. Fleeing or putting your hope somewhere else.
Money: Generosity vs. more for us
Position/Props: Celebrating others vs. drawing attention to ourselves
Relationships: Laying ourselves down for others vs. seeing others for what they can do for us.
We will do this repeatedly, possibly for the rest of our lives. It will get easier, but it may never feel natural. It will always be a discipline.
2. You have to fill the space that the old god occupied with something else (actual God) – We were made to be ruled by something or someone. If we kick the old one out, it will come back. We can’t leave the space unfilled.
But when we do these counterintuitive things, an opportunity opens up for us – an opportunity for more, but a different more. We can acquire something. Life, but not an imitation or a substitute. Life that is truly life.
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