But godliness with contentment is great gain. – 1 Timothy 6:6 (see 6:6-11)
This thought echoed in my mind during the few days that I was hanging out with a friend. Now, she’s quite a bit older and had different ideas about how she liked to travel and shop. With her, we stayed at the hip, new hotel in the city centre, whereas alone, I stayed at a backpacker’s for the next few days. From the airport, she went straight for the taxi rank before I could see if there were cheaper, alternative options. I was keen for authentic local fare, but she preferred nice but generic restaurants. I thought instead of coming to the capital city, we could go to a different part of the country to climb a mountain or do some sight seeing, but she had some recent cardiac issues and it was probably better that we didn’t.
Halfway through waiting for her manicure and pedicure I thought I’d get a pedicure too, my very first manicure / pedicure ever (no manicure because work doesn’t like it). I then promptly proceeded to chip part of the nail polish off the next day by fidgeting with my toes on some gravel floor. There was also my first ever face mask. I’m not sure if it actually works in terms of skin hydration or cleansing, but it still gives me the tingles thinking about the unpleasant cold and wet sensation on my face. We played around with her makeup kit, and thinking of it I haven’t found any occasion to put on foundation for almost a year?! For all our differences, it was fun and we enjoyed our catch up after many years.
With our shopping, we did a bit of both but predominantly spent our time at the posh upmarket mall. We walked into the Prada store, which was quiet, serene, and empty of customers. I don’t remember ever walking into a Prada store, and even if I did I wasn’t looking for a buy. She looked at the wristlet which is not much bigger than a smartphone cover, and it was over $500AUD. Then I realise that this was probably a quarter of the price of the non-fake Prada handbag she was carrying. That night at dinner, I noted that her friend was carrying an almost identical bag.
But godliness with contentment is great gain.
I like to think I’m not terribly interested in money, but I am often mesmerised by things that money can buy. I love prettiness – I think more or less, girls like to have nicely cut hair, nice nails, nice blemish-free skin, just to name a few things. I’m sure there’s some guy equivalent of wanting to look good. I like interesting clothes and accessories. Price doesn’t guarantee style or quality, but it’s it true that cheap clothing stores, in Asia in particular, tend to have clothes that fit less well, slogans with strange combinations of English words, dresses with clashing colours and shirts made of flimsy material that break easily with a few washes. In our society, being materialistic may be viewed negatively, in principle at least, but no one will criticise you for spending your savings on travelling. Can the harmless notion of wanting to see the world or go on frequent holidays become an idolatrous pursuit? How about bigger purchases such as cars and property? One thing that bothers me is how ugly the generic, cheaper apartments and houses look. Of course, more money means more means of purchasing aesthetically pleasing designs. There’s nothing wrong with loving beautiful and comfortable things, but at what point does this become thorns, making me unfruitful in God’s kingdom?
Contentment doesn’t happen naturally. You always want more is cliché, but isn’t it true? Sadly, my friend is a very unhappy lady. After spending a few days together, it’s clear that in themselves, Prada and the dizzying whirl of pretty things we can purchase doesn’t satisfy.
Not that our lives need to stay the same, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to think back to student days from not too long back. The time where the most memorable meals weren’t the ones at the most expensive restaurants. The delight we had in discovering food places, not for their popularity or price, but simply because we could share a tasty meal with a good friend. Or a trip where we bargained for cheap accommodation and transport, carrying water and food up the mountain because we refused to buy overpriced items. Instead of going into the only restaurant there, we sat on the floor somewhere, eating cans of porridge (八宝粥) and laughing at the amused looks of those walking by. But being content is only part of the answer.
But godliness with content is great gain.