The Bare Minimum

“Contentment is the only real wealth.”
–Alfred Nobel

Would we be content if all we had in life was the bare minimum? Or as Baloo, the lovable bear from The Jungle Book, cleverly put it, “Look for the bare necessities.” Food. Clothing. Shelter. It’s no secret that North American society in general struggles with the overconsumption of material goods. Scientists estimate that if everyone on the planet consumed like the average American, it would take about five earths to sustain us (see here).

At what point are we going to say that we’re perfectly content with what we’ve got? When we’ve bought the house that we’ve always wanted? When we’ve accumulated a substantial amount of money in the bank? When we’ve reached a certain level of status in society?

The Apostle Paul gives us the bare minimum—the bare necessities—for a content life. And it’s pretty shocking. He said to his disciple, Timothy, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Tim. 6:8, ESV). In a society where more is often thought of as better, it’s almost unimaginable to think that mere food and clothing could and should make us content in life.

Paul was able to remain content with the bare minimum because his satisfaction in life didn’t come from the accumulation of wealth and possessions. His satisfaction lay elsewhere. It was in the purposeful living of his one and only life for God’s Kingdom. It was in the vital mission of making disciples of all nations. It was in the hope of knowing that there is an eternal life and a heavenly realm that will grant everlasting joy and rewards. Why in the world would Paul settle for anything less? That’s why he was able to remain fully content with the bare minimum. And in turn, he was free to pursue what was truly meaningful in life.

Would you be content if all you had in life was the bare minimum?