You can’t always get what you want

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” – 2 Corinthians 9:8

Most of you are too young, or too old, or too cultured, or too country to remember a Rolling Stone song that went like this: “You can’t always get what you want…but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”  Now, don’t get me wrong, Mick Jagger is no great philosopher. Yet, this lyric rings true. I’ve found that most of the time, I have all that I need, but never all I want.

 My wife and I discovered an interesting thing some years ago. When we first married, we were pretty poor. Oh, we lived at college, but we had very little disposable cash. We lived from paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes, the day or two before payday was pretty bleak, financially. Those were peanut butter sandwich days. Then, when I got my first real job, my income doubled and we felt rich. Surprisingly, it wasn’t long until we were living from paycheck to paycheck again. Later in life, my income doubled again and we felt rich again. Lo and behold, it wasn’t too long before we were living from check to check again! How was this possible?

The answer is simple: we turned our wants into needs and after all, needs must be met. Things that we lived without in previous years, we couldn’t imagine living without them anymore. So, when the income went up, we raised our standard of living to our income level. Did we ever learn from this experience? Truthfully, after 33 years of marriage, we still live from check to check.

 I live in America, the most materially prosperous nation in the world. All around me, people strive for financial security and material well-being. Why should I have any less than they? I have to confess that when the money gets low, and I can’t have what I want (pardon, I mean what I need), I get a miffed at God. Why should I struggle so much with my finances when those around me (people obviously less pious than I) prosper so much that they live in fine houses and drive nice cars and just throw money away? Why are they more blessed, and therefore happier than I?

 St. Paul said, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion” 2 Corinthians 9:11 So, I’m waiting for this to happen. I want to be rich in every way. Then I will be most generous, of course. You might think that Paul’s words only mean spiritual blessing. If you look at the context of the statement, he was taking up money for the needs of the Church in Jerusalem where the faithful had fallen on hard times.

God has to understand that I’m doing all I can. I can’t do very many good works with my money, because after all, I’m living from check to check. There isn’t much if any surplus to give to the poor or to my Church. Jesus may have praised the widow who gave all the money she had, but I’ll bet she didn’t have the Visa bill that I’ve made trying to meet my needs.

I could be rich, but I have a lot of dependents. There are gadgets that need to be constantly fed with my money. I need those gadgets, really I do! Let’s review: behind me stands a wall of DVDs that I just had to have, but haven’t watched in months. I have clothes in my closet that I haven’t worn in years. I really, really need to eat out more. Peanut butter sandwiches make me fat. I give generously each month to the Master…card.

To be honest with you, I dream of the simple life, one stripped of all of this money sucking paraphernalia that surrounds me. I dream of being a person who can live gently on the earth. I want to give with a happy heart from the abundance of God’s blessing. I dream of a different lifestyle, but it’s just a dream. Every time something extra comes along, I have a knee-jerk reaction. I think about upgrading my computer, or fixing my car, or going out for dinner, and so on.  Rarely does it dawn on me that I should bless my Church, or someone else with my abundance. Rarely.

A minister friend of mine went to visit his members in their homes to talk about giving to the church. One man he visited told him, “Reverend, I just can’t give any more. I’m tapped out and there’s just no extra.” The minister assured him that he understood and thanked him for his past support. A month or so later, he was driving by and noticed that this man was working on a boat in his driveway. So, he pulled in and complimented the man on his boat. He inquired about the cost, and when the man replied, the minister was amazed and asked how he could have afforded it. The man answered that he had gotten a loan at the bank, and he did it because he really needed a boat for fishing.  The minister smiled and said nothing, but it was clear that this man couldn’t pledge to the church, but he could pledge to the bank.

 You can’t always get what you want.  Well, its true but it doesn’t bother us too much because after all, we are talking about our needs and not our wants. Surely, God, being generous, will give us what we need, won’t he? St. Paul said that God would give us all we need. God said it; I believe it; that settles it.

 I can’t wait. I really really need a new guitar!


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