I am content; that is a blessing greater than riches; and he to whom that is given need ask for no more out of life.” – Henry Fielding –
I would like to tell you an inspirational story that I heard many years ago. The main characters are a successful, well-educated, somewhat self-centered American investment banker and a simple village fisherman. This little story helped me to decide that it was time to slow down, reevaluate my priorities, and live my life with joy – no matter what the circumstances. This is a tale of a life well lived.
One day a well-to-do businessman was on vacation in a small coastal Mexican village. He was standing at the pier about mid-day when a little boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The businessman complimented the fisherman on the quality of his catch.
“How long did it take you to hook them?” The businessman asked.
“Only a little while.” The fisherman replied.
“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The businessman then asked.
“I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs and some extra to share with my friends.” The fisherman said.
The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The fisherman said, “I sleep late when I want too, fish a little when I need too, play with my children, take a daily siesta with my beautiful wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip some wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a very full and busy life, señor.”
The businessman scoffed, “Busy life? I am a Harvard MBA”, he said, “and I could really help you”.
To which the fisherman replied, “Help me señor”?
“Yes, help you”, snapped the businessman. “First, you should spend much more of your time fishing so that you can sell all the fish you do not need. With the excess profits you can buy a much bigger boat. With the increased earnings from the bigger boat you could then buy several boats; eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the fish processors and eventually open your own cannery. You would then control the product, processing and distribution. Of course, you would eventually need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move first to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City where you would run your expanding enterprise.”
The fisherman then asked, “But señor, how long will all of this take?”
To which the businessman replied, “About 15-20 years of long hours and hard work, stress and sacrifice.”
The fisherman then asked, “But what then, señor?”
The businessman laughed and said, “That’s the best part! When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions of dollars.”
“Millions of dollars, señor? Then what?” Said the fisherman.
The businessman replied, “Then you would gather up all of your money and retire!”
“Retire señor? And what would I do when I retire?” Asked the fisherman with a smile.
The business man exclaimed, “Enjoy your life, man! You will move to a small coastal fishing village where you would get to sleep late, leisurely fish for a little while each day, play with your grand-kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip fine wine and play your guitar with all your amigos.”
The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “But señor, I already have this life. That is what I’m doing right now.”
And that’s when the businessman’s voice grew silent.
– Author Unknown –
Over the many years since I first read this inspiring text, I have stumbled upon many variations of the story. Most versions feature a lone fisherman who lives in a tranquil little village. He owns a small boat (his business) and enjoys a simple life. In short, he personifies a life well lived.
The fisherman has a definite understanding of what it means to be content. He doesn’t see the simple life as unrewarding or insignificant. On the contrary, he explains to the success driven businessman, “I have a very full and busy life.” And he defines his view of “full and busy” like this,
“I sleep late when I want too, fish a little when I need too, play with my children, take a daily siesta with my beautiful wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip some wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a very full and busy life, señor.”
Idealism? For sure. But very instructive. You see, the fisherman’s satisfaction appears to flow from living a balanced life. He works to meet his needs but he also values his relationships and cherishes his commitment to family, friends and community.
My main job is to live with deep contentment, joy, and confidence in my everyday experience of life with God. Everything else is job number two.” – John Ortberg
In contrast, the businessman seems wise in his own conceit. “I am a Harvard MBA”, he boasts, “I can help you”. Mr. Overdrive appears to be motivated by a desire to accumulate wealth. Ironically, the goal of his empire building mindset is to secure for some future time what the fisherman already enjoyed a simple and relaxed life. In his blind arrogance he seems to have forgotten that God alone owns the future. It reminds me of a story in the Newer Testament that Jesus shared.
15 …Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.
16-19Then he told them this story: The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: “What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.” Then he said, “Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself – you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. I’ll take it easy and have the time of my life!”
20 “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barn full of goods who gets it?’ 21 That’s what happens when you fill your barn with self and not with God. (Luke 12:15-21 MSG)
In this parable we are introduced to a rich farmer who thought he had it made. He was very successful. In his way of looking at life, it was time to kick back, relax, and have the time of his life! Not so fast. God showed up and called the man a fool. “Tonight you die.” He said. “And your barn full of goods who gets it?”
You see, the present is all we really have. Just think about the people who will die unexpectedly today. In spite of all of their plans, wealth, success, etc., etc., they no longer have a future here on spaceship earth. No one is guaranteed a tomorrow – no one!
Please do not misunderstand the purpose of my discourse today. Wise planning is good. Hard work is virtuous and necessary in this lifetime. Success can be a wonderful experience. Money isn’t necessarily bad either (it’s the love of money that is at the root of evil – not the money). But, when we become so future-oriented and success driven that we lose sight of living in the moment, life begins to lose significance. That’s what happens when your life is mostly about self-interests without attentiveness to the things that please our Creator.
It’s the weight that you carry from the things you think you want. I got everything I need and nothing that I don’t” – Zac Brown Band
I’m not suggesting that we should all run off to a small coastal fishing village and live slow, simple lives (although, personally, I sometimes find the thought of doing so to be very appealing). We should, however, learn to be content in the life that we have right now – even if our present state of affairs are sometimes less than desirable. One of the Newer Testament writers, Paul, put it like this,
11b-13… I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of facing either poverty or plenty. I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me. (Philippians 4:10-13 – PHILLIPS)
Did he say contentment no matter what the circumstance? Yes, he did. Good days or bad days. Highs or lows. Happy or sad. Contentment is the key to a life well lived. Our friend Paul learned this lesson well. In another Newer Testament letter he told his friend Timothy,
6-8There is a real profit, of course, but it comes only to those who live contentedly as God would have them live. We brought absolutely nothing with us when we entered the world and we can be sure we shall take absolutely nothing with us when we leave it. Surely then, as far as physical things are concerned, it is sufficient for us to keep our bodies fed and clothed.
9-10For men who set their hearts on being wealthy expose themselves to temptation. They fall into one of the world’s traps, and lay themselves open to all sorts of silly and wicked desires, which are quite capable of utterly ruining and destroying their souls. For loving money leads to all kinds of evil, and some men in the struggle to be rich have lost their faith and caused themselves untold agonies of mind.
11-12But you, the man of God, keep clear of such things. Set your heart not on riches, but on goodness, Christ-likeness, faith, love, patience and humility. Fight the worthwhile battle of the faith, keep your grip on that life eternal to which you have been called, and to which you boldly professed your loyalty before many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:6-12 – PHILLIPS)
Paul understood that a wealth driven success model does not lead to contentment. It is not wrong to be rich. A desire to succeed in our endeavors and better our material position in the world is not inherently evil. But extreme caution is advised as material success often leads to greed. It is always a mistake to place our trust in the uncertainty of riches (1 Timothy 6:17).
You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon
So my friends, what do say we all chill out? Slow down. Smell those proverbial flowers. I don’t care how you say it – JUST DO IT! Learn to be content with the knowledge that God knows exactly what is best for each of us and He has promised to provide whatever we need from His vast resources (Philippians 4:19).
Got it? Excellent.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a small fishing boat to clean and later a few friends will be waiting for me in Tarpon Springs… and…
Okay, maybe not.
But, I am content!
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656