In 1943 proto-psychologist Abraham Maslow postulated a theory that humans pursue contentment according to a rigid hierarchy of needs. People seek to fulfill their desires in the order of these 5 rubrics…
1. Physiological: breathing, food, water, sleep, homeostasis.
2. Safety: security from danger, employment, resources.
3. Belonging: freindship, family, intimacy.
4. Esteem: respected by others, self-respect.
5. Self-actualization: creativity, fulfillment, spontaneity, acceptance of facts, etc.
And we all recognize that when we are ravenous for a snack, we attempt to achieve a level of satisfaction for our blood sugar before we set out to gain the respect of our peers (which explains why you are rude to your irritating neighbor when you haven’t had your morning coffee).
But is it true that contentment can only be accessed by mounting this pyramid of needs in a particular order? Consider the following claims of the Apostle Paul for a moment…
1 Cor 4:11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless,
2 Cor 11:27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
Phil 4:11-12 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
Take that, Abraham Maslow!
Paul’s physical needs were frequently unmet for a time, but he was content. This is what the black belt in contentment looks like. It’s not about circumstances, it’s about perspective.
Jesus said something similar when He lovingly instructed His followers:
Luke 12:29-31 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
Incessant and anxious pursuit of physical necessities is a natural family trait of unbelievers. Believers are responsible to work and be good stewards, but they trust their good, all-knowing, all-powerful Father to provide for their needs.
There is a tranquility in the believer’s life that surpasses the understanding of unbelievers who exist in a perpetually bombinating hive of anxiety.
If you disagree with me, feel free to leave a comment, just make sure you’ve had a snack first.
A concise, Cliff’s Notes summary, “One Paragraph on Psychology: My Misgivings”
And Prof. Matt Waymeyer’s provocative and insightful article, “Is Psychology the 67th Book of the BIble?”.