Godly Contentment 人心不足蛇吞象
I grew up at a time when ‘Bruce Lee’ was a household name. Several years ago, right in the middle of a slum in rural India, a little boy walked up to me. With appropriate gestures, he excitedly uttered ‘Bruce Lee’ (李小龙), proudly telling me that he ‘knows’ him.
Yes, Bruce Lee was a martial arts legend. In 1973, he starred in his final film, which was released just six days after his death. The film was entitled 龙争虎斗 – ‘Enter the Dragon.’
In a week’s time, according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the passing on to this new Lunar New Year is that of ‘Exit the Dragon’ and ‘Enter the Snake’. Whether Christians like it or not, the word, symbol, emblem and design of snakes in all forms will appear before our eyes via billboards, the internet, hongbao packets, greeting cards, etc. A week ago, at a Christian meeting, I heard someone describing the New Lunar New Year as ‘The Year of the Serpent’.
How do Christians respond to what is being promoted as ‘The year of the snake’? Some voice the concern of giving the serpent too high a profile and prominence. I do think also that there are ways to benefit from this constant reminder of the snake. Here’s an example:
During Chinese New Year, we often hear the greetings – 恭喜发财 – Wishing you a prosperous New Year.’ Is it wrong to wish anyone – ‘Prosperous New Year’? Proverbs 13:21 (NIV 1984) reads, ‘Misfortune pursues the sinner, but prosperity is the reward of the righteous.’ The wisdom writer seems to be saying that the fruit of being righteous is that of prosperity!
There is a Chinese saying that goes like this – 人心不足蛇吞象 – ‘A man who is never content is like a snake trying to swallow an elephant.’ We need not debate here as to whether it is possible for a snake to swallow an elephant. The gist of this idiom warns us that discontentment drives one to have more and more – the bigger the better, the more the merrier. It is a good reminder for us that in talking about riches, Paul tells us, ‘Godliness with contentment is great gain.’ (1Tim. 6:6).
Hence, a lesson for me to think through this Lunar New Year is that of the wisdom of Prov. 30:7-9, ‘Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.’
Others may wish us a prosperous new year. What would we ourselves wish to be blessed with? How about godly contentment?
Elder Richard Lai