Why do we settle for less when we could have more? Huh? I thought our theme for life was “I want it, I want it all, and I want it now”. So where does this settle for less thing even come from?
I’m not talking about a minimalist way of life.
Or about use less to save the planet.
Not even about learning to be satisfied with less.
Maybe the most surprising thing is that I am talking about talking about Christians. The ones who actually try to follow what Jesus taught.
God promised us so much if we follow Jesus.
Become more like Jesus.
And yet, while we claim to be Christians, the level to which we even try to be more Christ-like is all over the map. And I dare say, there’s a whole lot more who are closer to barely following or not even trying than there are to those who seriously try and allow God to guide their lives the way Jesus said we should.
And because of that, we don’t, even can’t, receive the promises to the extent we otherwise would.
What if I’m not Christian?
So, if I’m not Christian, this isn’t for me? Well, actually, it is. Partly, of course, because I’d like you to see what Christianity is really about. But then, maybe even getting some other benefit from reading this will prompt you to consider what you learn, how it can help, and then how much more it can help when God is in the picture.
Settling for less – the series
This is going to be the first in a series titled “Settling for less”. It began over on my other site, but I’m moving it here because of the focus. The other site is primarily for Christians. Not so much over here. However, as I said, Christianity is still at the heart of things here. And I hope that helps to enlighten readers as to what Jesus really taught, as opposed to what too many people are turning it into. Especially in the political world.
The original version of Why do we settle for less? began with this:
Why are we so willing to settle for less?
Did that get your attention? Probably. You’re reading this. As if “we” somehow covers everyone. But it does. Or as if literally everyone really does settle for less. And yet, we do. So much less. Less than what? Less than what we could have. Not only right this moment, but every moment after this one. For the rest of our lives. And even beyond.
Hard to believe? Apparently not too hard, since you’re still reading. And even for someone who doesn’t believe it, that lack of belief doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
Neither does the saying, less is more. There are a couple different claimed sources for that saying, but the point is that simplicity is good. Well, maybe. It depends. Simple what? Less of what? And what’s the more that we supposedly end up with, as a result of having less?
Is less really more?
It requires thought. More thought, not less. Otherwise, we blindly accept that less is more – and we happily settle for less. But again, less of what? More of what? If we don’t ask questions, and think about those questions, that’s the answer to my question. We settle for less because we’re not engaged enough to really care what we gave up – and what, if anything, we got in return for giving up whatever it was that we gave up.
Probably not. Because I didn’t really say anything truly meaningful. And that really is the answer to the question. We settle for less because we don’t take the time to examine the difference between what we settle for – and what we could have had instead.
Maybe we don’t have time. More likely, we don’t think we have time. It’s a matter of priorities. Because the truth is – we absolutely do have time. We have time to do all sorts of things. By deciding we don’t have time to deal with certain things is to automatically put those things low on our priority list. In other words, we have time, but we choose not to spend it on certain things. That’s another reason we settle for less. We do it without even thinking about it. Darn – there’s that thinking thing again.
Got it now?
I hope so. Because now I really have said something. We think to think. We need to prioritize. And we need to care. By doing those three things, we don’t have to settle for less. As I said at the beginning, we can have that more. Not only right this moment, but every moment after this one. For the rest of our lives. And even beyond.
What is that “more”? That’s what we’re about to find out.
Christians and non-Christians both settle for less
There wasn’t anything about God in those last several paragraphs. They could apply to anyone. They do apply to everyone. No matter what religions we are, or if we think we don’t believe in any god at all – even though that’s a religion whether it be humanism, atheism, agnosticism, or some other -ism, there are things we can learn in what was written. If nothing else, the importance of priorities and a realistic look at life.
I am about to bring God into the picture now. He’s my priority, so that’s natural. It’s to be expected.
This first entry in Settling for less is designed to be about God. And the source for it is a book about God. But, much of what will be in subsequent installments comes from non-Christian writers. From things that are important in the secular world. However, as we’ll see, those same things are important in the life of a Christian as well. The main difference is our priority.
What is your priority in life?
For instance, Christians should be very familiar with something Jesus said.
22:34-40 pp — Mk 12:28-31
Mt 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Mt 22:37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Now, let’s take that thought in verse 27 and put it into non-religious terms. It comes down to love your priority with everything you are. Do you remember earlier where I said we all have a religion of some sort? Here’s a description of what that is.
Our religion is the thing we love with everything we are. Hopefully, if we’re Christian, that’s Jesus.
But what is that one thing you live with everything you are? Your kids? Your football, baseball, hockey, or whatever sports team? Your car? Stamp collecting? Watching TV soap operas or crime dramas? Whatever that thing is, it’s your “religion”.
With that in mind, here’s the thing for everyone. including Christians. Examine yourself. Notice what your “religion” is, meaning what is the thing that takes up your time, your energy, your mind, more than any other thing or person?
If you’re Christian, think about the role Jesus has in your life, as compared to what you read in this series.
If you’re not Christian, do the same thing with your “religion”. And while you’re reading, think about how much more meaningful your life could be, to you and to others, with a Christian point of view to it.
The inset box is for something I wrote about my own experience, as a Christian, looking at something that was missing from my life. That thing was joy. Not joy, as in being happy. Rather, it was the joy God promised us as followers of His Son. Something I knew I didn’t have, and really, really wanted. And received. It’s a joy that’s way beyond anything like we’d feel from any other source in our life.
A joy that shows when we’re satisfied with the happiness/joy that comes from events/people in this life absent God, we surely settle for less than what we could have. When we settle for anything less than the joy God can give us.
The Allure of Gentleness
I guess we’re for sure into God here. The all-too-common allure in the world these days is the allure of bullies and the power they wield. And the goal is to be just like them. Gentleness is for losers by their standards.
And yet, contrary to what the political world might have you thinking, the gentleness I speak of is from Jesus. And that’s one of many reasons I point out that we cannot learn about God from politicians of either party.
With that, let’s get into today’s topic.
Why do we settle for less when we could have more?
Of course, that’s settling for things we can get through secular life, instead of the more we can receive from God.
Stay with me through this next quote. It’s important.
Stay with me through this next quote. It’s important.
Here’s another reason why we settle for less. BTW – don’t worry about exactly what the quote below means.
Our activities must come from within a framework of discipleship in which we are constantly dependent upon the interaction of the Holy Spirit with our souls, one in which we refuse to depend upon our natural abilities and relationships in the world, social as well as physical, “apart from God.” In recent decades we have seen spectacular failures on the part of outstanding preachers, teachers, and “communicators.” In every case, the failure is traceable to attitudes and behaviors that would have pretty much been eliminated by measures that are a matter of course for one who is really prepared to follow Jesus in his overall style of life or to follow Paul, who says to the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11: 1). 1Willard, Dallas. The Allure of Gentleness (p. 21). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.
See why I said don’t worry about what that quote meant? It’s probably not something most people would just instantly grasp. That’s not too surprising, since it’s from the late Dallas Willard – a philosopher, minister, professor at USC, among other things.
It takes time, effort, thinking and caring enough about what he wrote before we can prioritize it high enough to even try to understand.
It takes more too. It’s about Christianity, so it also takes the Holy Spirit. These days we seem to think that’s pretty much not going to happen – getting the Holy Spirit involved. Either that, or we’ve gone so far in the other direction that people are afraid of us, ’cause we’re “weird”. It takes time, effort, thinking and caring enough about that too before we can prioritize it high enough to even try to understand what the Holy Spirit is about.
By now, it probably seems like Christianity is too much work. Too much effort. Like maybe less really is more. For sure, less is better – so we hope.
Why was the early church in the Bible so unwilling to settle for less?
I have to make a comment here about so-called early church activities taking place today. They’re generally groups of people who try to follow some of the characteristics of the early church in New Testament times. They do things like sharing everything in common. And yes, while that was one characteristic, it was by no means the most important one.
Also, the reality is that the early church people didn’t actually literally share everything. It’s beyond the scope of today’s topic, but I do want to point that out.
Who were the people of the early church?
Let’s make this easier. Think about your life. Your education. The world you live in.
Now, think about the guys who followed Jesus on a daily basis.
Matthew was a tax collector. We have tax collectors today. But hey, there was no IRS in those days. The math was simple. Rome wanted a certain amount of money from each tax collector. For instance, Matthew. But there weren’t all the regulations we have today that take CPA’s and lawyers to understand, and even they disagree on what the rules say. On the other hand, all Matthew had to do was charge the people more than what he had to give to Rome. Whatever was left over – it was his. Simple!
Some of them were fishermen. Sure, today we have complex weather reports, sonar mappings to figure out where the fish are, lengthy regulations about when and where to fish, catch limits, and all sorts of other things. It takes someone who knows how to use these tools and read the results to be a successful fisherman today Back then? Nope. Go out on a boat, drop a net, pull in the net. What’s in the net is your catch.
Does it take an advanced education to follow Jesus?
Those guys were not today’s Certified Public Accountants, lawyers, rocket scientists. Paul was a Pharisee who was well versed in the Jewish religion, but those who followed Jesus every day for three years weren’t. They never attended seminary. They didn’t have years of education about Christianity. They didn’t have a whole lot of things that we have today. And yet, they “got it” in a way that we seem to find next to impossible today. If anything, all our education hurts, rather than helps.
And you know what? If you read carefully, they never really did “get it” while they traveled with Jesus. How many times do we read things like them asking Jesus to explain what He’d just said? And even Jesus asking them how come they still didn’t get it. So the fact that they literally walked with Jesus didn’t give them any advantage over us at all.
Does settle for less mean be like children?
Jesus talked about being like little children. Does that mean we should be like little children and settle for less? There was a time, like when I was young, when little kids were pretty much happy with whatever their parents gave them.
Back then, we weren’t the targets of fancy TV ads selling stuff to the minds of children, who will then bug, yes bug not beg, their parents until they get more. And more. And more …
So maybe today’s kids can’t comprehend the idea of settling for less. Some will even go out and steal what they want. Not to mention the ones who are recruited by those who are too old to go to juvenile hall and then get their records sealed, so they “hire” young kids.
In any case, that’s not what Jesus meant by being like little children. Can you even imagine the idea of kids bugging their parents our stealing to get what Jesus had in mind in the passage below?
19:13-15 pp — Mk 10:13-16; Lk 18:15-17
Mt 19:13 Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
Mt 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
I seriously don’t believe this was Jesus telling His disciples that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children who want more-more-more and are even willing to do something illegal to get it. That was not the point of the statement.
What did the be like little children mean?
So what does the little children reference really mean? Here’s a hint.
Earlier, I wrote about how the disciples “got” Jesus’ message, but not while they traveled with Him. They didn’t “get it” until they had the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit we can have today. The one who’ll help us understand all of this. BTW – if you don’t already know, the Holy Spirit is, as Paul points out, the mind of Jesus!
How does that relate? Both have to do with being dependent. Children are dependent on their parents. Sadly, these days, too many children are left to take care of themselves while they’re far too young. So maybe we don’t all catch that. But it was the frame reference for what Jesus said.
In the same way, the disciples were dependent on the Holy Spirit. A gift from the Father.
Jn 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
Jn 14:22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
Jn 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
Jn 14:25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Jn 14:28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
“Come now; let us leave.”
After receiving the Holy Spirit, then they understand what Jesus said the previous three years.
It doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it.
What does all this lead to? Maybe we make it overly complex. Maybe it doesn’t really need to be all that complicated. It wasn’t God that made it hard. We did.
Consider Dallas Willard’s quote above, and then look at the one below.
… in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect …
There are translations that put it even more plainly.
Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about the hope you have. Be ready to give the reason for it. But do it gently and with respect.
There are drawbacks to the really simple translations. Things really can get lost in the translation – literally. However, they are a starting point.
Why are we so willing to settle for less? Priorities?
Remember, we all started knowing nothing. Absolutely nothing. And someone who makes it their profession, such as a university professor, is quite possibly going to get further along in their understanding from those of us who have day jobs. Having said that, remember that it’s not just the time spent. It’s the presence and acceptance of the Holy Spirit.
But there is something between being a professor or pastor of a big church or something like that and being satisfied with doing the absolute minimum and hoping it’s good enough to get to Heaven. And that’s assuming our definition of absolute minimum is even something real.
Jesus said, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. Isn’t that a promise about something that’s worth making a higher priority in our lives?
Why is it hard to settle for less instead of having more?
Are you confused now? I started talking about how we settle for less instead of having more. Then we get into how people think being Christian is settling for less. And now we’re back to being Christian means not only having more – but having life to the full. What’s going on?
Here’s part of what’s going on. Do you remember reading “… in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect …”? Did you notice the “…” at the beginning and the end? Yes, I left something out. Something huge.
Here’s the whole thing. As you read it, see how this fits in with your own idea about what’s less and what’s more.
1Pe 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
What do you think? Is this more or less? How many of you can imagine this ever happening? How many are even willing to do your part to make it happen? Then, let’s make it harder, how many are not just willing but able to make it happen?
And yet, this is just the beginning of what Jesus asks, even commands, His followers to do. And He knows full well we can’t do it without the Holy Spirit. Then, and only then, can we even begin to turn less into more.
“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from deceitful speech.
1Pe 3:11 He must turn from evil and do good;
he must seek peace and pursue it.
Just in case we’re not quite sure, or in case we intentionally want to set our own standards, Peter spells out some examples of what the verse verses tells us to do.
Maybe we think some of these things are just a normal part of being a person, especially in this day and age. But guess what? The day and the age don’t matter. Those things always have been and always will be unacceptable to God. They are, in a word, sinful.
1Pe 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
The thing here is, we don’t get to define what’s righteous and what’s evil. God does. And he did. We can take it or leave it. We can decide if we think more requires doing things God considers evil – or if we think more is trying to be righteous. God does give us that choice. But ultimately, He is the judge. What we often don’t want to do is give up things we want (have less) in order to do the things we have to do in order to have more in the way Jesus meant it.
We miss other things as well. One is that sometimes we need to suffer in order to have more. It’s weird though. We’re willing to suffer in all sorts of ways to get the things we want. But we don’t want to suffer for the things God tells us are even more rewarding, more fulfilling, than the things we want.
To that end, here’s the last part of what Peter wrote in this passage.
1Pe 3:13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
Does everyone claiming to be Christian do this?
By the way, if you’re thinking, what’s so special about being Christian – they’re just like everyone else – settling for less is part of the reason why. Maybe they’re even worse, because they’re a bunch of hypocrites – say one thing and do another. When we settle for less than what Jesus actually taught, that’s what can happen. When we don’t make learning about what Jesus said a high priority in our lives, then those kinds of reactions are bound to follow.
It’s not God’s fault. It’s not a problem with Christianity. It’s a problem with those of us who claim we’re Christian, but then don’t make actually being a Christian a high priority in our lives. Again, it’s a consequence that’s just bound to follow us when we settle for less.
For those of you who feel that way, do you really want to pass up what Jesus offers just because some other people haven’t made living the Christian life a priority? Claiming to be Christian is one thing. Actually being one is quite another thing. Don’t settle for less just because someone else did.
Don’t want to settle for less?
Don’t get me wrong on Dallas Willard. I really like his books. They do require thinking. And the Holy Spirit. And let’s not forget about time. And all that means we have to prioritize them in our busy lives. Not easy.
I think one of, if not the biggest, blessings of being retired is having the time to do exactly that. Yes, life still goes on. There are other things that come up. And there are things I like to do, like cooking, relearning how to play some instruments, and getting back to woodworking. But still, this is important.
One of the other things I find to be very rewarding is to research these things and then turn around and write about them and teach at my church. No – I’m not a pastor. I’m a retired IT guy who loves to take the time to learn more about the Creator of everything.
So I’ll be going through the book from which the quote is taken: The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus by Dallas Willard.
Conclusion – Why do we settle for less when we could have more?
And there it is. We’re willing to have less of what we used to think was more, in order to get more of what we thought was less.
The key is to understand when less is more – and when more is less. Which, hopefully, you realize depends on whether we’re talking about what we want for ourselves as opposed to when we desire to want the things God wants for us.
He created us. And He has a plan for us. A plan that we can refuse to follow. As our creator, which we must be willing to accept, we must trust that His promise about His plan being the best is true. Then, and only then, will we be willing to accept less of what we want, follow Jesus, and be rewarded with more because we gave up our own desires to fulfill His plan for us.
Anything other than that means we’re willing to accept less when we could have had so much more.
Image by Bing Chat GPT4 / DALL-E 3
- 1Willard, Dallas. The Allure of Gentleness (p. 21). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.