When Contentment crosses Ambition

Darrell Muth
May 5, 2017 · 3 min read

The Stone Cutter

Once upon a time, a stonecutter lived all alone. Though he had acquired great skills, he was penniless. He lived in a tiny bamboo hut and wore tattered clothing. One day, as the stonecutter chiselled a huge stone, he heard a crowd gathering along the streets. By their shouts, he could tell that the king was coming to visit his humble village. He joined the procession. The stonecutter gazed as the king, dressed in marvellous silk, was greeted by his subjects. Oh, how I wish I had the power and glory of the king, he thought. He has soldiers at his command. There is no one more powerful. He cried to the heavens. Immediately the humble stonecutter transformed into a mighty king. He found himself riding on a great horse, waving at the crowds of people who had flocked to see him. This is power, he thought. As the summer progressed, King watched the effects of the heat upon his people. Men and animals became weary, and plants withered under the powerful rays of the sun. As he looked at the sky, the new king realised that the sun was stronger than any earthly ruler. How I wish I were as powerful as that, he thought. I wish I were the sun.

Immediately, his request was granted.

The stonecutter relished his new role as the sun. He gloried in the power he felt as he surveyed the kingdoms below. He sent his bright rays to earth. He watched kings and princes hide under their parasols. He watched as mighty warriors became weak under his gaze. Even the crops in the field were under his command. One day a small cloud moved over the land, shielding the earth from the sun’s bright rays. Seeing that here was something more powerful, he thought, I want very much to be a cloud.

Again, his wish was granted.

Now he blocked the sun’s rays and felt important. He gathered all his strength, becoming a massive cloud, and began to pour down rain on the earth. Rivers formed where there were none, and water flooded the streets of the cities and the farmland. Everything — trees, animals, people — seemed awed by his power. Only the massive rocks remained unswayed. There is nothing, he thought, as sturdy as a rock.

How I wish I were a huge stone — His request was granted.

Like a stone, he remained motionless and powerful, unmoved by sun, wind, or rain. He felt exempt from all the forces that shaped the existence of those around him. Then one day a man approached, carrying a bag. He stopped, he pulled out a chisel and a hammer and began to chip away at the rock. Realizing that the man with the tools was stronger than any stone, he cried out, “Oh, I want to be a stonecutter.” Once again, the heavens heard his cry, and he became a stonecutter. Once again, he lived in a bamboo hut and made his living with hammer and chisel. And he was content. A Japanese Folktale — Author Unknown

The Teacher, writer of Ecclesiastes: “Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless; it is like chasing the wind.”

The teacher, many think he is King Solomon, has wisdom, wealth, wives, and children. Nearing the end of his life, he questions the value of ambition. He goes on say; this is fruitless. Having achieved almost everything he wants, he lacks what he most desires — Contentment. George Bernard Shaw said, “There are two tragedies in life: one is not to get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it. Does this mean ambition is meaningless?

“Jesus first, sends out his disciples. He sends them out to the lost sheep of Israel to preach the message of the nearness of the kingdom of heaven. He sends them out to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” Matthew’s Gospel

These are ambitious goals! So where does personal contentment fit? Could contentment be the unintentional side effect Christ-centered ambition? If so, how does that look?

Contentment is near when ambition aligns with Christ’s redemptive action.

Contentment is near in accepting this work does not start or end with us. We have the humbling choice to be a part of it.

Contentment is near when unlike the teacher we accept what we have, with graciousness.

Contentment is near when we live lives of sacrifice, humility and redemptive ambition.

Darrell Muth

Written by

a reasonably good husband, an ok father, a great grandfather!