Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6
Asking if you are content is probably like asking if you are greedy. It’s so hard to measure both our greed and our contentment. When God tells us to “be content with what you have,” what exactly is he asking of us? And how do I find contentment?
As we have already said, both in sermon and in blog, this issue of greed and contentment goes much deeper than our money or our possessions. Could it be that the underlying cause of our greed is our never ending need to have the approval of others? That our discontentment is rooted in a lack of trust in God? A lack of humility? We strive to do, do, do and earn, earn, earn, because it makes us worth something.
Before we can ever experience any kind of contentment, this part of our inner being must be renewed. Our inner lawyer must be put to death. That part of you and me that is constantly trying to prove that we are not to blame, or that we are better than someone else. That part of you that is constantly justifying yourself to God and neighbor.
Back in 2013 Brian Jay Stanley wrote a series of pieces for the NY Times entitled “On Being Nothing.” Here is what he says about finding contentment.
There must be a Copernican revolution of the self. Instead of pointlessly cursing the sun to go around me, my chance of contentment is learning to orbit, being the world’s audience instead of demanding the world be mine. If the world is a stage, then everyone’s an extra, acting minor roles in simultaneous scenes in which no one has the lead. With so much happening, society is poorly made to satisfy pride, but well made to satisfy interest, if we will only let go of our vanity and join the swirl of activity.
There is a lot of truth here. Instead of saying “no one has the lead,” I would say “God has the lead.” Stanley is correct that we are all just extras but we are extras in God’s play. He is also correct in saying that we must realize that we are not the sun, around which everything revolves, but rather we revolve around the sun- or could we say the Son?
Contentment comes in accepting our place in the world. And your place as a Christian is to glorify God, to know him and make him known. To image him. This is why Paul could say that in abounding and in being brought low he has learned the secret to contentment. The answer is found in being “in Christ”- the ultimate image bearer.
11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 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. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13.
God has made it possible for us to reject greed and embrace contentment. In the cross and resurrection he has made our starting point grace, not works. He has levelled the playing field for all.
Now money can just be money- rather than a source of pride or justification. Now people can just be people. I can relate to them for their own sake rather than for what they can do for me, or for how they will make me feel.
This is new life. This is freedom. This is the gospel.