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But godliness with contentment is great gain. - 1 Timothy 6:6 (NIV)
Purchased in 1979, a red and white Ford F-150 Custom truck was driven until 1992. It has 65,000 miles on it. It has dents, dings, rust, and dog bite marks in the steering wheel yet it is on display in a museum. There is nothing extraordinary about the truck, aside from its owner. Sam Walton, the founder of WalMart, one of the most successful American businessmen of all time drove that truck for the last 13 years of his life. The only reason he stopped driving it was because he passed away.
The word that comes to mind when I think about that is contentment. Sam Walton could have driven any car or truck or SUV he wanted. He didn’t though. He’s quoted as saying, “Why do I drive a truck? What am I supposed to haul my dogs around in, a Rolls Royce?” He was unimaginably wealthy and perfectly content driving an old pickup truck.
Sweet Dreams happen when our hearts are full and minds are free. Of the sleepless nights or restless seasons I’ve had, many are related to some lack of contentment in my life. How about you? Paul wrote to his young protege Timothy about this very topic. In 1 Timothy 6:6-10 he outlines very clearly that true contentment comes from God in Christ. Everything else is a shallow illusion and ultimately destructive. Paul knew this. Jesus taught us this in Matthew 6. And yet, it isn’t easy. The air we breathe in America is that we need the newest and greatest. So this Monday let’s pause to push back against what is next and rest in what is.
For we brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out - 1 Timothy 6:7 (NIV)
John Ortberg illustrates the verse above with the title of one of his great books, “It All Goes Back in the Box.” At the end of the game Monopoly, it all goes back in the box. You may have hotels on Park Place and Boardwalk and own all the properties on the board, and yet when the game is over, it all goes back in the box.
Materialism is defined as a “tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.” Paul surveyed the landscape of the ancient world and found the same reality too. Apparently, people in Paul’s day had the tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values. He goes on to challenge Timothy and others willing to listen with the idea that, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” He further explains that “some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
I’ve admittedly never been a person of great means. Growing up my family was lower middle class at best. Often times I felt less than others that had more materially than I did. I held back on opportunities to encourage others and be all God designed me to be because I let my insecurities limit me. What’s true is cooler shoes, better clothes, and a house in a great neighborhood would not have added any true value to my life. It may have propped up a fragile ego, but none of it would (or will) have created spiritual health and vibrancy in me.
At the end of Paul’s short expose’ on the emptiness of materialism he charges Timothy with these words, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11
Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. - Matthew 6:4 (NIV)
In Jesus’ teaching called the Sermon on the Mount, He gets to a place where He addresses “acts of righteousness.” He considers them tied to a reward from our Father in heaven. It’s interesting because so many times I’ve been taught that you do good things for others and should expect nothing in return. That’s not what Jesus teaches. He gives multiple illustrations of these acts of righteousness and then ties each of them to a reward. It’s almost like Jesus doesn’t know you are just supposed to do good things for others for no benefit to yourself.
While there isn’t time to develop the theology behind this massive truth, we can learn something about contentment here. Our reward is given from our Father in heaven. His reward options are limitless and plentiful. He can save our reward entirely for heaven, or choose to reward here on earth, or some combination of both. It seems that our reward in this context is more towards heaven, as He elaborates about the value of that called treasure in Matthew 6:20.
When we think about contentment and having Sweet Dreams, let’s take time to think about how our contentment or lack of it impacts others. Would others, not because of a show we put on, but because they’ve experienced it in the natural flow of our lives, describe us as generous? Is there overflow in our lives that blesses others or is our primary focus making sure we have more and more comfort?
I’ve got to confess I think more about my own comfort than I should. I too often seek the next levels of comfort that I can achieve and rarely consider what I could sacrifice so that people in need can have more. Oddly enough, Jesus’ challenge to me is tied to reward. So, I either forget that, don’t believe Him, or don’t care enough to receive His blessing. Oddly enough, giving to others actually blesses me in the perfect way my loving Father in heaven will make happen.
Meaningless! Meaningless! says the teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless! - Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV)
By the third quarter of last year, there were 2.07 billion active Facebook users. In the US we account for over 200 million of those active accounts. It’s safe to say between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat that we are into social media. It’s easy to debate and discuss the merits and evils of this phenomenon, but one thing is true, social media causes most of us to compare our lives with others. Pick a study, but most all point out that our general happiness decreases with social media use and a direct culprit is that our real life pales in comparison to the highlight reel of others we see online. Comparison is an enemy of contentment.
Let’s say you could wave a magic wand and have everything you could ever want or imagine. Instantly untold wealth and power are yours. Your life miraculously becomes one of total wealth and privilege. This is more than winning the lottery; you are now the most sought-after person on the planet. There is not a person who won’t take your call or a place that you can’t go and command the room. Welcome to Solomon from the Bible's life. He had untold wealth and influence. It’s actually hard to compare him to someone else today because there’s not an individual that rivals his wealth, fame, and notoriety.
Solomon lived a long and prosperous life. In his memoir (entitled Ecclesiastes) he summed it up as, wait for it, meaningless. Huh? It doesn’t make natural sense. If anyone would have found deep meaning and pleasure in life, it’d be him. He even knew God, but his overwhelmingly pleasurable life lacked true contentment. His lament is a warning that no amount of likes, followers, or enviable experiences is enough to truly satisfy.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. - Matthew 11:28 (NIV)
A list of things that make me tired includes running (I do not like it, not one bit), watching people fight over petty things, movies in the theater, and trying to be someone I’m not. Today I’m less prone to experience that last one on my list than in years prior, but there are times I’m tempted to be someone I’m not. Like when I’m driving to church yelling at my kids to calm down and act right and then smiling on the way in the building. Image management of any kind is exhausting.
When Jesus was here on earth His most, and really only, adversarial relationship (aside from Satan himself), was with the Pharisees. They were really good at keeping up religious appearances. They went to extraordinary lengths to appear righteous, yet they treated people terribly. They oppressed people religiously and systematically. Jesus was strongly confrontational, critiquing their charade.
Sweet Dreams are out of reach when the public version of us doesn’t match the private version of us. When there is a disconnect between who we are seen to be and who we are, we are set up for an exhausting life. When life is more about who others think we are than who we really are, we exert needless energy all the time to control things that aren’t meant to be controlled. Whether it is achievement, beauty, grades, style, income, lifestyle, our kid’s image, appearing religious, or something else we project and lean on to hide the real us, we struggle in vain.
If you are managing your image, wearing a mask, or faking it, I challenge you to stop. Step down as the most important person you know and come back to Jesus.
This weekend decide to quit something, give something precious away, end the toxic relationship, downsize, sell the expensive car, call the rehab center, or come clean with someone you think you are fooling. Jesus is with you and can’t wait to hear how it goes after you take your courageous step. Contentment is only one hard decision away!Share Tweet