Family Way # 10
"We are content with what we have not coveting what others have."
"But godliness with contentment is great gain." I Tim. 6:6
As our parents have all died in the last few years, Clay and I have gathered with siblings to "sort out" all athe stuff. It is amazing how much mature Christians can still struggle with things--
"I always wanted that since I was a little girl."
"I am pretty sure mom wanted me to have that."
The reason God told us not to covet was that He knew coveting was a part of our make up and that it would snare us in life.
Murder was the first violent sin described early in the old testament, which arose from jealousy, envy and coveting between brothers. Coveting God's pleasure with Abel, Cain allowed his anger to determine his actions and committed the first murder. The desire to resent others for what they have and what we do not have is natural to our flesh.
If we are ever to teach our children to be content, we must first understand the process in our own lives. We cannot teach what we have not understood.
Rage, anger, frustration, jealousy, envy storms in the soul of all of us. How do I know? Because it has raged in my soul. Sometimes sin seems like a distant, impersonal issue in church sermons--selfishness, attitudes, greed, pornography, adultery, murder, violence, stealing, abuse of every kind. These obvious sins are pronounced from the pulpit.
Yet, our own sin often remains unknown by those around us. Most of us sit silently, hiding the battles in our heart to love, to forgive, to envy, to be jealous, and battling silently with the demons that plague us at times, when we see into the dark corners of our heart.
We underestimate the cancer that sin has wreaked in the very inner being of our hearts. A grid of self-centered reality permeates the way we see life. When we measure ourselves by the circumstances of our lives, we often come up judging others, criticizing them as the one who is wrong rather than us. Our sin corrupts our vision.
And so often, our grid through which we see life, distorts our understanding of what will really bring us happiness, fulfillment and contentment.
Our culture proliferates material possessions as a source of happiness. Those who "have" are happier and those of us who "don't have" are somehow unjustly struggling. We believe that a new house, a better car, a larger salary, recognition--that there are things that will bring us happiness. And often, the longing for more things and money lead to us idolizing money, working hard and seeking a way to provide for ourselves, instead of trusting God with our humble circumstances.
Beautiful bodies surround us in television, movies and commercials that promise perfect bodies by buying a product, taking a pill, or exercising. Sexual images and perfectly staged relationships is the focus and picture of most relationships in media. If there was an awkward moment or a flabby body on one of the heroic or adventurous movies, we would critically observe that the heroine or hero was poorly cast, as we sit at home with our various assortment of flab, overweight and not so perfect bodies, comparing to the images that fill the media.
All of these sources and other cultural messages feed our vulnerable, tender point of temptation--that of discontent. If only we had......a better car, a bigger house, a better marriage partner, more well-behaved children, a more exciting life, more love, someone who will love us better than those we have in our lives.....then we would be happier. God knew that this would be havoc to our spiritual health and so He even included it in the Ten Commandments!
It is not sinful or wrong to have desires for something more. Our hearts can actually perceive a better world and more wonderful circumstances because we were made for a better place. We were made for perfection, love, joy, great blessing. It was in the heart of God to provide us a magnificent life.
However, when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, it set the whole world in a motion of destruction and brokenness, disappointment and a battle to live well, stable and healthy.
The only way that we will ever be able to be content is to realize the nature of a fallen world--(this is not heaven yet) and then to cultivate a level of thanksgiving and contentment in the life we have been given. To choose to see the goodness of God, to look for His fingerprints every day in our lives, to have an eternal perspective is the only way we will be able to be content.
Contentment is a heart issue. We cannot change our emotions and selfish desires by force. Our only hope is to look to God, to ask Him to teach our heart to be contented, to want to trust Him and not live in ungratefulness or in looking to what others have. Choosing to be content, resting our desires and dreams into God's hands, learning to love and bring light into broken places is the beginning of learning to be content.
As long as we covet what we do not have, we will never be at peace. Whether in marriage or family or with possessions, the beginning of contentment is to know that having our own way and practicing selfishness or expecting perfection in a fallen world, will just be a vain goal.
And so, as we teach our children this important 24 Family Way, we must come to them with compassion, understanding and teaching them that we all are tempted to want what we do not and may never have. We cannot force our children to be content by "guilting" them in discipline.
Paul told us that He learned to be content! It was a process.
We must understand that contentment is like a muscle--the more practiced, the stronger it will be. It is an attitude inside of a heart that is soft and says, "God, I want to learn to be content, so today, I am going to seek to be grateful for you, for what you have provided and for the eternal life I will share with you, where joys beyond my imagination will be real, will be fulfilled and will be provided by you, because you love me."
But helping them to understand that contentment, the humility of accepting with joy, the circumstances of our lives, is of great gain--great value to our Christian life. Contentment is a powerful character quality which will allow us to mount up over many of life's battles, as we keep our eyes on Him to provide us with all we need in the midst of the stories of our lives. Remembering the memory verse: