Last week, I laid the foundation for how I studied personal finance in the Bible. I gave you a light introduction to what I call God's Provident Plan and promised we'd look at each aspect in more depth. This is the first part of a series in which I'll share what I've discovered about personal finance in the Bible. Today, we're going to talk about the importance of contentment in Christ.
Contentment in Christ
Once we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He becomes everything to us. He must become everything to us. We are in a continual struggle against Satan to keep other things (especially money) from taking the place of Christ. The World sends us a message that says more wealth and more stuff will make us happy. But God warns us in Revelation 3:17-18 that worldly wealth cannot offer us true satisfaction and security.
17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Revelation 3:17-18 (NIV)
Only God can provide us with true wealth and open our eyes so we can see the truth. God has a higher purpose for us than riches far beyond our needs and 6,000 square foot homes. God wants more meaning in our lives than a brand new luxury car in the driveway and a shiny yacht next to the dock. God has a higher calling for our retirement years than fruitless day after fruitless day spent on the golf course, beach, or back porch. The World’s message contradicts God’s message so much that we must choose between the two. Luke 16:13-15 says:
13 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” 14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.” Luke 16:13-15 (NIV)
We must choose between serving God or Money. There is no middle ground. Devotion to Money is completely and absolutely opposed to devotion to God. Greed and generosity cannot exist together. Consumerism and contentment demand different paths. Choosing to love and serve Money means that you are choosing to turn your back on God. But if you want to serve God, you must give your heart completely to Him. In Mark 7:21-23, Jesus tells us that greed and envy come from our hearts:
21 “For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'” Mark 7:21-23 (NIV)
Once God has the commitment of our hearts, He can begin to transform our minds – change our thinking. The New Living Translation renders Romans 12:2 this way:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 (NLT)
The solution to serving God and rejecting the World’s message is not to start trying to do what we think are all the right things. The solution is to give ourselves completely to God – to offer our entire lives as a sacrifice to Him in thankfulness and love for what He’s done for us. Then as we focus on Him we’ll learn what His will is for us and how we can glorify Him.
This step of getting God’s view takes time. It is a gradual transformation in our thinking that God effects as we grow in Him. We have to see that our focus on the things of this world keeps us from seeing the importance of love and relationships. That misplaced focus keeps us from fully serving God. We must focus on storing up treasures in heaven rather than on Earth because that will show whether our hearts belong to God or Money. If we let the concerns of this life take priority over the concerns of eternal life, we will be unfruitful. Jesus warns of this danger in Mark 4:18-19:
18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Mark 4:18-19 (NIV)
We must learn that everything belongs to God and everything comes from God. We must learn to be thankful in all circumstances. We must find satisfaction in our daily bread. We must learn that life is more than pursuing wealth, buying everything our culture tells us to want, and retiring early. And even though these ideas go against our human nature, we must understand that it’s not worth gaining the whole world if we end up losing our souls.
The transformation that happens as we let God renew our minds and thinking has huge repercussions in our lives. We gain understanding of what it means to be content in Christ. We see that our faith in Jesus gives us eternal life. We see the utter worthlessness of everything on earth when compared to our salvation and the riches of eternal life with God. We put our hope in Christ and the life He gives. Christ then gives us true contentment that conquers any circumstance we may face, but we must continue to focus on our hope in Him and weigh everything against the surpassing value of our eternal life with God.
When we find contentment in Christ and Christ alone, the importance of money in our lives diminishes and pales to the value we place on Jesus. We learn the secret to being happy in all situations – whether we’re full or starving, rich or poor, employed or jobless, single or married – nothing in this life matters at all when compared to the glorious gift of Jesus and the fact that no one and no circumstance can take that away from us. As Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13:
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)
When we see everything in light of eternity, we find that nothing on earth is of more value than our faith in Christ. We learn that while we may never be rich by the world’s standards, we have riches that can’t be measured in dollars, gold, houses, cars, or anything else in this life. We understand that contentment in Christ is true wealth.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:6-12 (NIV)
Once we have this conviction of always finding our contentment in Christ, the Spirit will teach us to place much less importance on material things. We will no longer be focused solely on our own needs and wants – an early retirement, a bigger house, a nicer car, and so on. Instead, we’ll be consumed with a desire to focus on the needs of others – to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and show God’s love to the world through our faith and deeds. This is the essence of contentment in Christ. We’ll spend less and less on ourselves and our desires as we seek to give more and more to others and fulfill God's desires.
Be sure to check in next week when we'll discuss what the Bible says about diligent work and good stewardship!