“If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.”
– 1 Timothy 6:8
One of the greatest struggles for a Christian in the consumerist American culture that we are a part of is to be content. You are daily bombarded on all sides by hundreds of advertisements telling you that you need this product or that. Even within the church, Sunday mornings continue to perpetuate word-of-mouth advertising about the new outfit, restaurant or electronics purchase. Is it even possible to step back from that culture, that has been so ingrained in our minds since an early age, and look plainly at Scripture and attempt to follow it?
Paul, a wise follower of Christ, imparts these wise words to his young ‘son’ in the faith as he warns him of those who would use the faith and ‘godliness’ for financial gain. He warns against the pursuit of money with a clear alternative way of thinking: food and covering is enough. Contentment, something we know very little of in our culture, and yet it is what Christ calls us to. This same greek word is used in I Corinthians, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Certainly a believer in Christ’s saving grace would not respond by saying, “yes, it is sufficient, but I’d also like a little more grace here,” or “it wouldn’t hurt to get a couple of extra graces just to spruce up the place a little would it?” Christ’s grace is enough.
What would it look like for a church congregation to preach this verse and then endeavor to follow it? If you are reading these words and you have food and covering, what does your contentment look like? Here is Paul’s advice to you:
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” -I Tim 6:17-19
Abba Macacrius, while he was in Egypt, discovered a man who own a beast of burden engaged in plundering Macarius’ goods. So he came up to the thief as if he was a stranger and he helped him to load the animal. He saw him off in great peace of soul saying, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) -From Geez Magazine
Okay, so most folks would say he’s nuts. Yet, we also say God uses all things and everything, and if he can use a donkey he can use a thief. We don’t say the rich young ruler who decided not to give everything to follow Jesus was nuts, we usually just say he was in a tough spot, had to make a hard decision. My take, the monk has got a whole lot more sense then the nutty ruler.
And so I want to bring myself to this view of possessions. I don’t think it’s a bad place to be in. In fact I think if we are really going to be in a place that we are ready to leave everything and follow Christ, then we all better start working on this letting go of our possessions now.
I think I have too many hobbies. When I was in high school I skied a couple of times and then I bought my own pair (big purchase) because I was so sure I was going to do it all winter. Then I only skied a couple more times ever. Summer rolled around and folks where playing roller hockey in the street, I picked myself up a pair of skates, certain I’d spend all summer out playing, and the skates sat on a shelf in the garage for nearly the rest of their lives. I did the same thing with multiple items, and I still find myself doing it. I buy a quality something because it’s something I really intend to take up, and I rarely do.
I think my skates are still sitting on a shelf in my parents garage. A guitar sits in my closet, I just sold a SLR camera that’s been sitting around, my Greek books were gathering dust on the shelf, multiple books I always intended to read stand unopened. None of these items are bad themselves, but I’m in need of a reality check.
I think we probably all need to assess our “hobbies” and relinquish most of them. If I ever want to pick up serious photograph again there’s cameras out there. For now I should probably just stick to playing soccer more with the new cleats I bought. I think one hobby is probably enough. You might be able to justify two, but only if you actually do them.
I always here people talk about being wise with your money doesn’t mean buying cheap it means buying quality, but I’d argue quality that sits gathering dust in the garage is probably not very wise either.
I’ve certainly got some more things I need to get rid of, reality check here we come.
Update: I totally forgot about my camping gear (tent, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and a few doohickies)