Friday, September 23, 2011

Contentment: The Heart That Gives

Continuing to think on the track of the last post, I just wanted to share some scriptures that stuck out to me when I was looking up contentment. Compared to how the world thinks, these things are revolutionary - just as they were in the world Jesus and the apostles taught in.

I was just recalling the parable in Luke 12 today, about the rich man who planned to build bigger barns for his harvest. To him, God said, "'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." Often, our attitude towards wealth includes the notion of storing it up, accumulating it, counting our pennies.  Though we can do this with money, the point is that we cannot do the same with the days of our life. There is no such thing as putting our days in a savings account, or buying stocks in life-lengthener.

Paul wrote similarly in 1 Tim 6:6-10,

"But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

Going back a bit farther in time, to the ministry of John the Baptist, I found it interesting to see what the forerunner of Jesus had to say to those who questioned him about the proper response in light of the coming wrath.

"'The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.' And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, 'Teacher, what shall we do?' And he said to them, 'Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.' Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, 'And what about us, what shall we do?' And he said to them, 'Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.'" (Luke 3:11-14)

How incredible! Before this, John had been proclaiming the coming judgment of God upon unbelievers, telling them that "the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." Unlike many doom-sayers of today, John warned the people not to hoard their possessions, but, in essence, to count it as nothing.  The ability to do this requires the grace of God which leads to repentance and enables the believer to forsake themselves.

This all sounds very biblical and theological, but the real test comes in asking, "what does this really mean for me to obey?"  Looking at how John directly and specifically addressed the crowds and the tax collectors and the soldiers, it can be seen that this is not something to be understood and then passed over.  There are two questions that I need to ask myself: "What do I habitually take or hoard for myself?" and "What do I have to give?" This is so convicting to me, as I know that there are many things which I have not fully abandoned for the sake of Jesus. For everyone, there will be different answers. In my life, I know a big one is time. I need to be rethinking "me-time" and focusing on how I can best use it to grow in my relationship with God and be a blessing to others. Another one is my reputation - my status in the eyes of others. So often I fear the judgment or rejection of others. Am I willing to sacrifice and step out of my comfort zone for the name of Jesus? There are countless other ways in which this applies to my life. These are really hard things, although they are often accomplished in small steps... like giving an extra coat away, or encouraging a hurting friend.

I realize that I've been mainly focusing on fruit in this post, but it's so important to realize that none of it can be achieved without a transformed heart that has been ransomed by the blood of Christ and fully given over to Him. When we hoard time and resources, we are merely feeding the flesh and displaying carelessness toward our eternal fate. Eternally, anything we gain will be that which we have given for the glory of Christ.  I love Jim Elliot's quote, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." Oh that I would truly be able to forsake myself and live for the honour of my King!

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