Last week my kids came home from school asking…no not asking…begging in verbal-diarrhea form to go out and buy one of those new and exciting fidget-spinner’s. I’m sure you’ve heard of these, they’re all the rage and absolutely taking over the lives of kids everywhere. At first they were advertised toward kids who struggle with fidgeting in class as an aid to help them concentrate. Sure, ok. But then the appeal spread like pink-eye from child to child and school to school and now so it seems, home to home.
So there I was, listening to my kids talk about how Robbie has one and Abby has one, and this kid and that kid….and “mommy can we go get one”?…
All while I was internally raging.
Not because my kids were enphatically asking me to spend money on something I deem kinda silly, but because as I stared into their covetous little eyes, I saw myself.
Our children are little mirrors, aren’t they?
What they didn’t realize is that before they had come home, I had just been on a little website called Pinterest. It’s a place I frequent when I need a break from laundry and floor mopping. Its harmless right? I just scroll through picture after picture of homes that look more on trend than mine, and photo-shoots of families that are cooler than mine, and meals that are more scrumptious than mine and moms who are skinnier and hipper than myself.
And none of it has any effect on my soul.
No actually, slowly and with time, my soul suffers. And the burrowing roots of discontent grow deeper and with great force.
All of a sudden, when I look around the home that God has graciously provided for me, I believe I have more important needs that God has not provided, and I want them now. I want a different couch and new TV, a new body and an exotic vacation. All of those things I suddenly believe I deserve.
In the same way, my kids went off to school with every need met, then came home with a nagging desire they truly believed they deserved now.
Why? Because so-and-so had one. They looked in their neighbor’s yard and saw something they wanted.
“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” ~ Philippians 4:10-13
What is Paul saying here? He’s speaking to the Philippian church who is facing persecution and he’s encouraging them in faith to stand strong. As well, he’s thanking the church for their care for him when they heard of his suffering and were concerned. He’s rejoicing in their love. But then he goes on to explain why they ought not be concerned for him, because in all the ups and downs of life he has found contentment.
And is he content because contentment just comes natural for him?
Of course not. He’s content because he learned it.
As humans we don’t have a default of contentment. It’s quite the latter. In our sin, we love to covet. This is why the tenth commandment is, You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s. Because although we may not envy ox’s anymore, our hearts will surely find something to itch for and we’ll fool ourselves into thinking our joy will be made complete when we get that new car…or that house…or those shoes…or that new toy.
We are wired to covet first.
So we must learn how to be truly satisfied in Christ alone. Not in the stuff He gives us. Paul repeats the word learned twice in these verses because he’s making an important point that in our circumstance God is teaching us, if only we would heed his instruction.
Paul learned the secret to enduring suffering and that big secret is…wait for it…relying on Christ to strengthen him. Because all things can be done when Christ is our strength. And by those “things” he doesn’t mean winning a basketball game or getting that promotion. He means in regards to what he just said, in enduring suffering, resisting the desire to covet and finding contentment in Christ alone.
You see if I never fully get this, I will always rush to fulfill all my kids covetous desires…because I will rush to fulfill mine also.
How many of us parents fight the battles of good manners and good grades in our children but never address the battle of materialism driven by their covetous hearts?
We work really hard at providing good nutrition, we pick the best schools, we expect good grades and a proper attitude all while spoiling them with every single toy, gadget or video game they want. Our homes are piled with stuff for our kids. But how often do we concern ourselves with the big green monster they have inside of themselves?
Rarely, if ever.
But first, we must learn ourselves. It begins with us. I have to learn when to exit Pinterest and walk away. I have to recognize when envy is invading my space and causing me to sin against my neighbor and God. I have to learn contentment in Christ by remembering what I deserve in judgement that was paid at the Cross. And in light of that great news, I have more than I will ever deserve, because what I deserve is death and judgement.
So therefore I am rich and in need of nothing more.
And it’s with that understanding that I can begin to teach this to my children. Then when I see the tenth commandment beast growing hungry in their little hearts I won’t want to feed it.
As tempting as it was for me to shut up the noise of jabbering children and go out searching for a good deal on fidget spinner’s, I did not. Because it wouldn’t have mattered if they were 50 cents a pop…it wasn’t worth the toll on their heart.
Contentment grows only in gratefulness and its right in that space that I want to live.
And I sure pray, my kids learn to live there also.