Having It All (Without All the Stuff)
We are in the middle of a series talking about the Elephant in the room, dealing with our attitudes about our stuff. We want to make sure that we control our money instead of being controlled by our money. So I thought today we would start by doing a little crowd participation. I would like for you to take out your wallet or your checkbook and hold it in front of you. Just humor me with this little learning exercise. Do you have it out? Pass it to the person next to you. I'm just kidding. Just hang on to it.
This little square of leather, or plastic, or cloth, represents God’s biggest competition in your life. Don’t believe me? You and I work 40 or more hours a week to make sure that there is enough in this little piece of leather so that we can be comfortable. We use our time and talents to make sure there is enough treasure in here so that we can be secure. People work crazy hours so they can get more of the stuff to support what goes into this leather. An awful lot of our attention and security walks a path right through this thing that you are holding in your hand. While, I fully understand that we need to have money to pay our heat, light, and water bill. I understand that if we want to go to the grocery store and get groceries or to Belk to but clothes, we need to have something in this little piece of leather. But as you hold your wallet or checkbook you need to ask yourself if you are really holding it, or is it holding you?
If your answer to that question makes you nervous, let me remind you what I have said every week: we are not addressing the elephant in the room because we want to get your money. We're doing it so your money doesn't get you. We do not want your path to comfort and security to go through what you are holding in your hand, we want it to go through the throne room of heaven.
Andy Stanley put together 8 questions to see if you have your money or if your money has you. One, are you spending more than you make each month? Two, are you spending everything you make each month? Three, do you even know what you are spending each month? Four, do you have to sacrifice your tithe to make ends meet? Five, do you making financial decisions without your spouse knowing about it? Six, do you buy groceries with a credit card, because you have to, not for record keeping purposes? Seven, can you only make the minimum payment on your credit cards? Eight, do you dread this series on finances?
Remember, our desire is for us to break free from the hold our money seems to have on us. What we really want to do is learn how we can be in a position to hold it and manage it in a proper relationship to God and everything else in our lives and move forward in a healthy way. Okay you can put your items up. Thanks for indulging me.
In the text that Rylan read for us this morning we see that Paul gives the Christians in Philippi some very powerful words about contentment. There are a lot of things in this passage. One of the things that jumps out at me is twice he says, "I have learned." Life is the school where we learn contentment. Notice, contentment doesn't come from the outside in. He says, "I've learned to be content no matter what is going on externally." In other words, contentment is an inside job and we need to learn how to be content.
If we are going to do that one of the first things we need to learn to say that little word, enough. If Paul was going to have contentment in his life, whatever the circumstances, he had to learn to say enough. That's so hard in our culture that drives us to more and more.
There was a book that came out several years ago called, Your Money or Your Life. The authors researched how much fulfillment the accumulation of things can bring into our lives. How much stuff is enough? What they found is that there is a threshold where things can bring a certain level of contentment into our lives. If you've really gone without, really been hungry, really struggled or suffered, then you know that is true. There is a level of fulfillment that things can bring into your life. But what they found in the study is, once you cross that threshold and you continue to stockpile more and more it no longer brings fulfillment to your life. Actually, it’s just the opposite, the more things you stockpile actually starts to decrease your fulfillment level. There is a point where things bring contentment into our lives, but when you cross that line and get more and more stuff, it actually leads to less and less fulfillment.
More and more stuff doesn’t bring you contentment, you need to get to the point of enough. Everyone of us has that point of enough, and we need to figure out what is my enough?
The Bible talks about this word enough in an interesting passage. Ecclesiastes 5:10, Whoever loves money, never has money enough. If you really love it you will never have enough of it. Whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. If we are ever going to really experience contentment it's not going to be related to how much money you have. Because if you love it and have ten million in the bank, it won't be enough. It will never be enough. If we want to be in control of our stuff, we need to learn to say, “Enough."
Paul teaches the church in Philippi how to find their enough, and maybe he can help us find our point of enough as well this morning. In Philippians 4 Paul says if we are going to have it all with out all the stuff then we have to learn to avoid comparisons.
Nothing will lead to discontentment faster than comparisons. In fact, Philippians 4:11 says, "I've learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Whatever is coming into my life I have learned to be content. No matter what is going on, that's quite a statement. Because in my own life what I've found out is I'm content until I start looking around at what everyone else has.
For instance, you got up this morning and got in your car, and while it’s not new, it runs and you are thankful that it get’s you from point a to point b. Really, it's a good car, the radio works, it has air in the summer, heat in the winter. Those are good things. You are grateful to have a ride. You drive to the building and you are thankful that you didn’t have to walk. You are filled with joy until you pull in the parking lot and park right next to that brand new SUV. You get out of your car and hear that squeak as you shut the door. You stand there for a moment and look at the piece of junk you drove in parked right next to that new, clean, beautiful…… I mean isn't that how it works in our lives? A few moments I was thankful and not I drive a piece of junk. I need to get a new car.
Those of you with children, how many times have you heard this? "Mom/Dad, if I don't have the PlayStation, XBox, if I don't have this pair of clothes, if I don't have this technology, I’ll just die!” Why are you going to die? Because everyone else has it. We tend to think if everyone else has it then I have to have it too so I can be happy. If I just had a phone, I would be happy. That's all I want. That's all I'm asking for. You get that and then it's the next thing is if I just had an iPhone 7. We've got to learn in our lives to avoid comparisons with everyone else. Paul is saying, I've learned that no matter what is going on around me, no matter what other people have, I can be content. I can learn the value of contentment by avoiding comparisons.
Paul discusses this idea of enough with Timothy, in 1 Timothy 6:6, Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing we can be content with that. What a statement! How many of us can read that and say, That's me. Yesterday I had clothes to wear and food to eat, so I’m content with that. Paul is acknowledging that the most important things in life, the things that really bring contentment are not related to all this stuff. We need to learn to say enough, and realize that we have more than enough.
Let me show you what I mean. I want you to do a little math, so do it in your head, or on a scrap piece of paper, or use the calculator app on your phone. I want you to add up how much money you are wearing right now. Think about your shirt, your glasses, your earrings, your rings, your jewelry, socks, and shoes ... think about how much money you are wearing this morning. I did the math in my office this morning, I'm wearing $1069.00 worth of stuff. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it. My glasses were $300. My shirt was on sale $20. I bought a close out suit, $40. This flower was $2. My shoes, $70 dollars, belt $15 and socks and undergarments $20. My watch is $200 dollars, prayer bracelet $2 worth of paracord. My wedding ring, $400. It all adds up to about $1069.00 that I'm wearing right now.
If you were to do the math and you are wearing around $1,000.00 worth of stuff then you are wearing more than what 50% of the people on planet Earth make in a year. Just a thought. It gets worse if you are a woman and you have on an engagement and wedding ring you are probably close to $2,200.00, which means you are wearing more money than what 85% of the people on planet Earth make in a year. That's mind-boggling. We forget, in our country, how much we really have.
We need to be reminded from time to time that there is a great big world out there. It’s easy to lose perspective in our country of how much we really have and how much God has given us. We start looking at all the things we don't have. We forget to look at all the things that we do have. Contentment begins when we stop comparing ourselves with what we don't have and start being grateful for what we do have. Living a life of gratitude requires a big mental shift. It really changes your heart as it comes to stuff.
Paul goes on in 1 Timothy 6 to say some pretty strong words about money and wealth. People who want to get rich fall into a temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. Paul never says that money is bad. Money is a blessing that God brings into our lives. When you look through the Bible some of the greatest people of faith where people of extreme wealth. Abraham, had money, cattle, and servants. He had the whole deal. But he also had faith and kept it in perspective.
What Paul is writing about in 1 Timothy 6 is what happens when we get this inappropriate desire in our hearts and lives for more. An inappropriate love for money will damage our lives. It's like a temptation or a trap. Paul uses a fishing term like when you bait a hook and drop it in the water. The fish swims along and takes that bait. He takes it hook, line, and sinker. In his illustration, we are the fish and the bait is the temptation to have an inappropriate love of money. If we bite into it, it can do all kinds of difficult things in our lives.
People have actually wandered from the faith for the love of money. That's an interesting phrase. He doesn't say they are anti-God. He doesn't say they don't believe. He doesn't say they hate the church. He says it's a subtle thing. They've subtly begun to place money and possessions in that place that only God wants to be in our lives. God is very concerned that He comes first in our lives, He even says I'm number one. I come first. But we slowly begin to trust money over God. We begin to trust what money can do for us over the things that God can do for us. That shift in our hearts can make us wander from the faith.
Then Paul says, For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It’s not money but our inappropriate love and desire for money that becomes a root of all kinds of evil in our lives. People who get caught up in this whole trap, they pierce themselves with many griefs. I love this word picture; its the idea of someone standing in front of a thorn bush just ramming his or her arms inside that thorn bush and piercing themselves with many griefs. Paul is saying when we allow money to take that much dominance in hearts and lives, to make it that much of a focus of our thoughts and dreams, we can get into a place where it is devastating to us. It's like we are plunging our hands in and out of a thorn bush. We're piercing ourselves with many griefs.
How many families have been devastated over a love of money? How many families have been fractured all because of a fight over grandmothers kitchen table. Money got involved and everything got complex. Now you have family members who no longer talk. How many friendships have been devastated because someone was burned over the love of money? Friends steal from one another because of the love of money? How many corporate scandals do we have to see before we realize that the love of money can do dangerous things? We have to be cautious. Paul didn’t say that money was bad; or that lots of money is bad. God may bless you with all kinds of money and resources. That's great. Just keep it in perspective and avoid comparisons with others so you don't get into that trap where you have to have more.
Paul goes on to say in Philippians 4:12, I know what it is to be in need. I know what it is to have plenty. I've learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. Whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. There are some circumstances that come into our lives that we can control. I think one of the hardest parts of contentment is learning and dealing with those circumstances that come into our lives that we can't control. Knowing what we can control and what we can't control, that's a huge issue.
I love the serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. What a huge statement. There are things in our lives that we cannot change: you may get a phone call from a doctor saying you have a disease. You may lose your job, you may get bad news. How do you accept the things that you can't change?
The prayer continues: "And the courage to change the things that I can and the wisdom to know the difference." The wisdom to know what you can change and what you can’t is the key to contentment. Live one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time. Not relying on money or stuff to bring you the peace that only comes from God. Change is one of the only guarantees in life. How we deal with it will determines how we discover contentment.
The last thing we see in Philippians 4 is to draw on Christ's power. Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. I know this is an awesome coffee cup verse, but if you look at it in it’s context you notice that Paul is actually talking about the financial side of life. He is talking about discovering contentment whether he had a lot or a little. Whether he's well fed or hungry I can do all things through Him. In other words, if I lose my job in 2017 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. If my 401K doesn't pan out the way I think it's going to, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. If my retirement begins to look bleak I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. If my boss is a jerk, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. No matter what happens, no matter how difficult, no matter how high the mountain is, no matter how low the valley is, no matter how great the challenges are, no matter how huge the struggles are, I can handle it because Christ's strength is there with me.
If we begin to take a biblical perspective towards having it all without all the stuff, 2017 can be one of the most contented years in our lives. But we need to remember that contentment is an inside job.
If we want to have it all without having all the stuff we need to learn to say enough, avoid the trap of comparisons, and trust Christ's power to not only save from from discontentment, but to save you from your sins as well.