“You can’t take it with you.”
We all know it, but many of us live like it isn’t true. Our modern culture appears to function on the energy of discontentment.
Bigger! Better! Faster! Newer! But, wait! There’s more!
When did our wants become needs? When did having stuff become so necessary that we mortgage our future selves with credit? I don’t know about you, but I want something different for my kids.
Getting there will take swimming against the tide of our culture.
I remember the first time that we had a birthday party with friends for my oldest son. He was turning 3 and we had parents bring their kids to an indoor jungle gym. On the invitation, we told them not to bring a present. People were stunned and baffled.
How do you go to a birthday party without a present?
Our son had more toys than he knew what to do with already. He was turning 3 and really didn’t understand that he was supposed to expect gifts from all these people. His gift was being able to spend a few hours with all the kids in his life in one place, having a wonderful time together.
The point was to celebrate him – and we did. It wasn’t to give him more stuff.
I think we want to give a feeling, whether it is love or happiness or encouragement, but we don’t know how to give these intangible things. So we give stuff to people hoping that these items will trigger the desired feelings. I think the intentions are good but the means are faulty.
Stuff isn’t bad in and of itself. But stuff isn’t emotionally fulfilling either. We seek from stuff something that stuff cannot provide.
We are too stuff-oriented.
Paul wrote to Timothy coaching him on pastoring a group of believers that lived in a very materialistic society. “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Timothy 6:6-7, ESV).
Contentment. A state of being satisfied with what one has; not wanting more or anything else.
Not wanting more? Are you serious? How do you not want more?
Paul answers that in his letter to the Philippians: “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” (Philippians 4:12, NIV).
That secret is Jesus.
When you keep your eyes on Jesus, then your eyes stop wandering around to stuff.
When you look to Jesus to guide you and fulfill you, then it is easier to say “no” to more stuff.
The only things I am able to teach my children are the things I have learned myself.
I can’t teach contentment; I can only teach the steps that I have taken to work toward that state of being. I can only model for them a life that is constantly trying to keep focused on Jesus.
Imagine what the world would look like if we all intentionally fostered a spirit of contentment in our children; if we purposely countered our culture and its sense of greed and entitlement.
One of my favorite comedy bits was George Carlin’s bit on “stuff.” It is hilarious because it demonstrates how ridiculous we can get about stuff. We somehow secretly believe that stuff will make us happy or stuff will give us a better life.
But you know what? There are just as many miserable rich people as there are miserable poor people.
God doesn’t promise stuff. God doesn’t even promise happiness. He promises joy, which is a fruit of His Spirit working inside of us. It is the secret that Paul talks about in Philippians 4:12-13: “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. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Contentment and joy comes from Christ. Not from stuff. So let’s commit to clearing out the stuff and bringing in more Jesus. Let’s sacrifice the things that keep up from actually experiencing joy.
About Jennifer Miller
Jennifer Miller, MAR, MA, LPC is a Christian pastor, professional counselor, and author of No Longer Two: A Guide to How God Created Men, Women, and Marriage. For over a decade, she has been combining her expertise in psychology and theology to help individuals, couples, and families both in private practice and in ministry, as well as through her writing, speaking, and teaching.
She is the co-founder and Co-Executive Director of The Center for Living Well, a nonprofit Christ-centered wellness ministry dedicated to helping people live well and love God. She regularly leads classes, workshops, and retreats on a wide range of topics including faith and relationships. She is also a Master-level Christ-Centered Yoga Leader at the Center.
Jennifer is one of the new co-hosts on Heart and Soul with Jory Fisher. You can listen to her with Jory the second and third shows of the month.