Newer and shinier can seem better, but what do you do when you’re no longer content with what you wear, what you drive, or where you live?
- Have you ever felt disappointed or discontented after making certain purchases? Explain.
- Why do you think it’s so easy to fall into a trap of constant updates and upgrades?
- Based on your past experiences, what role does money play in your ability to be happy? What role should it play?
- Think about someone you consider to be generous. What’s different about them?
- Other than the things you owned, what do you hope to leave behind at the end of your life? Is there anything you need to prioritize differently in order to make that happen?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
So this week is a really important week in the life of America and it happens every single year on this very same week. This week is the hinge point in the rhythm of American culture. This is the point in the rhythm of our culture, this is the point where we pivot from “thankful for” to “I want more.” This is where we pivot from grateful to a cart-full. [laughter] We spend one day being thankful, and then we look at a month where we get our fill. But the point of this is, it’s not really all of our fault, we’re all guilty of this, as we transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas, but it’s really not all of our fault. So here’s what happened. Eight days ago, this is embarrassing but we’re friends. Eight days ago, I said, “Sandra, don’t throw away any catalogues. I wanna use them as a visual aid.” Eight days. This is our… These are catalogues that came to our house over the last eight days. I don’t know how there are any trees in the world. And the problem is, I was perfectly fine with everything I had until these things started showing up and they just multiply like rabbits. I don’t have the right glasses, the right eye wear. I don’t make the right kind of cookies. I don’t have the coolest fishing equipment. I don’t fish, but when I look through this magazine, I wanted to start fishing.
I don’t make the right kind of cookies. I don’t have a large enough television. I don’t have a cool enough decorations in our home. I need a little more pottery in my barn. I don’t even have a barn.
But so now I kinda want a barn so I can put pottery in my barn. Anyway, it just goes on and on.
I look through these things and I just feel like the biggest loser. And we’re just constantly dissatisfied with what we have because we live in a culture that constantly reminds us of what there is. This is, if we’re not careful, and this is why I wanna talk about it for just a few minutes, this becomes pretty quickly the season of discontentment, dissatisfaction with what we
have and dissatisfaction with what we can’t afford. And the realization that while we have food to eat, clothes to wear, transportations, music to stream, smarter than ever phones, and flatter than ever televisions, this is the season where we’re reminded that it all needs to be upgraded. Now, you’ll believe this. Some of you are old enough to believe me; most of you won’t believe me. But once upon a time, this is crazy. Once upon a time, people used things until they broke.
I know it’s crazy. Who would do that? You’re gonna keep that thing till it breaks? Haven’t you seen the newer one, the faster one, the cooler one? Yeah. Once upon a time, people in our country, they kept things until they broke and then get this, when they broke, you know what they would do with them? No, not throw them away. They would… Right, they would fix them. How stupid is that? Why would you fix something? The great news when things break is you get to get a new one, right? And then also, once upon a time, people would improvise. If they didn’t have something, they wouldn’t go get something, they would look at what they had and they would use what they had in order to do what they needed to get done.
Now, my problem, is just about every day, I see one of just about everything I don’t have. Just about every day, I see one or a picture of one of just about everything I don’t have that I didn’t know that I needed until I saw it. And it just so happened, it just so happened that someone happens to know that I might also like… And that what I’m looking at is actually related to items that I’ve already seen.
And somehow they know that customers who bought what I’m buying also bought… And that what I bought is also oftentimes frequently bought with other things and they know [laughter] exactly what I’m buying and how it goes with other things. So how in the world do you stay content in a world where everybody knows what you’re buying and what you’re thinking? And they just keep dangling it out there in front of you. And the problem, come on, if we’re honest, the problem is not what we don’t have. It’s awareness of what we could have. And herein is one of the most important principles that you’re ever, ever gonna hear and it’s certainly not original with me.
And if you’re not a religious person or a church person or a Christian person, this has nothing to do with religion or Christianity, but this is important. And this may save you down the road. So let me just throw this up here on the screen. Awareness. Our problem is awareness. Awareness fuels discontentment. That’s why I’m so discontent because I know what there is out there. The reason you’re so discontent with what you drive, where you live, how high your ceilings are and what color the hardware is on your doors and it just goes on and on and on, is because you’re so aware of what other people have and you’re so aware of what’s available. Awareness fuels discontentment.
This explains why getting more stuff doesn’t solve the problem. Getting more stuff doesn’t actually make you feel like, “Oh, I’m full. I got enough stuff.” Right? It doesn’t even reduce the appetite. In fact, it’s just the opposite, because our desire for stuff is an appetite. And like any appetite, if you feed it what happens to it? It grows. It doesn’t go way. Just because you’ve had a great meal you pull or push away from the table and go, “I’m full,” and three hours later, you’re looking through the refrigerator. Why? It’s an appetite, and feeding it doesn’t shrink it, feeding it expands it. And we live in a world, I live in a world, I live in the same world as you do that every single day somebody is trying to feed that appetite and I’m never fully satisfied.
Now, to be fair, there is nothing sinister, there’s nothing sinister about good marketing, and there’s nothing sinister about great advertising. But there is something unsettling about too much credit card debt.
And there is something a little disturbing about not having enough savings because you’ve got so much stuff sitting around your apartment or sitting around your house. And there is something a little unsettling about not having any financial margin because no matter how much money you make, if you don’t have margin, you don’t have financial peace. Because peace is always found in the margin.
Now, the other thing you need to know as we talk about this is not all discontentment is bad. In fact, there is some good discontentment. If you have a bad habit and you are sick and tired of that habit running and ruining your life, and you decide, “You know what, this is the year I’m getting rid of that habit. I’m so discontent with where I am because of the money I spend on this habit and what it’s doing to my health,” that’s good discontentment.
If you are ever sort of in a cul-de-sac in your career and you’re just not going anywhere and you’re thinking, “I wanna do better, I wanna finish school, I wanna get a master’s degree, I wanna get a different job, I need to move on with my life,” and you’re discontent with where you are, that’s a good kind of discontentment. In fact, dissatisfaction and discontentment have led to some powerful things, some great things. In fact, discontentment has led to solutions for some of the world’s biggest problems. The problem of poverty, problems as it relates to hunger, joblessness.
Illnesses have been cured because people were so discontent with the fact that what an illness was doing to a certain or specific region of the world, they just focused their time and attention there. They just thought to themselves, “This just can’t be, this is not alright with me.” People have found ways to create and find clean water in regions in the world where they need clean water. Why? Because they just thought to themselves, “It just can’t continue to be this way.” They were dissatisfied with the status quo.
But here’s the thing, here’s the thing. The people that change the world and the people that make the world a better place are not controlled by the discontentment that controls most people. The people that allow this discontentment to drive them to do great things, to make sacrifices, to move, to invest their lives and their talents in things that really aren’t ever gonna benefit them in the long run, these are people who are somehow free oftentimes from the discontentment that plagues most of us. And therein is the secret of taming the beast. You tame discontentment not by deciding, “I’m not going to be discontent.”
No, you have to replace it with something. And when you do, you will discover life. Now, to kinda flesh this out and just give us some handles, the apostle Paul 2,000 years ago wrote a letter to a guy that he was bringing along to take his place one day, a fellow named Timothy.
And in this first letter to Timothy, first Timothy, the apostle Paul makes some statements and makes some comments about contentment that are so powerful that I thought we should look at them for the next few minutes, as we move into this new season in the year. And in fact, the first statement we’re gonna look at is so rich, it’s so powerful that even if you’re not necessarily a Christian, but you may believe there’s some kind of God, I would suggest you write this down, maybe take a picture of it, or find it later and just let it sit somewhere for the next few weeks, because it is packed full of goodness.
Here’s what the apostle Paul writes to Timothy. We’re jumping in in the middle of a conversation. He says this, “But Godliness… ” We’ll come back to that, “… With contentment is great gain. But Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Do you wanna gain something? Yeah! He says, “Alright, let me tell you how to get more. Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Now Godliness shouldn’t scare you off. Godliness simply means ‘God likeness’. So you’re thinking, “Well, how can I be like God?” That’s a great question. The New Testament answers that question.
The New Testament teaches, the New Testament authors write that if you wanna be like God, the way that you can be most like God is by putting other people ahead of yourself. That God likeness is being more loving. Why? Because God is love. So if God is love, the more loving you are, the more you put other people first, the more you let other people go first, the more you put yourself second, the more like God you are.
So Paul says, “Look, if you wanna gain a lot, here’s how you’d do it: You put other people first and then you decide, ‘You know what, I’m fine with what I have. I’m fine with what I have.'” To which we say, “But Paul, we’re Americans, okay? Our economy would collapse if we did this, okay? We’re Americans and we’re not buying it because we’re so busy buying other things.” So Paul says, “Well, I’m not finished yet, let me explain.” So the next word is “for”. “For we brought… ” This is such a big idea, so obvious we just rush right by it, “For we,” that’s all of us, “Brought nothing into the world.” What does that have to do with anything Paul? “For we brought nothing into the world.” That you were of value before you owned a thing. So to grow up as an adult and somehow equate your value with things is a mistake because you brought nothing into the world.” And then he gives us the corollary, he says, “And, you know this, and we can take nothing out of it.” You’re not leaving with anything, in fact, you’re leaving everything.
Which brings us to a very disturbing question. In fact, I hope this question disturbs you for at least a month. It should disturb us our entire life. Here’s the question. Other than stuff, what will you leave behind? Other than stuff, what will you leave behind? You’re going to leave behind your stuff, you are more valuable than stuff because you showed up without any and you’re gonna leave here without any. So somewhere in the middle, we get all caught up in stuff. But when you leave, other than your stuff, what are you going to leave behind?
This is a question that should just be front and center all the time. And if you allow it to be front and center, I make you a promise. It will curb your discontentment, it will curb your quest for stuff. You might become one of those extraordinary people who devote your life to something that has caused you to be discontent because of the way it’s affecting and negatively affecting the world or someone in the world.
And then Paul steps back. And he says to Timothy, “Let me tell you how I’m working this out in my life.” Here is what he says. “But if we,” talking about himself and his traveling companions, He says, “But if we have food and clothing, we’re gonna be content with that.”
Now this leads us to another question and that’s this.
What did the apostle Paul leave behind? This should cause all of us to stop and reconsider our whole lives. Do you know what he left behind? He left behind letters that shaped Western culture for 2,000 years. Wow! “Yeah, but what about your stuff?” “I don’t have any stuff. I’m not choosing to leave behind a bunch of stuff. I think I’ll just help shape the world for 2,000 years.”
Do you know what else he left behind? He left behind theology. I wish I had time to talk about this, ’cause I love to talk about this stuff. He left behind a theology that would eventually disrupt the Roman empire. “So Paul, what are you saying?” Paul’s saying, “I’m just telling you, you want great gain? You gotta take your focus off this stuff. There’s nothing wrong with it. But the problem with this stuff is you’ll get to the end of your life, and all your life will be about is this stuff. And that’s not bad. That’s not morally wrong. It’s not a sin. It’s just, don’t you want more? Don’t you want there to be something left behind that’s not a thing?” If something were to happen to you today, come on, if something were to happen to me, what have we left behind? It’s a big thought, isn’t it? You should read the New Testament.
He goes on. He says this; this is amazing. “Those who wanna get rich fall into temptation and a trap.”
Now, in other words, there are specific temptations, and there are specific traps for people whose focus is more. And if I were to say to you, “Do you know what those traps are?” The correct question would be, “No, because they’re traps.” If they weren’t traps, we would know what they are. But we don’t know what they are, and it’s why you think… Come on, you think this. It’s why you think if you won the lottery, you’d be able to handle it. “Now, I can handle it. Now, all these other people, they wreck and ruin their lives and their families, no, but I could handle it.” You know why you think that? Because you’ve never stepped into one of these traps. You don’t understand the temptation that comes with wealth. And you don’t understand the trap or the temptation that comes with the focus on accumulating wealth, and this isn’t for rich people. This is just for people for whom that becomes a focus.
And he goes on. He says, “Not only that, and… ” The temptation trap, “and into many foolish and harmful desires,” this is a powerful little Greek term, “that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” Do you know what a plunge is? You’re driving along, everything is fine. All of a sudden, there’s no road. Plunge into the ravine. You’re paddling along, everything is great and you plunge into the rapids. You just… You step off, you think everything is great, and you step off a wall, and you plunge into the concrete below. He says, “They think life’s great. Everybody is envious. Everybody wants to be him. Everybody wants to be her. And then one day, they plunge into ruin and destruction.” And his point is this. That unbridled discontentment, if you don’t do something about this, it’s dangerous. The discontentment is dangerous. It will plunge you into credit card debt. It will plunge you into a lease you have no business signing. It will plunge you into no savings. It will plunge you into no givings. “Oh, I feel generous in my heart. I wish I could do more, but I can’t do more, because I’ve been reading these.” It will plunge you, come on, it will plunge you into more travel and less family.
And one day, you wake up and wonder why nobody’s getting along, and nobody wants to see you, and they’re just after your money. And they’re just nice to you when you’re giving them stuff. And you think, “How did I get here?” You stepped in one of those traps. You fell for one of those temptations that you thought you’d be too smart to fall into. And Paul is going, “Look, I’m just telling you how the world works.” And then he kinda repeats himself to make sure we’re paying attention. He says this, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Now, nobody loves money, right? Wrong. Yes, and you just can’t see it. You might love money. You can’t see jealousy in the mirror. You can’t see greed in the mirror, and you can’t see love of money in the mirror.
So how do you know if you love money? Because I’ve never met anybody that said, “You know, I think the problem is is it’s my love of money.” Now we say, “No. I’m careful,” or, “I’m ambitious,” or we have other words we use.
Paul says, “Now there’s some folks, you just love money. You just don’t know it.” So how do we know? Here’s some things to get you started. What are you willing to do for it? You’re willing to do crazy things for things you love, right? Remember when you fell in love, and you drove all night to see her? You snuck out to see him, and you wasted all that money on this goofy thing he wanted or she wanted, but it didn’t matter to you that it costs you much. You just… That when you love people, you just go to extremes. What’re you willing to do for money? Who are you willing to hurt for it? Who or what gets prioritized behind it? In other words, is there somebody at home that feels like they’re competing for your stuff, competing with your stuff? Is there somebody at home, and that you keep using this message, this is kind of a guy thing, “Well, I just wanna make sure you’re taken care of when I’m gone. I just wanna make sure you’re taken care of when I’m gone. Nobody believes you dad. We don’t believe you. You liked being gone. You like the thrill of victory. You like those cool dinners. You like famous people. You liked it and it’s fine that you like it. But you’ve left us back here to compete with it, and we can’t compete. And that just means you love something more than your family. And you might be one of these people who loves money. And you’ve fallen into a temptation. You’ve stepped into a trap. You’re going to plunge into ruin and destruction. And you wake up one day in that stupid little cramped apartment by yourself going, “How did this happen?” And you know what you’re gonna do? You’re gonna blame somebody else.
For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, he goes on. Some people eager for money… Ready for this? Some of them have wandered from the faith and have pierced themselves with many griefs.
And let me tell you when you pierce yourself with many griefs, you won’t be aware that you pierced yourself. You will find someone else to blame. So he paints this very negative picture about, You gotta get a handle on discontentment, because it is dangerous.
And then he says, “But let me tell you what to do.” And he turns a corner and this is the beauty of this passage. Because he doesn’t say, “Timothy, just don’t do that.” He says, “Timothy let me tell you what to do and if you do what I’m telling you what to do, you won’t do that.” But as long as you’re focused on not doing something, you’re gonna have a not goal. I’m not gonna be discontent, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not, you can’t have not goals.
You gotta decide, “What are you gonna do?” And the Apostle Paul says, “It’s not enough to say I’m not gonna be consumed by what I don’t have.” He says, “Let me tell you what to do.” Now ladies, remember he’s writing this to a guy. So don’t be offended by this next line. If he was writing to you, he would change the terminology. Here’s what he says.
He says, “But you… ” It’s a contrast to Timothy. “But you, man of God, flee from this…” Don’t just stare at it and decide I’m not, I’m not, I’m not I’m not.” He says, “No, you’ve gotta change. You’ve gotta pivot. You’ve gotta re-focus. You’ve gotta become aware of something entirely different.” That you man of God flee from all this and pursue righteousness. Decide, you know what, my chief pursuit is, “I’m gonna do the right thing.” My chief pursuit is to be Godly. I’m going to put others first, my chief pursuit. I’m gonna become dissatisfied if I keep putting myself first in line. He said, And pursue faith that is, God created the world. God has a plan. This big overarching thing that God is up to. And the opportunity we have to participate in love, and endurance, and in gentleness.
In other words, he says this, “That contentment, contentment is found by redirecting our pursuit.” That contentment is found not by, “I’m not gonna be discontent, I’m not gonna look at the catalogues, I’m not, I’m not.” He says, “No, you gotta chase something else.” Look up here, “And if you do, in the end, great gain.”
Now, the other thing that’s so cool about this, Paul is so smart. ‘Cause before Paul became a Jesus follower, he was very wealthy and he was very successful. And he became a Jesus follower and he turned his back on all that. So he’s been on both sides of this. And here’s what he’s about to say. He’s gonna say, “Look, this has nothing to do with how much money you have. This has nothing to do with how much money you make. This has nothing to do with how your talent, your hard work, and your opportunity, Because then he addresses rich people. And he says something surprising, he says, “Command those who are rich in this present world.” And that’s most of us, okay. If you get these in the mail, that means you bought something from someone, which means you have extra. But his point is this, “For those of you who with extra, for those of you… ” Let me put it this way. Who will get a box in the mail this week from Amazon with your name on it and you don’t know what’s in it until you open it?
That’s who he’s talking to. That group of people, okay?
Anyways, so he’s talking to those of us with extra and here’s what he says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be.” And we think he’s gonna say, “Not to be so rich.” That’s not what he says. He says, “Command those who have extra not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in their wealth.” You know what this phrase means, it means, don’t place it out front, don’t allow it to be the chief pursuit, don’t allow it to be number one.
And how do you keep something from being number one, you choose to place something in front of it as number one. Who put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but, and it continues, but here, it’s not just a not goal, it’s something you can do, but to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Bet you didn’t even know that was in the New Testament. Yeah, he says God has provided this stuff for your enjoyment, I just want you to have stuff, I just don’t want your stuff to have you. I want you to enjoy what God has given you, I don’t want you to be so dissatisfied by what you don’t have that you can’t enjoy what you do have. I don’t want you to be so driven by what’s next, you can’t pause and enjoy what God has placed in your hands. He says, Timothy, command the rich people, the rich people need some practical application, command them to do good.
Now, this is so unusual. Why would you have to tell rich people to do good? Because rich people are so busy doing whatever they wanna do, you can spend a month of your life, two months of your life, a season of your life and never do good for anybody else, ’cause you have so many opportunities to do things for yourself, for myself. Plus, wealthy people, we’re busy aren’t we? We’ve got stuff to do. We’re busy. And if we’re not careful we’ll be busy, busy, busy, busy and it will be all about us and when we’re gone, all will leave the stuff. He says, tell them to do good. Tell them, if you’re gonna be rich, in other words, if they’re gonna overdo it, if people are gonna be like, “Wow, look at all that,” he says, tell them to be rich in good deeds. In other words, when somebody says, wow, she sure has a lot, the next sentence is, Yeah, and she does a lot for people. Wow, he certainly has a lot. Yeah, and he does a lot. Wow, they certainly have amassed a lot. Yeah, but they do a lot. He says, if you’re gonna have a lot, you need to do a lot, you need to do more than the average person, because you have more opportunity. And if you don’t, it’s not like God’s gonna send you to hell, it’s just that at the end, You’re just gonna leave things. You’re just gonna leave more things. But you’re just gonna leave things, he’s getting to the good part.
And to be generous and to be willing to share. In other words, tell the rich people to develop a lifestyle of generosity, of doing, of giving and sharing. Otherwise, they’re just gonna consume and hoard their way and have through life and have nothing to show. And then he gets to my favorite part. In this way he says, in this way. In what way Paul? In this way. What is this way? This way is by refocusing on doing good for others, by refocusing on Godliness. I’m gonna put other people first and other people’s needs and other people’s priorities ahead of mine. He says, in this way, in this way, they will lay a treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that, and then this is like the… This is the music changes, it gets big, it gets bold, it gets loud, this is so intense. He says, so that… Ready? So that they… He’s talking about you and me. So that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
He says, if you will wrestle discontentment to the ground, if you will refocus your awareness, if you will allow yourself to be bothered by things that really need your undivided attention, not just where you live, what you drive, what you wear, and all these things. He says, if you’ll do this, Paul who’s been there done that says, I’m telling you, at the end you will take hold of life that is truly life. You will take hold of life giving life. You will take hold of a life that is worth living. You’ll take hold of a life that leaves life in its wake and not just stuff. It’s an invitation. Life becomes truly life when it’s given away. This is how you leave something that’s not just a bunch of some things. That is a great gain, and this is why I remind you every chance I get. The value of a life. The value of a life. The value of life is always measured, it’s always determined by how much of it was given away.
Every funeral you attend reminds you of this. The value of your life, the value of your life, the value of your life, the value of my life will ultimately be determined and measured by how much of our life, and how much of your life was given away. The value of a life, you know this, is never determined by what was accumulated and consumed or hoarded. See Paul’s right. Godliness with contentment is great gain. So come on, let’s do this, right? Let’s be different. Let’s re-prioritize. I mean, let’s enjoy what we have, but let’s not be deceived. Let’s not step off into that ravine. Let’s not be plunged into some horrible thing relationally or financially, because we never got a grip on this, we’ve been warned. Awareness of what there is that we don’t have fuels discontentment, but discontentment according to Apostle Paul, and you’re smart enough to know this, discontentment is bridled by redirecting our awareness. So, would you just Would you please, please, please, please, no matter what you have, no matter what you believe, would you please put someone, or something ahead of yourself financially? Would you please put someone or something ahead of yourself financially?
And if you do, you’ll enjoy what you have, but what you have will never have you.
You’re gonna leave everything behind. I hope you leave behind more than things. I hope between now and then you discover life that is truly life. And who knows? You may become one of those strange people who keeps things till they break.