The Content Life: The Tyranny of Stuff

Good morning, my name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here at Journey and it’s a joy to worship with you this first Sunday of the new year.

We decided to start the new year off by talking about the topic of contentment.  The content life.  And Josiah did a great job last week of introducing the idea by referencing the 10th commandment.  Which instructs us not to covet that which belongs to our neighbor – whether it be their car or their house or their spouse.

A coveting heart is the exact opposite of a content heart.  So from the very beginning – it’s God’s desire that we live a content life.

One of the greatest signs of a transformed life is that we become the kind of people who like our life.  I think it’s a great sign of worship and respect to God that we become the kind of people who appreciate what we’ve been given.  And enjoy what we have.

This however, is not easy.  There is something inside of us, broken by sin, that thinks that true happiness would come if I just had that one thing.  That new thing.  That extra number on my salary…

In some ways – the first sin has to do with a lack of contentment.  There is the fruit of this one tree that God says we might not have.  And it becomes to Adam and Eve a source of temptation.   Why can’t I take it?  Why can’t I have it?  How great would my life be if I were to taste that forbidden fruit?

Adam and Eve had all the trees and all the fruit one could ever ask for just ripe for the picking, and yet – their eyes fell upon that which they didn’t have – and they began to covet that which they didn’t have.

And we’ve inherited their hungry eyes.

So today we are going to continue our series about contentment – and I get to talk today about something that is near and dear to my heart.  And if you are around Journey Church long enough you will hear me speak about this, at least once a year because it’s such a sneaky little sin, that is we aren’t careful will run us over, spiritually.

I remember one time when our kids were younger Jody and the kids and I were downtown and we were walking to the slides – those two big metal slides – and the kids were carrying their sheets of wax paper to really get moving – and we had to cross I think it’s Farnam St to get to the slides and Josh our youngest was maybe 4 and he began to run toward the street – he got away from us – and Josh had his eyes set on the prize of getting to the slides – and was completely  unaware of the fact that cars were driving down the street – and he was racing to the street and we see the car coming and Jody yells – Josh!  Watch Out!  Stop!  And to this day I thank God that Josh was a good listener and he immediately stopped in the nick of time.  It gives me chills right now that memory of him being steps away from a terrible accident.

Now – here’s why I bring it up.  We’re going to read about the time Jesus shouted Watch out to his followers.  Watch out!  To you and to me.

He doesn’t say these words very often.  And the things he tells us to watch out for aren’t the ones we might think – he never says, for instance, to be on guard for all forms of murder – or adultery – or theft.

No – the things that Jesus tells us to watch out for are much more subtle.  Much more   insidious.  Much more sneaky.  They creep into our lives and damage our souls.  Two things in particular.

The first – in Matthew chapter 6:1 –  “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.

Watch out for caring too much about the opinions of others.  Watch out for image management – in other words.  Doing things to get the approval of others.  I read an author yesterday who said simply – when we want human approval God courteously stands aside because, by our wish, it doesn’t concern him.

But living our life for an Audience of one – frees us from the trap of being a slave to the opinions and likes of others.

The Kingdom of ME often needs promotion and demands to be respected.  But the Kingdom of God is a place where I work in cooperation with God to do great things out of love for others.

The other place where Jesus tells us to watch out for is found in Luke 12:15  “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

Keep your head on a swivel – because greed is a sneaky bugger – and it sneaks up on us and will wreak havoc on our souls if we aren’t careful.

And so this is what we are talking about today. Jesus says Watch out! For a reason.  Because if we don’t watch out, we are in danger.  It’s important that we keep our head on a swivel when it comes to stuff and our desire for more of it.

Here’s a great verse from Pauls first letter to his apprentice, Timothy.  As Paul brings his letter to a close, in Chapter 6, he writes…  Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

Now if you are a new years goal setter – these are two great goals for 2020.  Lord Help me grow in my faith and become more godly.  And help me to be content. These two things are, in and of themselves, great wealth.  Godliness and contentment.

Godliness partnered with a content heart brings riches all their own.  But – it comes with a warning, right?  What’s the warning?  Watch out for stuff.  It is a bus.

Watch out for the hoarder in your soul – that likes to grasp stuff.

This isn’t a new thing – it’s a human thing.  If you go back to the Old Testament – and you read about Moses leading his people out of slavery in Egypt and into the desert – we read about how God provided for his people.  Every day the Israelites woke up – and during the night – as dew appears in the morning, manna appeared.  Manna was a bread like substance.  Gluten free – I’m sure.  The bible says it tasted like Honey wafers.

But it miraculously appeared and the Israelites were told – get out there each morning and collect just enough for what you needed for

Only take what you need for that day – don’t hoard any of it.  Okay Moses, ten four!  We hear you loud and clear.  And what happened on Day one of manna?  They wake up and they look out at all this food and a bunch of them start stockpiling it!  Get the Tupperware Gladys!  Exodus 16:20 But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell.

And I read this and I think – what is wrong with these people?  Right?  But then I start looking around my garage at all the plastic tubs and my closets filled with clothes and more plastic tubs and at some point I have to ask myself – what’s wrong with me?

I have this closet right next to the front door – I think hypothetically it is supposed to be the place where we hang out coats when we come into the house – but of course we never use it – we just hang our coats over the top rail or over the back of the seats in the kitchen – and so the closet – well it become home to the coats we never wear any more.

Part of the reason we don’t use that closet is because of the giant pile of shoes that keep us from opening the door with ease.

And you know – I open that closet so rarely – anyone else have a closet in your house that you can’t exactly remember the last time you opened it?  But it’s filled with things that at one time or another we felt were indispensable.

And I open that closet up and it’s filled with coats – and there’s just this smell.  It’s not awful – but it’s just like this kind of smell like stale.  Like it’s filled with the seeds of what will someday turn into the smell of my grandma’s house.  That closet smelled like my grandparents house.  Stale – old – filled with things that were being to deteriorate?  There was a hardness to the coats.

I wonder what the manna smelled like the next day?  It says it smelled terrible?  I wonder if it smelled like an intensified version of my unused coat closet?

There is this great little portion of the bible rarely if ever preached on – it’s where John the Baptist is preaching in Luke 3, and John was tasked with preparing the way for the coming of Jesus.  His job was to get people hearts ready to be able to receive the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus would preach.

And in Luke 3:10, 10 The crowds asked, “What should we do?”

11 John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”

You know – I think my coat closet is condemning me perhaps.  Am I over spiritualizing my coat closet?  Maybe – but John the Baptist is teaching us – keep your head on a swivel – because things – money and materialism, have a way of distracting and detracting us from forward momentum in our spiritual journey.

Now- maybe I’m spiritualizing my coat closet.  But the truth is, I haven’t even begun to talk about the hooks in my house.  We bought hooks and we installed hooks on the walls.  You can’t see them because they are covered up but each of those hooks have layers of crap on them.

And at some point I have to muster up enough courage to ask whether or not the stuff on those hooks have their hooks in me.  Have I been hooked by stuff?

Because I consider myself to be a simple guy.  I don’t feel like I own too much.  And yet – the hooks!  The closets.  The coats.  The shoe rack.

This is why I preach on this every year gang.  Because materialism – stuff – they do affect our souls, they do affect my contentment level.  And we have to keep our heads on a swivel – we have to watch out – otherwise – it’s the bus.

Paul tells us that godliness and contentment is something that is great riches all in itself.  But it requires that we don’t get wrapped up in how much stuff we own.  Or how many square feet we live in, or how much money is on our bank account.

Now – it’s one thing to be able to say – I have more coats than I need.  But when it comes ot money in the bank – that will require even more courage.

And – let me turn again to John the Baptist.   Luke 3 1“What should we do?” asked some soldiers.

John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.”

Be content with your pay.  That sounds un-American.  Be content with your pay?  How is that going to prepare my heart for a spiritual work of God?

I read one time that – and this is a universal statistic – most Americans – no matter what they make – they think they will be truly happy if they made ten percent more money than they make right now.  And that was true whether you made forty thousand or a hundred thousand.

The default state of our heart – thinks that contentment lies ten percent away from my present pay.

You know that’s bunk, right?  That our country has more stuff than it’s ever had – and yet – this is a report from March of last year – we are more miserable than ever.  And I can’t help but smile at the ad – your happiness is a new phone away.

We have more stuff than ever – and we are more miserable than ever.

The point of Paul’s and Jesus and John’s teaching is that if we cannot learn to be content with our pay as it is, then we can be guaranteed that we will not find it ten percent away either.  We will not.  If we are relying on our paycheck to provide contentment it will always be ten percent away.

Now to be clear – poverty will not make you content either.  People who are poor aren’t happy people or more content.

The Bible doesn’t teach a poverty gospel – that in order to be blessed you must be poor.

There are in the Bible rich people and poor people who love God.  It’s not having money – it’s the love of money.

Back to 1 Tim 6: 17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

Paul isn’t telling us to become poor.  That we must give away all our money in order to be accepted by God.  Paul, like John, Like Jesus, is instructing us to be careful that the love of money doesn’t creep in and smother our souls.

Now – how do you know whether your attitude is right about the money you have?  Here’s one way to know – If, when I said, you don’t have to give your money away – internally, you went, “Whew!” then you might have an issue.

Here’s another way – are we living generously toward those in need?  What story is your checkbook telling?

A few years ago now we invited Joshua Becker to come and speak with us at Journey regarding the idea of minimalism – of paring down the extra stuff from our life – and the big idea of his sermon was There is more joy in owning less than can ever be found in owning more.

Godliness with contentment, is a great wealth all it’s own.

So as we close – I guess the challenges are pretty much paid out for us.  I think that I will spend some time paring down my closet and hooks – in an effort to keep their hooks out of me, I will pare down the items on the hooks on my wall.  If you are in the market for a double XL coat – shoot me a text and I will hook you up – it will smell like my grandma but a good washing will take care of it.

Speaking of Joshua Becker – if you are interested in Hearing Joshua – we’ll put a sermon of his up on our facebook page and you can read into his thoughts a little more.

Finally, as I close – I want to talk about where we find true contentment?  We find true contentment at the cross.  When we realize that there is a God who knows us and loves us and promises to tend to our needs.

A God who backed up his promises with actions when Jesus left all his riches behind and became poor for our sake.  2 Corinthians 8:You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.

In what sense are we rich?  Through faith in Jesus we are adopted into the family of God.  We have a dad who is rich beyond measure and promises to tend to our every needs.

It’s why Jesus can preach so assuredly that it’s okay to become unattached to our things.  Because, Jesus tells us – God feeds birds.  How many birds are YOU worth?  If God cares for the birds, how much more will he care for you.

And then, Jesus, goes to the cross – and pays our debts – and displays for us exactly the length that God will go to in order to care for our needs.

And as we come to the communion table – we are reminded – that true contentment comes from knowing just how much we are loved by God.  Who spared nothing to purchase our freedom and gather us to himself through faith in Jesus.

True contentment is found in knowing we are loved by God.  And that He is renovating us in order to include us in his great plan to redeem humanity and gather us all to himself.

Here’s how we do communion at journey.  The band is coming to lead us in worship.  At any point we’d invite you to participate if you’d like to.  On the night Jesus was betrayed he took bread and broke it and said this is my body – broken for you.  Broken that you might be made whole.

And he took a cup of wine and said – this wine represents my blood, shed for you.  And so we come and dip the cracker as a symbol of God’s great love for us – into the juice, and it’s only juice, in order that we might taste that the Lord is good.

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