October 22, 2009

The greatest contentment

In the late sixties I had two children, a farm with a garden, and for a few months, less than $10 a week to spend on groceries. I don’t remember envying people with money. I do remember the kindness of those who slipped care packages into my pantry and the neighbor who bought me a hunting license and the venison to go with it.

Those days are long gone, but that experience made a lasting impression. I learned that God takes care of His people, and that happiness is not found in having money or things. I also learned that people can survive on garden veggies plus macaroni and cheese!

My devotional reading is again in James. He writes about the purpose of trials and how they produce the fruit of patient endurance in Christians. He says to ask God for wisdom, not doubting that He cares and will give it, and not relying on my own ideas. He also hints that I should not rely on money.

Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits. (James 1:9-11)
Some think that the “rich” is a wealthy brother in Christ. Others say it is merely a rich person whom Christians might envy, and that a poor Christian can console himself that all meet the same fate (death) and that great leveler of humanity will show that riches do not make any difference when it comes to eternal matters.

The words indicate that the rich can “glory . . . in his humiliation” which seems to indicate that he is a believer and that both the rich and the poor have the same thing in which to glory — they both need God because both will die, and money has nothing to do with that fact.

When I was without, I learned that God cares for me. Now that situation has moved toward the other end of things, the lessons remain in my heart. I’m thinking that if someone was born into money, they would need to experience a humbling process to learn the same lesson —  that true contentment is about God’s grace and not material possessions.

As today’s reading says, trials humble everyone to the same level of dependency on God because money cannot buy anyone out of anything but economic problems. If I lost a child or my husband, it would not matter how much money I have. Cash cannot help in a trial like that, nor in many other difficulties.

There are lessons in life, whether poor or rich, that God uses to teach His people to humbly recognize that He is our source and resource. Without Him, money might produce a life of outward ease, but I know from experience that the greater contentment comes through knowing that He loves and cares for me.

Painting: "Contentment" by Marion Coltman

No comments: