Paul had learned that skill. He realized that either way, contentment does not come naturally. Even in an era and place with far less of the conveniences of life than I have, this man had his experience with wealth and knew the temptation to be taken up with earthly things, always wanting more and forgetting God in the pursuit of possessions. Yet he did learn.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13)
I also have experienced something of the extremes. I’ve been without enough money to buy groceries. I’ve also experienced having more than enough. It is certainly more difficult to be full and stay close to God than it is to do that when funds are scarce.
The reason for this is that my old, sinful nature tends to pride and to do my own thing. This is more of a danger when all needs are taken care of and I do not have to worry where my next meal or next pair of shoes is coming from.
God is good. He blesses some of His people with material abundance, but along with prosperity are many tests. As I downsize the “stuff” in my home, each drawer and shelf is part of that test. I’m asking questions like, “Do I really need this? If I give it to someone who does need it, can I depend on God to take care of me without it? If I keep it, will I be satisfied with it? Or with God?”
Of course, I believe that God will satisfy me, but I know that learning how to be content with needs is easy. It is much more challenging to learn how to be content with lots — for if I have, then it will not matter if it stays or if I must box it up and take it to Goodwill.
Lord, I know that a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he owns. At the same time, it is easy to slide into a dependence upon those things instead of truly relying on You to supply all my needs. Liking what I have is not what Paul meant about being content with plenty. Contentment means that I am settled and joyful, not because of our stuff or even because You have blessed our lives with prosperity, but because of Jesus Christ who grants me grace in whatever state I am.