Coveting vs Contentment

I taught my daughter the Ten Commandments… She can say them all from memory. Then came the task of defining some of the words for her (she is only six at the time of the original posting of this article). She needed a definition that she could understand for the word “covet.” We did our best and came up with “not being content with what you have, so you try and satisfy your heart with thoughts of possessions that don’t belong to you… This causes you to look for happiness in things instead of God,” for coveting.

It has been interesting to see her process and try to grasp the term coveting. She uses the word coveting, but we try and highlight the positive aspect of being content. The real struggle, as with everything in parenting, is that we are imperfect parents.

Teaching my daughter about coveting has taught me more about my own heart. It seems impractical to chide my child about being content with what she has (and she has a lot), if I am buying up every new gadget out there (I’ve resisted the I-pad ever since it came out). Not that buying stuff is wrong… Coveting has nothing to do with what you buy and has everything to do with your heart. You really don’t have to buy stuff to covet. You can be poor as poor can be and in your heart think that if you just had enough money, stuff, etc. you would be satisfied. If you believe that, then your heart is turning away from God. It’s irrelevant whether or not you make the actual purchase if you look to a product, possession, job, etc. to provide you with happiness. True and lasting happiness comes with a real relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Remembering his sacrifice and his joy has helped me understand and be more content with what I have and ultimately who I am in Him. Like the Apostle Paul, I have learned to be content (though this is a battle I often fight every day and have to relearn often).

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 ESV)

This is my prayer for my kids. I know that if they grow up content in whatever situation they find themselves that they will be well rounded happy adults who are more likely to be submitted to the will of God. I wouldn’t want the desire for a bigger house keep them from the mission field (should God call). I wouldn’t want the pursuit of comfort keep them from living for the Eternal.

It’s easy to get distracted, to feel entitled, or to just plain place your hope in an object or status. It’s not that I don’t want my kids to have stuff. All good parents love giving their kids gifts. I just don’t want them looking past the gift to the next big thing and forget the one who gave them all the gifts.

To be honest it’s too easy to look past the Lord’s provision sometimes. If we are not careful we will think our situation in life is less than is should be because we don’t have an appliance, gadget, etc. Yet these things are not eternal; they do not satisfy. We were made for greater things and when we find ourselves content in little or much we are in a place to be used by God who meets all of our needs in Jesus.

Attitude of Gratitude: Appreciating what we have

It’s Thanksgiving (or at least Thanksgiving Eve) and for the past week I have been bombarded with e-mails touting Black Friday deals, Cyber Monday offers, and Christmas specials. I get it. It’s the same message every year I can remember since the 80’s.  “The economy is in the tank and we are getting ready for Christmas early this year in hopes that Christmas will save the economy.”  I’ve heard rumors that some stores are even opening up on Thanksgiving this year to get a jump on Black Friday.

Could it be true?  Would we miss Thanksgiving in order to get a jump on holiday spending?  Is our last great hope for the economy really Christmas?   What index do we use to measure our gratefulness as a nations, because I’m pretty sure that’s what’s really in the tank here.  We stand in line to buy the newest toys, the greatest gadgets, order the most impressive hand held computer devices only to complain about how terrible the economy is and how poor we are.

Here is the deal.  I don’t think we are poor.  I think we are rich and ungrateful. Share your holiday woes with a man who works for as little as $2 a day in a third world country and see how far you get.  We covet what we don’t have instead of being thankful for the many blessings in our lives.  So this year I propose we stop some of the silliness and take time to be thankful for the blessings God has bestowed on us. Don’t skip Thanksgiving.  Don’t miss this opportunity to be grateful.

Here is my list of 21 simple things I am thankful for feel free to share some of the things you are thankful for in the comments section!

1. The gospel that has so radically changed my life.  Jesus is worthy of all glory, honor and praise.

2. My precious wife who is so much more than I deserve.  Every day with her is a gift and a blessing.

3. My children who have enriched my life beyond comprehension.  Every moment holding, loving, teaching them is a precious gift from God.

4. The Bible. I have a copy of God’s word in English that I can read and understand.

5. My education. God has provided me with a great education every step of the way.

6. My job.  I get to tell people about Jesus and walk with them as they grow… full time!

7. My Church. I get to serve along side of some of the best people I know and help others along in the journey as I have been helped.

8. My Parents. I avoided so much pain and trouble in my life simply because I grew up in their home.

9. My siblings. I have the best brother and sisters in the world. The have been God’s gift to me in shaping my personality and are a huge blessing in my life beyond the years we spent together as children.

10. My In-Laws. I love them all, especially my mother-in-law. They have all been a huge blessing, help and encouragement in my life.

11. My friends.  Though time and distance have separated many of us. I still have several men I could pick up the phone and call with anything and they would be there to listen and pray for me.

12. My Pastors.  The two men who at different churches and different times have poured into my life and blessed me as I grew in maturity.

13. My mentor. Who lead me to Christ and still keeps up with me all these years later.

14. My home. I get a roof over my head, heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer and a bed big enough to share with my wife. It’s more than I deserve.

15. My car. It gets me from point a to point b.

16. Over the counter medicine. I have access to simple drugs to treat common symptoms like diarrhea that kill people in other parts.

17. Ice.  A large part of the worlds population doesn’t have ready access to ice for their drinks (imagine… no iced tea).

18. Books. I have so much information at my fingertips.

19. The internet. I’m able to instantly connect with people on the other side of the world. It used to take days to communicate with people on the other side of the globe.

20. Indoor plumbing. I don’t have to leave the house to bathe or take care of business in a sanitary way.

21. The freedom of speech that makes this blog and millions more like it accessable

 

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving season?

Remembering to be Humble on Thanksgiving Day

My parents had a few strange customs around our dinner table growing up.  First, we ate at the table.  It was a discipline because dinner time usually happened around the same time that our favorite TV shows would come on.  Second, My father would read or share a devotional from the Bible or an inspirational book.  Third, we held hands and would all share something that we were thankful for. Nobody ever bothered to tell my parents that this was “Thanksgiving day thing” and not for the other 364 days out fo the year… at 2-3 family meals a day, times 365 days a year times about 18 years at home and you get the idea that we were a thankful bunch.

In those early years I was thankful for sweet and endearing things like my “momma” or my “daddy.” Around the age of middle childhood I was thankful for petty things like, “I’m thankful that I can beat my brother at basketball.” (Since then, he’s beat me a few times).  In to the teen years it became, “I’m thankful for the food, now lets eat!”

Here lately as I try to observe our customs from the outside it dawned on me that sometimes arrogance parades as thankfulness.  I wish I could take all the credit, but the thought really occurred to me when I woke up at 3 AM one morning and heard a few voices clearly speaking in the darkness of my room.  They said…

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus:’God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

God really spoke to me that night, but before you go jumping to conclusions, I went to bed that night with the audio Bible cued up to play while I slept (and allow my subconscious to digest the scriptures).  However, I was waking up from a deep sleep, was disoriented and it took me a few minutes to realize it was just the audio Bible and not a few strange British men who had broken into my house to dramatically read to me from Luke 18.

None-the-less, the seed was planted and I began to consciously think through the implications of how we show our gratitude to God and others.  Real thankfulness doesn’t arise out of a comparison to others, it arrises out of a genuine dependence on God.  The Pharisee wasn’t thankful, he was arrogant.  The things he was “thankful” for were the things that he wasn’t.  He was thankful that he wasn’t like this “sinner” beside him.  The tax-collector was just calling out for mercy. 

There is difference in being thankful that I have a home and being thankful that I am not homeless.  The first way is thankfulness, the second is arrogance.  Its subtle, but it’s there.  One way is gratitude for the blessings of God, the other is to make myself better than others.

This Thanksgiving I’m aiming to be truly thankful to God for all the blessings he’s given me… and to not be arrogant.  Though in a moment of weakness I might say that I’m thankful I’m not an Alabama fan.