We live in a time we could legitimately call “The Age of Discontentment.” People are striving, climbing, grabbing, stepping on others to get more—all the while being ungrateful for the amazing ways God has blessed them, and is blessing them. The glamorous lives of the rich and famous glitter before our eyes, compelling us to long for more. But this never-ending longing for bigger, better, and more, more, more will never be satisfied by worldly accomplishments or possessions. Instead, the hole we feel can only be filled by something infinitely more important—someone infinitely more important, who is worthy of our complete worship everyday.
One professional figure who illustrates this is Tom Brady, winner of five Super Bowls. The lack of satisfaction he articulated is an example of the deep discontentment that often accompanies the accumulation of wealth—even in the midst of huge success. Erik Raymond, author of Chasing Contentment, says of Brady,
Here’s a guy who has more money than he or his children will ever need, he’s been named MVP multiple times, he’s won five Super Bowl rings, he’s married to a supermodel, he has a beautiful house—he has it all. From a human perspective, he’s climbed to the top of the mountain. But it’s like he’s scratching his head with his five Super Bowl rings, grumbling, and saying, “There’s got to be more than this.” It’s like he’s watched an over-hyped movie.
This is a common theme for those who’ve reached the top. If you have gotten to that place, it is actually a tremendous blessing. You’ve seen the hole in the bottom and now the answer is to go to what the Bible says, which provides not only a diagnosis of the problem, but a solution to the problem.
The solution to the problem is to think biblically about money, wealth, and possessions—to keep Christ at the center of our relationship to material things. To direct your thinking, I will use the acronym C.A.S.H. This acronym will draw your attention to four key words which can be used to form a summary of the teachings of Scripture on the place material possessions should take in our lives. The Scriptures I draw your attention to in this post are from the book of Proverbs. It’s been said that if you could learn and apply all that Proverbs teaches about money it would be equivalent to a master’s degree in finance. So, it sounds like Proverbs is a good place to go for this topic.
C = CONTENTMENT
Contentment pertains to the heart attitude that reflects what we really worship. If we are discontent then that reveals our longing for complete satisfaction outside of God; it reveals that something else has captured our heart’s affection. If we are content then that reveals we are learning to get our identity and value and security from God. Randy Alcorn writes in The Treasure Principle, “As sure as the compass needle follows north, your heart will follow your treasures.”
In Proverbs 30:8-9, Agur prayed for the Lord to keep him from both poverty and riches. His longing was to be a man of integrity who would not tempted to steal because of need, nor would he turn away from the Lord because of wealth. Therefore, what he longed for was a heart of contentment.
Though neutral in itself, money has the capacity to be used for good or evil. This all depends on the condition of the heart the person who controls it. Money becomes dangerous when it captures our heart. When that happens, enough is never enough (See, for example, 1 Timothy 6:6-10). Loving Jesus above all things is the key to being content in life. This is the point of the oft-misused verse, Philippians 4:13.
A = ACQUISITION
Acquisition pertains to the manner in which we seek the increase of possessions. How exactly are we accumulating wealth? What means do we utilize to obtain material possessions? In Proverbs 6:6-11, King Solomon exhorts the lazy man to look to the ant. Why? Ants have initiative (they don’t have to constantly be told what to do), work diligently, and store up for the future. In these ways, they model wisdom. Therefore, Solomon exhorts us to follow the example of the ants. However, like contentment, acquisition and accumulation must be for the glory of God, not for selfish gain (see the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12).
S = STEWARDSHIP
Stewardship pertains to the mindset which governs how we govern our possessions. Proverbs 27:23-24 exhorts the man who makes his living in an agrarian society to know the condition of his herds. For a herdsman to be successful, he must keep a close eye on his herds. He must manage his animals and crops well. In this, we are reminded of a key truth:
We are stewards of some things, but God owns everything.
God owns everything (Psalm 24:1). We are only the stewards of what belongs to God. Since we possess some things temporarily, how should we manage our possessions? Proverbs gives four guideposts:
- Work hard (Proverbs 20:4).
- Limit debt (Proverbs 22:7). [If you’re in over your head, check out this super helpful resource. Also in Kindle format.]
- Budget spending (Proverbs 21:5, 17).
- Save and invest for the future (Proverbs 13:11).
H = HONOR
Honor is the priority that puts everything else in its proper place. According to Proverbs 3:9-10, we are to bring to the Lord the “firstfruits” of all our produce. That is, every time income comes into our house we should give a portion of it to the Lord’s work. In turn, God’s blessing will abound.
God blesses us financially so that we may invest more in His work. Randy Alcorn says it this way, “God prospers not to raise our standing of living, but to raise my standard of giving.” And yet, when our income increases so does our spending—spending on ourselves.
Remember what the apostle said in the book of Philippians? When commending the believers for their gracious giving, he revealed that he did not “seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit” (Philippians 4:17). Kent Hughes says it this way: “Money invested in the kingdom is the only money you’ll ever see again.”
Personal Takeaway: We are stewards of some things, but owners of nothing.
God owns it all and we will one-day give an account to Him as to how we managed what He entrusted to us. Therefore, let us honor God by keeping Christ at the center of our relationship to material possessions.
[This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, Stewards of Some Things, Owners of Nothing.]