Being Content is Hitting It Big

We almost hit it big. But God had bigger and better plans for us and a few life lessons along the way.  Interestingly, what started out as God teaching us a lesson in one area spilled into teachable moments in several aspects of our life.  My husband applied for a position with a large, national company that took him a bit out of his familiar Mr. Agronomist persona and would challenge him with a bit more corporate, Mr. Fancy Farmer persona.  The job description glowed with benefits and the salary soared to financial heights so foreign to us we almost needed an interpreter.  Everyone just knew he was the perfect man for the job, except God.

We tried to remain humble, but the dollar signs dangled their potential promises before our eyes.  Before we knew it, my kids and I found ourselves dreaming in the bike aisle at the Super Walmart, uttering phrases like, “when Dad gets that new job we can all get new bikes.”  I, of course, chimed in with incantations like, “naturally bikes, we deserve to retire the ancient, dilapidated rust on two wheels for shiny new bikes,”(all in the name of quality family time, of course).

In our new income bracket, we wouldn’t forget our heart for benevolence like missions.  We could double, no triple, our giving to missions and even afford one short-term family missions trip a year without the burden of raising funds.  I kicked my heels in delight with the possibility of  possessing extra cash should I spot that certain gift for a special friend and buy it right then and there.

My husband and I even prayed that if  he gets the job that our new found financial ecstasy would not change us. The only thing that would change is our income bracket.  It’s possible right?  Maybe for some, but God didn’t think so for us.

By now, dear reader, you probably surmised that my husband did not get the job.

After receiving the disappointing news, we pathetically kicked the stones around for a few days and now we are ready to move boulders—on our Father’s terms.  The disappointment strengthened us once we got out of our fantasy world of buying bikes, replacing a faithful yet weary mini van, updating tattered carpet, and the list goes on.

We viewed the ordeal as a disappointment with smoldered dreams, but God threw us a blanket of protection from what we might have become.

There really aren’t many rich and famous stories in scripture where the wealthy come out unscathed by the influence of money.  In fact, scripture shows quite the opposite.  I am not bashing the wealthy; its just that money can wreak havoc on one’s spiritual and personal life.  Money is a tricky tool. Getting rich isn’t a high priority in the Bible.

Life for us returns to budgets and frugal living.  Am I throwing a party about that?  Most days, no.  Who doesn’t want a few extra bucks in the bag?  However, decades of having just enough, rarely ever any extra, brings with it complete dependence on God and a host of other beautiful lessons that my heavenly Father boxed and wrapped specifically for me.

Life Lesson #1: The Cross, my salvation is my treasure.  The most important lesson and the hardest to learn.  Living in America among affluence makes the lesson more painful. Throughout most of America money seems plentiful just judging by the amount of acquired stuff on display in homes, stuffed in backyards, and parked in driveways. American entitlement, right?  So I end up setting my eyes on acquiring and keeping up until the cross becomes a distant symbol on a hill. Suddenly, one day my weariness of trying to acquire and keep up causes me to look up and realize the miles between my heart and the cross.  The cross remains where it always was, I need to walk closer to see the details of the gift the suffering brought me.  Then, everything else pales in comparison to that gift. 

Life Lesson #2:  Judas, the Treasurer.  I often wondered why Jesus not only chose Judas to be in his intimate circle of friends-workers but then to assign him the job of CFO.  I mean, really, to place a money hungry, dishonest guy in charge of the accounts seems a bit irresponsible.  But scripture unfolds the story and profile of Judas as though it were written specifically for me.  Money brings out one’s true character every time.  Judas’ obsession with money slithered out in the scene with Mary and her offering of ointment to Jesus.  But in that scene was Judas that different from any of us?  Have we ever questioned a spouse, child, or friend for being too generous when there was not much in the pot to spare? The bottom line: Judas wanted more for his bank account, for his pocket, for himself.  Judas shows us the heart-hardening, heart-blinding, heartbreaking end of treasuring the wrong thing.  Jon Bloom, President and writer for Desiring God, pens, “With Judas and the moneybag, Jesus was modeling for us where not to put our trust: money.” 
Simply stated, Judas served the wrong master (Matt. 6:24)

Life Lesson #3: Exercise Contentment.  The profound words of Matthew Henry ring true for me so much so that I need to apply this concept as often as I do my lipstick (lipstick is my one vain weakness; never leave home without a driver’s license or a tube of lipstick), “To be contentedly poor, willing to be emptied of worldly wealth, if God orders that to be our lot; to bring our mind to our condition, when it is a low condition. Many are poor in the world, but high in spirit, poor and proud, murmuring and complaining, and blaming their lot, but we must accommodate ourselves to our poverty, must know how to be abased [humbled].” A state of contentment means being happy in the financial place where God has put me, to find joy in the financial condition and bear the inconveniences that often accompany it, making the best of what I have, and not set my heart upon the day of a possible financial windfall; I have already found the hidden treasure, no need to search for quick, newfangled methods of financial prosperity.

My husband and I adopted Proverbs 30:8-9 as the verse that defines our financial goals:
 

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
    give me neither poverty nor riches;
    feed me with the food that is needful for me,
 lest I be full and deny you
    and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
    and profane the name of my God.
For Christmas one year, I had the verses embroidered and framed (yes, I paid someone to do the task of embroidering since I am still learning to manage a straight stitch) as a reminder to exercise contentment in any circumstance.

There are days when I falter and begin to covet the prosperity of some.  I am still a weak vessel in much need of patching and maintenance.  The apostle Paul mastered the art of contentment “in any and every situation.”  He knew what it was to be in need and how it felt to have plenty.  No matter how far the pendulum of provision swung for Paul, his greatest source of contentment was Christ.  That should be my goal. 

Life lesson #4: Construct a Plan: Everyone needs a plan, a life road map that offers directions. Take a look at Israel in Exodus 14, they had the first GPS, of the divine sort.  God directed them by day and by night.  They followed a road map (with a few twists and turns no doubt).  Our road map, much like the Israelites, needs to co-exist with God’s plan for our life.  Seems like simple theology but putting it into daily practice proves difficult.  We, like our desert dwelling ancestors, prefer painless, instant results in whatever endeavor we attempt.  Remember the cross on the hill, it didn’t come without pain.  That, too, was all a part of a plan.  Consult the Plan-maker and the Plan Book when devising a potential road map, it works best that way. Finally, be content with the road map God provides.

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