Half of my overseas travel has been to third world countries for some kind of missions project. One thing I’ve noticed about the people we served was the sense of contentment they enjoyed, especially among the children. Seeing children play with rocks and sticks, flat soccer balls, and whatever else they could pick up off the ground was amazing. They giggled, squealed, laughed and squealed like any well adjusted child. They just didn’t need stuff to have a good time. Such is the composition of the Kingdom of God. I read last week that a four year old laughs 26.6 times per day more than adults. No wonder Jesus preferred children to adults.
Last Sunday I began a new series of sermons on the subject of contentment. The goal of this series is to aid in understanding contentment so we can learn to be content. But contentment is not the end game. The end game is the peace, joy, and freedom that comes alongside contentment. That’s where the money is. Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll work toward a definition of contentment, but here in the beginning I want to clarify what contentment is not. Contentment is not complacency in the face of things that should be changed. Neither is contentment mediocrity, acquiescence or passive resignation. Contentment comes from God, and is convinced that his provision is enough for my physical and material needs. It affirms that God’s presence is enough for my emotional needs. It believes that his providence is perfect for all of my future needs. And we find it in Jesus.
Jesus is our clearest and best example of contentment. He also happens to be our best resource for finding contentment. He was unusual in that he needed nothing. Jesus, for example, never asked anyone for advice, nor did he take advice. Jesus did not need shelter, living his three year ministry as a functional homeless man. He did not have a need for money or material possessions. He did not own private transportation. Jesus did not need to have respectable parents or a respectable hometown. He did not need a prestigious education. Jesus did need food and clothing. Other than that, he lived free of the encumbrance of material possessions. Needing things or owning things were not a high priority for Jesus. We cannot omit that feature of his life as we look to him as an example for living.
So how did Jesus accomplish this? The secret is not just in his relationship to material things. The secret is his perspective and understanding of things. And the best information he offers is found in the Sermon on the Mount. Check back tomorrow and I’ll explain how Jesus unpacked his perspective so we can better understand contentment.