No, Thanks!

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Please buy our stuff!

Recently a catalog arrived in our mailbox, featuring furniture, dishes, flatware, decorative items for the home, etc.

The best words I can think of to describe this merchandise are gaudy and pricey.

Reminds me of a story my dad told. After a cowboy visited Neiman Marcus department store in downtown Dallas he remarked, “I never knew there were so many things I don’t need.”

The cure for discontent

I’m impressed with these passages from the apostle Paul:

“. . . I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am . . . I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).

“But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.  If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

Developing a satisfied soul

In our consumer-oriented culture, does getting more and more make us happier and happier?

Paul was a truly happy man. He said, “I have learned to be content . . . .”

It’s something we must learn.

There’s nothing in that catalog I want.

But there is something you and I would do well to desire.

Contentment.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Choice

BIBLE THOUGHT: “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20-21).

Have you thought of Jesus as a financial advisor? Along with the other roles He fills in a Christian’s life, Jesus indeed offers far better guidance than the most astute investment counselor.

The long view

Jesus presents the Big Picture—a panoramic view of both this life and the next. He shows us how foolish it is to invest without taking the long view. While savings and investments have their place, earthly securities are not secure. They are highly vulnerable to loss. Deposit your money, Jesus says, where your investment is absolutely safe, guaranteed against all loss, and the returns are out of this world!

How it works

Jesus urges us to lay up treasure in heaven. How do we do that?

If we belong to Christ, what we share with those in need is credited to our celestial account, and it will be there waiting for us when we arrive (Matthew 19:21-22; Luke 12:32-34; 1 Timothy 6:17-19).

It’s a sure thing: Believe it!

We have a choice, Jesus says. We can  serve God or we can serve wealth—it’s either/or, not both. While wealth is inherently neutral, it can so easily become our master. Devotion to material things and devotion to God are mutually exclusive (Matthew 6:24).

So we must choose.

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Adapted from an article by JDG in the daily devotional guide Power for Today

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Too Many, Too Much?

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Two studies

An excellent recent online article reports on a study done at the University of Toledo where one group of children were observed playing with only four toys, while another group had 16. Researchers observed that the children with fewer toys were more involved in their play than the other group.

The author also observed that children can be quite content playing with cardboard boxes and simple household items.

Conclusion: Parents would do well not only to limit the number of toys they give their kids, but also choose toys that stimulate creativity.

https://offspring.lifehacker.com/why-you-should-stop-giving-your-kids-so-many-toys-1821051616

In a similar vein, it may well be true that for adults, less is more. A speaker I heard on the radio this morning cited a study indicating that a higher percentage of people in materialistic societies were mentally distressed. Should that surprise us?

Biblical values vs. the cultural expectations

Jesus, better than anyone, understood how people think. He said, “. . . not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

Paul said, “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:7-8).

Current culture does not encourage contentment, but the very opposite. Advertisers know how to bait the hook, especially around this time of year.

The person who takes to heart what Jesus and Paul taught about possessions not only can distinguish needs from wants, but may also learn how to want less anyway.

The contented person does not say, “I wish I had . . . .”

But instead, “I’m thankful I have . . . .”

It’s all a matter of perspective.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Ticket

This afternoon I picked up a lottery ticket. No, I didn’t buy it, but found it lying on the ground. This ticket cost somebody $10. The purchaser had scratched off all 25 numbers, but not one of them matched the winning numbers listed at the top.

$10 for nothing. Purchased in hope; discarded in disappointment. Too bad! But maybe next time! Or if not then, the time after that—or the time after that . . . .

An admission

On the back of the ticket it says, “For help with a gambling problem” and then it gives a website. So even the lottery officials admit that some of their most loyal customers are addicted.

Alcohol, drugs, and gambling—each has an Anonymous organization devoted to helping people who have lost control—and along with it, possibly lost their paychecks, their family, and their self-respect. It’s so sad!

Catering to human weakness

The promoters of this lottery know human nature. They realize there are enough people out there who want quick and easy cash and are willing to plunk down their hard-earned dollars over and over and over in hopes of winning big.

Almost like the carrot on a stick, the lottery beckons but rarely delivers. Sure, some do win big. And much of the money they so gleefully receive comes from the pockets and purses of people who can’t afford their losses.

It’s sad that our great state would stoop to raising revenue from the weaknesses of its own citizens. And what are those weaknesses? Wanting to cash in without effort and at the expense of others.

A far better way

The apostle Paul said, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:33-35).

Paul needed money just as we do today. If there had been a lottery in his day, can you imagine him standing in line to buy a ticket? And yet if there ever was a winner (in the best sense of the word) it was Paul (Philippians 3:7-14; 2 Timothy 4:6-8).

Paul modeled for others the ethic of hard work and sharing with others.

That’s the winning combination! That’s the ticket!

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Through the Eyes of Christ

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Before my time

I remember hearing my dad talk about living through the Great Depression. He and my mother had been married only a couple of years when the stock market crashed in 1929.

Like so many others, they didn’t have much, but they were happy. They had each other, and far more importantly, they had their faith. They learned how to deal with an extremely tight financial situation that dragged on for years.

Most of us were born after the Depression and have enjoyed relative plenty all our lives. Have we come to take prosperity for granted? Do we expect it as our right?

Imagine it!

Suppose a family from the 1930s were suddenly transported to our modern supermarkets and car dealerships. Imagine the look on their faces as they try to comprehend the astonishing abundance as well as the incredible variety of products available. And so much of what we routinely use today didn’t even exist back then.

Theoretically at least, we know we could lose it all someday. And what if we did? Could we deal with it, or would we be emotionally devastated?

The contented life

Christians are in the best position to accept the loss of possessions. Christ Himself traveled light when He walked our earth. He taught the importance of trusting in God for one’s daily bread. He also taught it’s better to give than to receive.

He taught His disciples to lay up treasures in heaven, not on earth (Matthew 6:19-21). He warned against the spiritually fatal tendency toward greed (Luke 12:13-21).

And so if we learn to live by His teachings and look at life through His eyes, we’ll be able to handle financial reverses with greater grace than if we were earthbound materialists (Philippians 4:10-20; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; Hebrews 10:34).

The Christian outlook is, by far, the healthiest way to live!

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Thinking Ahead

When our belongings start to crowd us

It would be interesting to know how many more storage units there are today, compared with 40 years ago.

Most of us are so abundantly blessed that we are running out of room to store all our stuff.

One of the benefits of Bible study is that it reminds us that material things are not what counts most.

A far better investment

Since possessions are so vulnerable to loss, Jesus reminds us that we can have treasures that are moth-proof, rust-proof, and theft-proof (Matthew 6:19-21). Heavenly treasure is the way to go!

The rich young ruler was unwilling to accept Jesus’ challenge to sacrifice his earthly wealth for heavenly treasure, by giving to the poor. So he walked sadly away (Matthew 19:16-22). Big mistake!

Better glad than sad

People keep making that same mistake. They can’t bring themselves to take Jesus’ word for it.

If we prudently lay aside an amount every paycheck for retirement, we are operating on the principle that we’ll benefit eventually. Someday we’ll be glad we planned ahead and made whatever sacrifice was necessary.

Small children usually don’t think very far ahead. They want it NOW! As we grow older, ideally, we mature to the point where we are willing to defer gratification.

Laying up treasure in heaven by giving to those in need is the ultimate extension of this principle. God promises us that if we’ll do His will and depend on His grace, we will be glad someday. Very glad!

If it’s wise to plan for retirement, how much wiser to plan for eternity!

Retirement lasts a few years at most. But eternity . . . .

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Getting What We Need, Not What We Want

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Not what he wanted to hear

Once someone interrupted Jesus’ teaching with this demand: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”

Jesus’ reply was blunt: “Man, who appointed Me a judge or an arbiter over you? Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:13-15).

He then told the parable of the rich fool whose attention was focused entirely on material pursuits, with no thought of eternity. “So is the man,” Jesus said, “who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Lessons for us today

Not only does Jesus teach us a needed lesson on materialism (a growing problem in our culture), but also that sometimes we get what we need instead of what we want.

This man wanted Jesus to help him get the money he thought he was due. But instead Jesus gave him what he truly needed—a warning against greed.

What happened next?

Did the man heed the warning, drop his grievance, and learn to look at life from Christ’s perspective? Or did he go looking for someone else to help him get what he wanted?

He had a choice, and so do we. We can ignore Jesus’ warning and return to business-as-usual, or we can do some healthy self-examination.

Is it possible that we too have been infected with what has been called “accumulitis”? This disease is highly contagious and certainly fatal—unless we take Jesus’ prescription and learn what it means to be truly rich toward God.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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