Welcome to our final podcast of the week, and indeed the month.
Next week Tom Finnemore will be taking us through the final verses of Philippians, and then launching the new month with a new book of the Bible.
But for now we are still in January.
January is long and difficult, and has the dubious accolade of having Blue Monday in it….the 3rd Monday of the month, claimed to be the most depressing day of the year.
One of the reasons that January is such a tough month for so many people is the huge gap between pay packets. Everyone gets paid early for Christmas and then has to eke out every last penny until the January pay day.
This has been the story of our January with an unexpected garage bill on top of the planned MOT, and then 2 trips to the vet with our cat. Like thousands of other people we celebrated pay day on the 28th; but the celebration was buying bread, milk and toilet roll!
A cursory glance through social media over the last 7 days tells me that we are not alone. A friend of mine posted on Facebook bemoaning the fact that January seemed like a 50 day month, and someone else wrote, “Will this month never end?!”
I say these things not to concern you about our bank balance, but because how we feel about our finances in January links very nicely to the Bible verse that we are going to look at today.
The passage is Philippians Chapter 4 vs10-13, and we are going to focus on verse 12 where Paul writes:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
The word contentment only appears 7 times in the Bible, and 6 of them are in relation to money.
In Philippians, Paul says that he has learnt the secret of contentment, and what it means to be content in plenty and content in need.
Many of us I am sure would love to learn this secret too. How can we be content with our financial and material situation? Contentment is undoubtedly a marker of the better life that Jesus promises us……..so how did Paul learn the way to achieve this?
The first part of the answer is that he learnt it by following the example set by Jesus.
About 50% of Jesus’ teaching is on money. He clearly knew that it was a big issue for us, otherwise he wouldn’t have talked so much about it.
However, in all he says about money, Jesus’ attitude is totally consistent – money in itself is neutral, and Jesus is therefore content in plenty and content in need.
Jesus is content in plenty. He neither praises nor condemns the rich or people having money. He spent time with those who were affluent and privileged. The disciples were fishermen – the businessmen of their age – and they owned property. Jesus did not object to being anointed with very, very expensive perfume. In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus says that it is fine to invest in things and make money.
And yet at the same time Jesus is also content in need. He ate with the poor and the marginalised, those who were beggars and those who were prostitutes. When he sent the disciples out, Jesus specifically said that they could not take any gold, silver or copper with them, nor could they take spare clothes. And in the Gospels we see frequent examples of people leaving jobs, fields and families, and selling everything in order to follow Jesus.
So Jesus is totally content in both environments.
However, what Jesus is not content with, and what he always challenges, is our attitude and relationship with and to money.
If we want to learn the secret of contentment, then we need to learn to keep money in a place of neutrality, rather than letting it affect our heart and our mind.
So do we do this? Or is money a master over our actions and feelings?
When we speak about money to others, when we think about our bank balance, when we decide what to spend our money on, what do we think or what do we feel?
Are we always striving for just a little bit more, because what we have is never quite enough….do we think that things would all be better if there was just another nought on the end?
Perhaps money to us is shameful, frightening, or a source of worry? Or maybe money is all about self-betterment, a marker of success and comfort?
I don’t know what your response is to any of these questions, but what we can see from these verses in Philippians is that Paul knows the only way to experience contentment when it comes to money, is to replace our desire for financial security with a desire to experience Christ’s sufficiency in our lives.
In any and every situation in his life, Paul knows that Christ is sufficient, and that he can do all things only through Jesus’ strength, not the strength of his bank balance, or his skill in making ends meet on the tightest of budgets.
Our lives are not to be shaped by plenty or directed by need – we are to be defined by Christ.
Paul has learned the secret of contentment by knowing that he can find all he needs in Christ, and that through Christ he can do all things. Christ is sufficient for him in times of abundance and sufficient for him in times of want.
Can the same be said of us?
Heavenly Father, help us to learn the secret of being content with money – whether we are experiencing need or experiencing plenty. Help us to know that you are sufficient for us in all situations, and that we can do all things through your strength. Amen
BIBLE READING: Philippians 4:10-13
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.