Contentment and Generosity

I’ve sat on this newsletter for a couple of weeks now, primarily because when I first started writing it I had forgotten about my intent to address my cousin’s marriage.  For those of you who read my last two newsletters, thank you for doing so; thank you for commenting and sharing on Facebook.  I get a kick out of putting a smile on people’s faces and I have had a much larger audience the past couple of weeks.  Thank you.  This week is a little light on the humor side… ok, full disclosure, it is nonexistent.  Regardless, this week I wanted to address a topic that has weighed heavy on me for a number of years; I wanted to share a lesson I have recently learned.

I don’t typically enjoy talking about the financial wealth God has chosen to bless my family with.  I don’t fully comprehend why.  Part of it, I think, is rooted in the idea that I do not wish to boast because I understand that it is solely by the grace of God that I have what I do, but I also think some of it stems from the fact that I am moderately embarrassed by the fact that I have so much while so many others have so little.  This idea has been a topic of conversation numerous times with my mentor but my recent studies in Ecclesiastes have produced more insight into the matter than I have ever had before.  Much of it has proven to be a source of great comfort and this is what I wanted to share this with you.

Let me start by emphasizing that my material wealth is not what a makes me blessed.  This is not to say that material wealth is not a blessing, merely that it is not the source of the state of me being blessed.  I am blessed because I have an assurance of salvation from a Savior who came to this earth and died for my sins, and an assurance that I will spend eternity with that very same Savior.  I am blessed because the Creator of the universe desires to have a personal relationship with me and has given me His written Word to study as often as I choose.  Outside of these things I have a number of blessings (more than I will ever be able to count) but none of them contribute one iota more to the state of me being blessed.

I think my embarrassment stems from the fact that I don’t understand why God chose to give me the things He did.  I am not worthy of those things, in fact, there are many others who are more worthy than I who are making do with much less.  That said, I trust that I am following the path that God has set before me; I do what he calls me to do and I give (of my time, resources, and other capacities) where he calls me to give.  It is in this that I have always sought to comfort my shame.  My recent studies have taken me beyond this; my recent studies have shed a whole new light on the matter.  Ultimately they have not answered the question why, but they have gone a long way to alleviate what could be described as my guilt.

One of the first things I must do is determine if my so-called guilt is warranted, i.e. do I feel guilty because I have sinned against God?  The quick answer is no, I am following the path he has laid out for me; I try to be sensitive to his promptings and to give wherever he calls me to do so.  Often these prompts come in the form of my wife’s requests to give to or support others, but other times are simply where I know I am being led.  This means that I am not miserly or stingy but it still comes down to one ultimate question, “do I love my wealth?”  Eccl 5:10 gives us a litmus test for our love of money.  “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.  This too is meaningless.”  The question is, “am I satisfied with what I have or am I always craving more?  Matthew Henry says, “but to a covetous man, who thinks all lost that goes beside himself, it is a constant vexation to see others eat of his increase.”  To put it simply, a greedy man hates to see others enjoying the fruit of his labors.

I am content with what I have.  If God chooses to give me more I will be content with that as well; if he chooses to give me less and take away even that which I have, I will still be content.  1 Timothy 6:6 says “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  Furthermore, I enjoy being able to share what I have with others.  Few things delight my wife as much as being able to share our own abundance, and while I share her delight, it brings me nearly as much joy to simply have the ability to exercise her delight in this fashion.  I count myself fortunate indeed that I can answer that my guilt is unwarranted.

Ecclesiastes chapter 5 doesn’t end there though, it continues with verses 19 and 20.  “Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.  They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.”  When I read these verses this week I nearly broke down into tears; here was the confirmation I had been searching for, wealth is God’s gift when he also grants the ability to enjoy it and to be satisfied in your work.  There are few people I’ve spoken with who’ve not heard about my job and how content I am in doing it.  My passion for what I do overflows into every other aspect of my life.  I cannot help but share my opportunity and experience with others.  What’s really interesting is what chapter 4 has to say about the matter, and of course I’m paraphrasing, but Solomon speaks to how to the wicked, riches and wealth are a punishment because God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, but to the righteous they are a gift because He also gives the ability to enjoy them.  Finally the last part of verse 20 (of chapter 5), who wishes to reflect on days past when there is so much joy to be had now?  Of course this is not to say that our contentment is rooted in our joy merely that God keeps our days occupied with the gladness of living in the now.  No sense in dwelling on the past for it has already occurred and will not occur again; and no sense in dwelling on the future for it has not yet come and may never come according to God’s designs.

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