Summary: What it takes to be content in this world.
September 5, 2004 Stewardship Sermon on Being Content
• In North Africa the natives have a very easy way to capture monkeys. A gourd, with a hole just sufficiently large so that a monkey can thrust his hand into it, is filled with nuts and fastened firmly to a branch of a tree at sunset. During the night a monkey will discover the scent of food, and its source, and will put his hand into the gourd and grasp a handful of nuts. But the hole is too small for the monkey to withdraw his clenched fist, and he has not sense enough to let go of his bounty so that he may escape. Thus he pulls and pulls without success, and when morning comes he is quickly and easily taken.
The illustration of the monkey says it all. There’s a saying that goes, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” Another says, “Not he who has little, but he, who wishes for more, is poor.” Ever since the fall of man there has been a serious problem with people not being content with what they have. It is amazing that father of lies was able to convince Adam and Eve not to be CONTENT with what they had. Here they had a perfect creation, a perfect garden, perfect bodies and a perfect relationship with God and each other. Yet Satan convinced them it wasn’t ENOUGH. The sly creature said of the Tree of Knowledge, God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Ge 3:5) Satan’s temptation was to make them think God was selfishly holding something back from them - to make them discontent with God’s time line - to break God’s law for that knowledge. When God asked Adam, “what have you done?”, Adam responded, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (Ge 3:12) What happened to the man who had initially responded with joy at the bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh? He was no longer content with the woman that was given to him.
This sin set the pattern for ages to come. Ecclesiastes 6:7 says, All man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied. Isn’t that the truth? This past week I was able to enjoy a wonderful hamburger at Annie’s grill - it had melted cheese, mushrooms, and fried onions on the top. I poured on the ketchup as it went oozing over the top and onto the plate. During this wonderful lunch I also had a full size baked potato, with melted butter and sour cream on the top. To top it off, I was given a rich chocolate pie. I left that place feeling more than content - I was just plain stuffed. Yet just four hours later, I was hungry for more. This is a miniature picture of the plight of life. When you’re in college, you can’t wait to get out of college and get a full time job. But once you get in the routine of life, then you start wanting someone to share it with. If you do get married, you soon find out that’s not enough. Then you feel like you need children. When you have children, then you’d die to get a good night’s sleep or to have an evening off once in a while. Once the kids grow up, you can’t wait to get them through high school and onto college. Then you wish you knew what to do with your time - you wish there was more to do. By the time you get older, you say to yourself, “life will be a lot better once I get this house paid off.” The list goes on and on.
If that weren’t bad enough, we like to go back in our lives and think - “if only.” If only my kids were better behaved . . . . if only I had married someone else. . . if only I had gone to school. . . . if only I had taken that job . . . if only I had stopped smoking . . . if only I hadn’t bought this house.” There comes a time in life when you finally have to ask yourself, “if I can’t be content with my job, my health, my family, my life, when will I be satisfied? When will I be content?”
• One of the riches men in the world, oil tycoon Paul Getty, was being interviewed in London. “If you retired now,” asked a reporter, “would you say your holdings would be worth a billion dollars?” Getty paced up and down the room, mentally adding. “I suppose so,” he said, “but remember, a billion doesn’t go as far as it used to.”