In his classic monologue, comedian George Carlin riffed on the mountain of stuff we compile. His assertion is that “a house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. We place our stuff in the house and leave it there while we go out and get more stuff.” Is there ever a point where we become satisfied with who we are, what we have, and even what we do not have? This week we present session one of Jeff Manion’s new Bible study Satisfied.
Watch the Satisfied Video Trailer
The Teachings of Jesus are Piercing
Luke 12:15 – Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
Matthew 6:21- For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Questions We Have to Ask
- As one who allegedly follows Christ, what claims does Jesus have on my wallet?
- What does it mean to think “Christianly” about the stuff that fills my garage, my closet, and my basement?
- How does the one I call “Lord” intend to reshape the way I view earning, spending, saving, giving, and accumulating?
Watch Satisfied Session 1: The School of Contentment
Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. – 1 Timothy 6:6-8
The voice of contentment says, “I’m okay with it and I’m okay without it. I would like it, it would be nice, but I do not need it in order to be whole.”
Contentment is having a heart that is alive to God and the people around us even when we don’t have what we want.
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. – Philippians 4:11
We have to learn contentment — enroll in the school of contentment—and most of us will have to enroll more than once in different seasons of life.
I can do all this through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:13
Paul makes this statement in the context of living the contented life.
This week’s project: Count your shoes and your shirts. Give away something of value.*
1. What part of the teaching had the most impact on you?
Mountains of Stuff
2. Jeff described three categories of stuff we typically surround ourselves with:
- Items of frequent use: a microwave, a bed, a coat, etc.
- Keepsakes: a yearbook, family photos, a dish set passed down from a grandmother, etc.
- Other stuff: items no longer used
If you used these categories to assess your current possessions, what percentage would you assign to each? For example, 30 percent for items of frequent use, 15 percent for keepsakes, 55 percent for other stuff.
If you were to wake up tomorrow and everything you categorized as “other stuff” had somehow disappeared, would you be more likely to feel a sense of relief or a sense of loss? Why?
3. As followers of Christ, one of the key questions we have to ask is, “What does it mean to think ‘Christianly’ about the stuff that fills my closet, my garage, my basement?” Listed below are four verses that illustrate aspects of Christian teaching on possessions. Read each of the verses aloud and make a note about any words or phrases that stand out to you.
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. – Luke 12:33
All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. – Acts 4:32 (NLT)
If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. – 1 Corinthians 13:3 (NLT)
Remember how you … cheerfully accepted the seizure of your possessions, knowing that you have a far greater and more enduring possession. – Hebrews 10:34 (The Voice)
4. We sometimes tend to avoid verses about money and possessions because they make us feel uncomfortable or even guilty. But as you consider these passages, what, if anything, intrigues you or stirs within you a desire for what the verses describe?
5. Based on these verses, what three or four characteristics would you say best describe the heart of a person who thinks “Christianly” about his or her possessions?
6. Which of the heart characteristics do you need most? Why?
7. Contentment is not something we are born with. In describing his own experience, the apostle Paul wrote:
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. (Philippians 4:11-13, emphasis added)
When Paul says he has “learned,” the Greek word he uses is manthano ̄ (man-than’-o). It means to acquire a habit, or to learn by practice or experience. It is the same word used in the gospel of Matthew when Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me” (Matthew 11:29, emphasis added).
- If contentment is a satisfied heart, what do you think it means in practical terms to learn contentment?
- Learning something new sometimes requires unlearning — letting go of existing perspectives or habits. What kinds of things might you have to unlearn as you begin to learn more about contentment?
- Paul makes a subtle but noteworthy distinction when he states he has learned to be content in “any” particular situation and in “every” or all situations.* Which would you say is most challenging for you right now: being content in a specific situation in your life, or being content in your life as a whole? What factors make it especially difficult for you?
8. Jeff pointed out that we will have to enroll in the school of contentment more than once in different seasons of life.
- Briefly describe one of your first experiences of learning contentment. What season of life were you in? What was it you chose to do without?
- What similarities and differences are there between that earlier experience and a challenge you face in learning contentment in your current season of life?
We Are Not Alone
9. In the Philippians 4 passage, the Greek word Paul uses for “content” is autarke. It is the source of the English word “autarky,” which is a self-sufficient country that has no need for imports or economic aid. The ancient Greeks used autarke to describe a self-sufficient person. When Paul uses the word, he adds a twist by locating the source of his sufficiency not in himself but in Christ: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”*
- Paul might have said, “I can do all this through him who gives me … hope,” or peace, or patience, or self-control. Instead, he claims Christ’s strength. Why do you think practicing contentment specifically requires divine strength?
- As you anticipate learning about contentment and practicing it throughout this study, in what ways are you especially aware of a need for Christ to be with you and give you strength?