If I were to ask you to use one word to describe Americans I imagine it wouldn’t take long before someone said, “consumer” or something to that affect. We here in America are some of the biggest, if not the biggest, consumers in the world. We consume much. We consume more fossil fuels than other nations. We consume more food than other nations. These two thoughts are rather staggering when you consider the fact that we are not the world’s most populace country. We also spend millions of dollars on clothing, entertainment, electronics, etc. Why is it we feel the need to buy, and buy and buy?
I imagine that it is different for each of us. Some of us might be consuming/purchasing things because we are bored (and yes I know some that are that way). Some might be consuming/purchasing things because they are depressed. Some might be consuming/purchasing things because they feel lonely. Some are consuming/purchasing things because they feel like something is missing in their lives.
While fulfilling these “empty” feelings with modern day possessions, the feeling is not new. Solomon assured us that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9). Every feeling that we have and every device we seek to deal with that feeling has been going on fro some time. Sure, we might have new words for it. What we specifically consume might be new, but the feeling it has been there from the beginning.
Thankfully, God has also given us the answer to those feelings of “emptiness” that you might feel can only be filled with consumerism. First know this, the answer isn’t found in consumerism. If I am going to tell you that, I better back it with scripture. “I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the children of man. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun (Ecc. 2:7-11).” Solomon tried to gather things to himself. He gather treasures, possessions, etc. He found that it didn’t matter how much stuff he had. It wasn’t enough to fill his heart. It wasn’t enough to take away that empty feeling.
Thankfully, Paul provides us with an answer. “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction (I Tim. 6:6-9).” It takes two things to fill that empty feeling in your heart. First, let us look at the idea of contentment. I know that sounds hard for those of us that have spent a lifetime consuming. What Paul is sayings is that you have to realize that consuming hasn’t gotten you anywhere. This is made possible when you realize you are not a sum of your possessions. You are not your khakis. You are not your F-150. You are not your gadgets, special collections, or any other thing you might be consuming. If you cannot take it with you, then they aren’t you. And therefore you shouldn’t be letting them define you. Secondly, now let us look at the idea of godliness. Contentment alone is not going to help you overcome that “empty” feeling. If you empty your cup of possessions, then your cup is still empty. You need to fill it within something, and here Paul says that if you want to really have something in your life. If you really want a gain (or to get ahead) don’t fill your cup with possessions, but fill it with godliness. Paul’s writings. According to Thayer’s “godliness” carries with it the idea of religiousness. “The meaning is, that real religion should be regarded as the greatest and most valuable acquisition (Albert Barnes).” If you are feeling empty inside you need to be more active in spiritual things. Or as Solomon put it, “he has put eternity into man's heart (Ecc. 3:11).” Physical things will never fill that emptiness inside of you. Spiritual things on the other hand will. You see, only that which is eternal can begin to fill eternity.
Grinnell church of Christ
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Godliness and Contentment
Volume 6 Issue 47