It’s hard to teach a 10-year-old to be content, especially at Christmastime. I remember wanting a red Schwinn 10-speed bike when I was 10. And, you know what? I got it. Looking back, I was really blessed as a kid. If my parents struggled financially, I didn’t know about it. I knew we weren’t rich, but I never felt poor either. Like most kids, I just sort of accepted my reality. I complained my fair share, to be sure, but life was what it was. There was a tacit acceptance of life. I don’t know that I could say I was content, though.
My kids are struggling with the same issues as they grow into the double-digit years. I wonder, how do you help your kids learn contentment? In this world where everything, even everything they could never want or use, is in front of our kids’ eyes daily, how does contentment survive? Here are my thoughts:
“I have learned the secret of being content…” – Philippians 4:12
That’s what most people think contentment is – sort of a Zen-like oneness with the universe, acceptance of whatever happens because there’s no stopping it anyway. Is that really what contentment is, though?
I have two thoughts on Paul’s statement on contentment. First, quickly, there is no “secret” of contentment. The “secret” is “being content”. Perhaps it’s better stated as “choosing to be content,” but there is no secret Bible code to which Paul was referring. If you read the rest of his letter to the Philippians, you’ll find him stating and restating his trust in God. And, don’t forget, this is a man who endured shipwrecks, beatings, prison, and was writing this letter while under arrest in Rome. He writes, in verse 13, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength,” and in verse 19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus,” which brings me to my second point.
Paul was not just saying, “Whatever.” He wasn’t saying he’s learned the secret of killing his desires, his passion, his zeal, his heart. At the beginning of his letter, he said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,” (1:21). This is a man of deep passion on an extraordinary mission, not a “Yes-man” mindless robot in a suit, sitting in a cubicle saying, “Yes sir, Thank you sir, Anything for a raise sir.” Paul didn’t empty himself of all desire and passion. He longed to accomplish his mission.
Jesus didn’t come to create a bunch of zombies – brain-dead followers that wouldn’t argue with him because they couldn’t feel anything anyway. “I have come that they may have life,” he said (John 10:10). You can try the zombie apocalypse, if you want, but that’s not contentment.