“Stuff” and the Lost Art of Christian Contentment

George Carlin did a comedy sketch about “stuff”. In essence it was a brilliant commentary on how our possessions actually possess us. Of course he did it from a decidedly American point of view. Having spent some time this morning walking around the city of Manaus in Brazil, I can tell you that “stuff” is not an exclusively American problem.

The streets here are packed with vendors of every conceivable type. And I mean packed; dozens of stalls selling purses, thousands of purses, followed by remote controls, toys, underwear stalls, flashing nick knacks, thousands of shoes, and assorted what nots beyond description. And it goes on for block after city block. I have seen the same thing in the market at Manzini in Swaziland and in Mexico City. It is a universal condition. We humans are enamored with stuff.

I am struck by the thought that all this stuff is like so much Turkish Delight in “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis. Turkish Delight was candy offered by the evil White Witch. Is was pleasing to the eye and very tastey when first eaten. But it had the unusual property of never leaving you satisfied and always quickly wanting more. For Lewis, it was symbolic of sin in general. So much of our desire for “stuff” is a hunger for something that appears pleasant and enjoyable. We are tempted to believe it will meet some deep inner hunger. Sadly it more often leaves us unfulfilled yet strangely thinking that if we just had a little bit more, that would do the trick. This in spite of the fact that every single time we have had just a little bit more, it did not do the trick and we are left wanting still.

The Apostle Paul in stunning contrast to our hunger for stuff said, “I have learned in whatever situation I am, to be content” Philippians 4:11 When he was rich or poor it was the same for Paul. When he was healthy or sick, free or imprisoned, homeless or housed in splendor, Paul learned to be content. When he wrote to his young protege’ Timothy he said, “Godliness with contentment is great gain”. Paul was able to be content in all things because he found his fulfillment not in his possessions, but be being possessed by his Lord Jesus. Being a slave of Christ was all Paul needed. It was where he found his purpose and security. He had one Lord; Jesus. His “stuff” didn’t matter.

Oh to be so focused and so content that Jesus is my all in all.

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