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  • Writer's pictureMaria Whittaker

Contentment and Finances Part 1: Humility

"But godliness with contentment is great gain, 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. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

1 T I M O T H Y 6 : 6 - 1 0

"...aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one."

1 T H E S S A L O N I A N S 4 : 11 - 1 2

" Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

P H I L L I P I A N S 4 : 11 - 1 3

Contentment. An increasingly radical, counter-cultural idea. Increasingly rare to be found. And, because we are taught so little about it and encounter it so rarely, something we don't even really understand.

Welcome to the first post in a new mini-series about contentment and finances. Though money isn't necessarily a key aspect of contentment (for example, you could be discontent with a life situation, like singleness), I am choosing to specifically address contentment as linked with money. A touchy topic, and one I don't know much about, to be honest, but I'm here to learn right along with you as we delve into God's Word and prayerfully try to determine what it has to teach us about how to live contented lives and how to think about our financial status in a a Spirit-led way.

To do this, our first topic needs to be about humility. It may seem a little counter-intuitive, but bear with me, as I like to get the big picture first and circle in to the details. There are a couple big-picture things to resolve before we actually talk about MONEY, and one of them is HUMILITY.

I believe humility is important because I don't think we can actually approach the Word of God and find out what He wants in this area unless we have first dealt with our heart-state and made sure that we are approaching Him with a profound, genuine sense of our utter neediness and a truly humbled heart.

Humble Yourselves

As those who follow along on Instagram know, I do a weekly Monday challenge to align our living to God's vision for our lives by posting a verse that contains a direct command - one that we can either choose to obey, or disregard.

My challenge for this week is this: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you..." (1 Peter 5:6).

I am currently in a period of humbling. I think humbling can come in many different ways, and actually the particular way Paul is referring to in this passage, if you read the verses beforehand, is that of "clothing...[ourselves]with humility towards one another" (vs. 5). However, the principle, I think, applies to any humbling situation that God ordains for us.

When God sends humbling circumstances our way, we are called not to fight for our pride and high position, but rather to submit ourselves in humility to His work.

In my own life, God is humbling me in the following ways:

1 - I used to have a pleasant, homey house of my own.

As you know, we are planning on heading out as missionaries to Romania this June. Yep, that's less than a month. Because of how things panned out, we were forced to empty our house and put in on the market a few weeks before we were actually ready to fly to Romania. This means that for a couple weeks now and for a couple more weeks in the future, we are homeless. I used to have a beautiful, roomy townhouse with my own kitchen, bedroom, living room etc. The blessing that this is to a family cannot be exaggerated, and now all of a sudden, it's gone. I no longer have my own space. Not only that, but the space I am in is cramped, full of suitcases and quite chaotic. In the old days, you would refer to this as "reduced circumstances." You didn't upgrade your living situation, you downgraded it. And I can attest that it is a humbling feeling, especially as I think I had been deriving a little measure of identity and pride in having my own place for myself and my family.

2 - I am now imposing on other people's hospitality and inconveniencing them.

During this time while we wait to fly out, we are living with parents. First mine, then Nate's. It's actually a wonderful gift to be able to see family every single day for this short while when we know that too soon, we will have to say goodbye for most likely a whole year. But while we are so grateful for this gift of quality time and for the hospitality and kindness of both sets of parents in opening up their homes to us, I am still beset by a feeling of imposing and inconveniencing them. Not only are we asking them to store many of our belongings, we are adding to the number of people in the home and creating more chaos and mess than they would normally have to deal with. It's a truly humbling feeling to know you are inconveniencing someone and yet to really need to impose on them and remain in that situation for awhile.

3 - I used to have order and control in my day - to - day.

All my stuff are in boxes. Some of my stuff, I don't even know really where it's at. This hits me hardest in the area of clothing because I'm like that. I used to have a large closet, neatly organized where I could easily plan my outfits and conveniently reach for whatever I needed. The feeling that I don't know exactly where some of my things are; living out of a suitcase; having a much smaller space to keep things organized; all these are unpleasant and humbling things. I don't feel in control. I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle with keeping things neat. I feel frustration at the upheaval and lack of control in my life. Rather than feeling prideful of how well I'm managing my life, I feel out of control and consequently, humbled.

4 - I feel sick all the time.

I am so thankful to God for the gift of a much easier pregnancy. I haven't thrown up once, which is a huge deal for me. But I still feel sick and exhausted quite often. It feels like all of the time. When I found out I was pregnant, I was at a high point health-wise. I was working out three times a week and counting calories. I was 3 lbs away from a dream goal weight. I felt strong, healthy and good-looking. Cue first trimester exhaustion and nausea that, unlike my first pregnancy, is tamed only by eating. I quickly gained my weight back and cut wayyy back on working out. Counting calories became a thing of the past. I went from feeling on top of the world, proud of my success, to sick, tired, chubbier than I want to be, and really, really discouraged in just one or two weeks. Humbling, to be sure.

5 - I don't know the future.

Take that, control-freak Maria! I should say, recovering control - freak, as God has done truly God-glorifying work in my life to cure me of my controlling tendencies. But that doesn't mean the temptation to freak out about not knowing the future isn't there. And it's a uniquely humbling feeling to be headed to a foreign land (okay, not--so-foreign, but also, not the land I consider home, and way out of my comfort zone) without even knowing where and how we are going to live. We know a missionary already posted there is looking for a home for us to rent. We know the name and some facts about the city we are headed too, and not good facts at that. We have a broad idea of the projects we will be tackling, but no knowledge of what our day-to-day will be. We just don't know. I keep feeling like Abraham, asked to go to a different land with no idea really where he was going. Thankfully, we have A LOT more of an idea that he did, but it's still an unsettling, humbling feeling to know that not I, but God, has complete decision-making ability and control in what my next two years will look like.

6 - I know I am headed for pain, discomfort, danger and reduced circumstances.

So, I mentioned we don't know "good facts" about where we are going. Actually, people have been kind enough to let us know we are going to a "really rough area" that is a "dump" and is "one of the most terrible cities in that area." Which was all meant in kindness; these people were only being realistic about what they saw when they visited there. We know we're not going to a touristy, well-developed city. We know we aren't even going to a scenic part of Romania (of which there are plenty - mountains, valleys, you name it, Romania has it). We know that the people there are difficult and dangerous. I know I am headed for emotional pain as I uproot here and say goodbye to my family for two years. I know the level of physical comfort we have here will not be the same. I know I am putting Emory and my new baby at risk. I know it's not going to be easy or pleasant. Honestly, it is HUMBLING. I don't want to live somewhere like that. At all. Not even a little bit. But something that keeps me going is that reminder that Jesus is asking so little of me. He, the heir to all things, Son of the Most High God, humbled Himself far, far more than He is asking me to humble myself. He left the splendor of heaven to come down to our horrible, filthy, sin-scarred earth and die for our sins. He is asking me to reduce my living just a little.

7 - People don't understand our choices as a family.

Some people just don't understand. They don't understand why we would take Emory and a brand-new baby to such a place. They don't understand why we would choose to do this with our lives. They don't understand what God is asking of us. To be clear, no one has tried to discourage us. We have been so blessed by supportive people. But I'm very sensitive to the things people don't say, but think, and maybe I imagine some of it, too, but I know that some people could look at us and think those things. To Nate, who is blessed to not really care what people think about his decisions, that's not even a trial at all. For someone like me, it's humbling to feel misunderstood. To be viewed as irresponsible. To even worry that people think that. My pride wants people's good opinions and admiration.

Please don't think that I typed all this out to complain. I'm genuinely trying to be vulnerable and share the ways that God is asking me to humble myself. I'm doing this because I want to point out the value of humility in, first of all, approaching God, and secondly, approaching this topic of contentment in finances/living situation.

The Value of Humility

We cannot approach God with pride. If you fear I'm getting off topic and you want to talk about money, hang in there. Because there's something inherent in money that can birth pride, and we'll talk about that.

The crucial thing to realize is that we cannot approach God with pride.

Let's take a look at James 4:6-10, which gives kind of a formula for how to approach God.

But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

In this passage, we are told that to approach God, we need to humble ourselves. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. So when approaching God, we need to submit to whatever He sends our way, allow ourselves to be put, or put ourselves, in a low position of wretchedness, mourning, and weeping (and by this, I don't think it means that needs to be our default mood but rather the state of our spirit when we consider what we are, in our flesh, as compared to the Most High, Most Holy God.

But Why?

The reason for this is not because God wants to take a nice, decent person like me and squash me into the dirt. He doesn't want to ruin any sense of self-dignity or take way our self-respect. He doesn't want to strip us of our value. In fact, He's not doing anything to us except asking us to look in the mirror. Because a central aspect of our sinfulness is the refusal to admit to our condition. We absolutely refuse to look in the mirror of God's Word, and many people spend their lives building distractions or philosophies to avoid it.

But when we look in the mirror, we find the truth.

We never had self-dignity. We never had any dignity at all, except that of God's image in us which will be removed when we are cast into hell. We never had any right to self-respect. We never had any value as fallen creatures. We were never nice, decent people. We may look it. We may believe it about ourselves. But the Word of God, our authority, the mirror that tells us about ourselves, informs us that we are totally depraved, which means that if God would remove "society" and "laws" and "what people think about us" and "the good opinion we want to have about ourselves" we would ALWAYS AND IN EVERY SINGLE CIRCUMSTANCE choose to curse God and bless ourselves, to selfishly get only the absolute best for ourselves, trampling and murdering anyone in our path, and do all manner of evil, even to selling our own souls to be able to believe the lie that we are worthy of our own worship.

If you can't believe this truth about yourself, you can't approach God. It's conditional to approaching Him that we admit who we really are before Him, as long as we are without Him.

We can only get the medicine if we admit we have the terminal illness.

We're Saved - But We're Still Fallen

I'm saved. That means I admitted to who I am as a sinner before God, and I was given new life, a new identity, dignity and value in Christ. So none of that stuff I talked about above is actually true about me anymore - not even a little bit. And it's not true about you if you have been saved and redeemed.

But it doesn't exclude me from the danger of continuing to approach God with pride. In fact, as the blessings of being saved start to pour into my life, pride can very much continue to be a part of it. God often blesses those who obey Him with healthy and beautiful lives. Following God's laws means blessings come to our families. We are often shielded from things other people are not. Sometimes, our kids are healthier, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically. Our families are more harmonious. Our jobs, businesses and finances flourish because we are following healthy Biblical principles of honesty, good work ethic and creating quality. This is not always the case; please don't think I'm promoting the false Health and Wealth Gospel by any means. I'm speaking in general terms of the blessings that come when you live the way God wants you to be living.

All the positive and blessed aspects of our lives, however, can create a deep sense of pride and self-sufficiency. We rest and flourish in the "new life, a new identity, dignity and value" and forget the "in Christ" part. We enjoy the blessings of obedience, and forget that they are gifted from God's hand and not earned. We become dependent on them and incorporate them into our identity. We think we are who we are because of our outwards circumstances, forgetting that we are who we are because Christ lives in us. And worst of all, the purity of our loves is affected as we start to pursue the gifts rather than the Giver.

These are all practical, specific examples to say that we are still fallen. Our sinful nature acts along with - competes, in fact - with our new, spiritual nature. And if we are not careful - wary - constantly walking by the Spirit, the sin we allow can wreak ravages in our lives, as one of the passages I began with states:

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. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

1 T I M O T H Y 6 : 9 - 1 0

Avoid Piercing

The goal of this series is to avoid piercing ourselves with "many pangs." Humility, contentedness, and our money are areas we are nervous to touch and sensitive about, and that tells me they are close to our heart and areas where we might be trying to protect deeply rooted sin. I am speaking for myself first and foremost. I don't really want to even study this topic. But I want to avoid "many pangs." I know I can't "never think about it" and also avoid any consequences if I am actually sinning in these areas. I don't want to be a hypocrite. I want EVERY area of my life to be submitted to God, so I'm ready to dig into this and humble myself to see what God might say.

I started by talking about areas God is asking me to humble myself. I hope and pray that you can take this week to see if God is asking you to humble yourself in any areas and prayerfully allow His Spirit to create an acceptance of these circumstances. I also want to challenge you to think about ways you can take the initiative in humbling yourself before God. Most importantly, if you plan on following along with this series, or if you feel God leading you to do a heart-check in general, I challenge you to meditate on your humble state before God - your complete dependence on Him for every single thing, the fiery hell you deserved and avoided by His grace and sacrifice, and the fact that the source of your blessing, identity and worth are all found in Christ.

Let us never forget that He, our beloved Jesus, who had no need to ever humble Himself, led the way and set the example of humility for us.

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Chris Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

P H I L L I P I A N S 2 : 5 - 1 1

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