Sermon Scripts: Luke 12:15; Philippians 4:11-12
Sermon Title: “A Tale of 2 Tents”
This morning we are going to talk about “A Tale of 2 Tents.” The first tent is content and the other tent is discontent. I’m not sure if y’all know this, but most Christians struggle with these two tents A LOT. I think the reason we struggle is because we have them backwards. We are content with what we were created to be discontent, and we are discontent with things that really don’t make our lives any better. James Mackintosh, a Scottish philosopher and politician of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries spoke to this kind of insanity when he said, “It is right to be contented with what we have, but never with what we are.”  Think about that for a minute. “It is right to be contented with what we have, but never with what we are.” (pause) “It is right to be contented with what we have, but never with what we are.” When Jesus tells the people, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” I am pretty sure the abundant life Jesus was talking about does not come from big houses, fancy cars, private schools for our children, smart phones and cool clothes (John 10:10). As a matter of fact our Scripture this morning offers a warning against that line of thinking. “And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
If one’s life does not consist of their possessions then it seems to me all of this business about needing the latest phone, or the fastest computer, or the biggest house is really a tremendous waste of time. The cost of paying for all of that stuff tends to make us miserable. Let’s have a show of hands. How many of y’all have ever in your life been stressed out because of your bills? (raise both of my hands and a leg) Where did all of the money go? Why didn’t having the stuff we were making payments for make us happy? Jesus tells a parable right after this verse from Luke 12:15 about a rich land owner. He had an extremely abundant crop one year. So he tore down his barns and built new barns and thought to himself, “‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be’” (Luke 12:19-20)? I think the reason God is so hard on the man in the parable is because the land owner got it wrong. We are not supposed to find contentment in our possessions. We are not Egyptians. We know we cannot take all of that stuff with us when we die. When the great Egyptian Pharaohs died they loaded up their tombs with all kinds of stuff. Most of that stuff was stolen and carted off by thieves. If you take a moment to think about it when we die most of our stuff will be carted out to the front yard to be sold at yard sale by our kids or our grand kids. Why do we put so much emotional equity into the things which moth and rust destroy? I think the key to having an abundant life is learning to be content with what we have. Perhaps we would have more abundant lives if we learned to live more simply.
So if we are to be content with our material possessions as our passage from Luke says then with what are we supposed to be discontent? Take it as a challenge, but I think we are supposed to be discontent with ourselves. I think a big part of the problem today is we are too comfortable with our souls. We have stopped seeing the good reasons to flee the wrath to come. Why is it we are so comfortable with the amount of time we spend in prayer? Why is it we are so comfortable with how often we read our Bible? Why is it we have become so comfortable with our own righteousness that some times we become self righteous? Why is it we become so comfortable with the justice we offer to others that we see our neighborhoods fall apart around us? With humility I submit to you the thing we should be most discontented with is ourselves. Cause let’s face it, we aint right. We are sinners in need of God’s grace, and being a sinner is nothing with which we should ever, EVER feel content. God has created us for something better. Jesus came to give us abundant life. So let’s talk about what living a life of contentment looks like.
Y’all know I am using a book by Adam Hamilton called “Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity,” for this sermon series. Adam Hamilton makes this point. Many Americans have Restless Heart Syndrome (RHS). RHS is similar to Restless Leg Syndrome in that there is a continual lack of rest in our souls – we are discontent with every thing and every one. Not surprisingly the Bible has something to say about RHS.
“I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need” (Philippians 4:11-12).
These are the Apostle Paul’s words to the church at Philippi. In reading these words I have to wonder what is Paul’s secret to being content in any situation regardless of the accommodations, circumstances or people involved? Adam Hamilton falls back on the teaching of Rev. John Ortberg, the pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian church in California. John Ortberg breaks it down into four steps and the first step involves four little words, “It could be worse.” Y’all say that with me, It could be worse. Today when you go out to the parking lot and your friends are talking about going out to lunch and you know you’re going home to have a baloney sandwich try saying outloud to yourself, It could be worse. When you pull into the parking lot for your job tomorrow morning, and you are thinking about all of the things you don’t like about your job I want you to say to yourself out loud, just before you walk in the door, It could be worse. When you go home from work tomorrow and you walk into your house and you see the mess I want you to say out loud to yourself, It could be worse. When you sit down across from your spouse at dinner… oops. John Ortberg says maybe you should say that one in your head. But the point is the same. To find peace in your soul with whatever you are discontent in your life try reminding yourself it could be worse.
The second step is to ask ourselves this question. “How long will this make me happy?” Have you ever done that thing where it gets in your head you want something and then it’s like you can’t shake it. We want it and want it until we finally get whatever it is, and then it only makes us happy for as long as it takes to get it out of the box and set it up? And then suddenly we don’t want it anymore. Suddenly whatever it is has lost its luster. Maybe we don’t need the house at the beach. Maybe we don’t need the boat on the lake. Maybe we don’t need the new car. Maybe we should just borrow it and decide. Maybe we should try before we buy. Maybe we need to borrow our friend’s X-box or Playstation before we buy one for ourselves.
A third step in finding happiness is developing a grateful heart. I heard someone say recently when someone does something stupid they could either be angry or make fun of the person who did something stupid. Maybe some of y’all have felt that way. We can either be angry or we can choose to laugh at the person. What if those weren’t our only options? What if our options were to be angry or grateful? Here’s something to consider about those options. When we choose to be grateful for people we need to do more than just say I appreciate you, or I love you. We need to do I appreciate you or I love you things first, and then what we discover is the feelings come after. There is a reason the horse comes before the cart. The doing or pulling comes before the beautiful gift.
These are all great tips for cultivating contentment. But if we want to find the Apostle Paul’s secret to contentment in times of feast and in times of famine, in times of joy and in times of heart ache it may be helpful to go back to Philippians 4 and look at verse 13. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Sisters and brothers we were created for a purpose, and that purpose gives our lives peace, joy and abundance. That purpose is not to drive ourselves crazy by being discontent with the stuff we have. God’s purpose for us rests in being discontent with how far we are sitting from God right now. Our purpose is to Love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our might. We are then to love our neighbors as ourselves. Serving God and others is the purpose we are created for, and the purpose through which we can cultivate peace and contentment in our lives.
In the name of Jesus Christ – Amen.
 Adam Hamilton, Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity (Nashville, Abbingdon 2012) 71.
 Ibid., 70.
I am apologize for the grammatical errors. This was one of those sermons that was rewritten at the last minute Sunday morning. God does that sometimes. The trick is to trust God enough to go with it.