I have found that materialism is a real temptation to a missionary on the foreign field.
What I have seen as tempting is not necessarily stockpiling goods (though I did a bit of that today in preparation for the coming holiday). Rather, it is a focus on the presence or absence of material things.
It is tempting to find comfort in goods both vital and superfluous to a typical American’s existence. Chocolate chips and marshmallows might not seem like a big deal to you, but I can’t deny that there was a HUGE smile on my face when I opened a care package containing these precious ingredients just in time for a Thanksgiving feast.
The problem does not lie in my love of these sweet morsels. I cross into dangerous territory, however, when I allow my happiness to rise and fall with what is on the supermarket shelf or waiting at the post-office for my prompt pick-up.
If there is any seed of discontentment inside, it will be well-watered with the steady-flow of complaint when faced with a lack of some item I’ve dubbed necessary.
While it is not wrong to desire things that make me feel just a little bit more at home, when they cease to fill my cupboards, I am forced to face myself.
Am I the puddle who cries over spilled milk and empty boxes of fruit snacks? Or am I the glue that holds my family together, shoots for two into the dustbin and says, “Well, that was fun!”
I want to be like Paul who finds his happy place despite a time of going without.
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Here, Paul expresses gratitude for the gift of love provided by the church of Philippi. He notes that he had not received such care for some time, but not to send them on a guilt trip. Rather, he wants them to know that he wasn’t hurting or pining for this gift that didn’t come. Though it may not have been an easy lesson, he had learned to be content. He had even learned to suffer with grace and contentment.
But how did he do it? Through Christ-supplied strength! When the support came, and when it didn’t, he knew he would be okay.
When the supermarket shelves are fresh out of whatever it is I think I really need at the moment, so will I. When the comforts of home just don’t find their way to my mailbox, I can be content.
But not because I am some super-human missionary woman that doesn’t have natural feelings. But because I can learn through Christ-supplied strength to face the day with the things I think I need to face it…or without.
Have you found contentment in Christ despite the familiar pull of materialism?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!