Thursday, November 5, 2009

Conundrumming

Today I stare down a conundrum.
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There is a body of thought bordering on doctrine that would have me believe that poverty and/or suffering is evidence of salvation on the one hand, of God's special
endorsement on the other. To have much - be it in moderate or magnanimous portions - would thus be a show of something tethered to the worldly. To be poor or suffering is, then, the higher calling. (I often wonder what these folks do with Abraham, Job, Solomon ...)
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And then there's that other group - the ones that consider it sound doctrine to seek hard after material gain. It's their contention that the child of God is destined to have health, success, riches and great glory ... now. To have little (not to mention nothing) is a sure sign that one is living far beneath one's God-mandated dignity. To be prosperous is, then, the higher calling. (I often wonder what these folks do with those of the early church, many of whom are featured in Hebrews 11 who lost/suffered everything ...)
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In both cases, the condition is often (if not always) given an altar of it's own; a place of distinction where one can worship the evidence of their (or someone else's) obvious heavenly favor.
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So which is it?
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How does one, to the exclusion of the other, bring glory to God? How do the people living on one side deflect the shame of not living on the other? How can the poor man rise above their lack without robbing from God, while the rich man sheds the trappings of the material world without biting His hand of blessing?
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I've now added head-scratching to my staring.
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I realize this has the look and feel of a rant. It's not my intention. Actually, it goes hand-in-hand with much of what Paul teaches us in Scripture; the stuff of which conundrums are born. Why else does he say (?) ...
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I have learned to be content
whatever the circumstances.
I know what it is to be in need,
and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret
of being content
in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry,
whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do everything through him
who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:11-13
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Keep your lives free from the love
of money and be content
with what you have, because God has said,
"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
So we say with confidence,
"The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
Hebrews 4:5-6
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But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
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What is more, I consider everything a loss
compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing
Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake
I have lost all things.
Philippians 3:7-8
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When the operative word is contentment, I needn't stare at all; I can pivot on this one word alone.
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Do my gains/losses bring me contentment? Can I sing with the chorus, "whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, 'it is well; it is well, with my soul'."?
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This is not meant to minimize life's miserable mutinies. I've experienced no few of them; wept no little volume. I mean no impudence or disrespect to those on life's loosing side. It's painful, and can be utterly devastating!
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Yet I have known many from the communities of wealth and an equal number from the communities of lack ... each of them content in their own placement, if not their own calling. Gains or losses matter little to them.
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No alters.
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No special endorsement from heaven.
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Their lives are not about what they have or don't have; or even what they're doing for God. They are simply glad to stand back and give Him the glory because of what He is doing in them - and that deserves no alter to anyone other than Him.
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Indeed, godliness with contentment is great gain. No conundrum there.
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Now I just have to figure out how to remain surrendered in a contented condition. More conundrums!
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18 comments:

Denise said...

I love being in a contented condition, bless you.

Rose said...

What an amazing post. I really enjoyed this. My only thoughts are how you summed it up. Be content no matter what!

Have a blessed day!

LisaShaw said...

Your message Kathleen is so on point.

Before I even reached the Scripture Paul quoted I was already thinking: contentment.

Your words here say it all:

"Now I just have to figure out how to remain surrendered in a contented condition."

I appreciate your sharing and your truth in it!

Love you.

sonja said...

What a great posting Kathleen...so many good thoughts. It's where we all live. and ...conundrum... love that word. Good food for thought here!

Shirley said...

I wrote about the topic of contentment myself recently. And I know both sides of that thinking. Me? I'm learning that 1)God WILL provide and 2)what He does provide, I need to be thankful for! No grumbling. No "I wish it had been". There was a quote I had at the beginning of my post on this topic: "Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for." ~ Epicurus

skoots1mom said...

We all have times of question, don't we...like even Job after ALL his tests...
We studied it last night in our youth time together

there we also discussed being called to "Be still and know"...
created to worship Him...

Colossians 1:16 "For by him all things were created...all things were created by him and for him." ...for His purpose and Glory

Heart2Heart said...

Kathleen,

I think you have captured it just perfectly. We can't love the world or the things in it and still say we love God. We get caught up in promotions, homes, and material things but all in all, we can't take them with us when we die. We need to place God first and be happy with what He has blessed us with and be thankful with what we have.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Nel said...

Very good post! I love the fact that the Lord says He will not put more on us than we can handle. If our lives are centered in Him... Life is good! He never walks away from us...

Just a little something from Judy said...

If James 1:17 is true, and of course it is, then we need to realize that "EVERY good and perfect gift comes from God." It is all Him...He gives to differing degrees and all for His purposes. He does own the cattle on a thousand hills, and He does give us even our next breath. I have thought often about the writings on this post, and the conclusion I have come to, is to accept James 1:17 as my thought process.

KelliGirl said...

I've wrestled with these thoughts as well and come up in much the same place. We're reading Dave Ramsey's book in our couples Bible study and have spent a lot of time trying to frame our view of money from a godly perspective.

It seems we'll always be bombarded by messages of extremes. Wading through to find godly truth is our challenge, isn't it.

Blessings and prayers!

Joan Carr said...

An awesome thought. Oh, that we could keep our eyes on the Lord and not on our stuff or lack of stuff whichever way it may be. God blesses each of us in different way doesn't He?

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

I too strive to be like Paul and be content in my circumstance.

Very profound and thought provoking post today!

christy rose said...

Wow! Kathleen, I think that this post is so connecting to the hearts and thoughts of so many people. I believe God desires to bless us in every way possible more than we can possible imagine. But as life goes along, for each individual, His guidance toward His blessings are what we have to trust in. And, living in contentment and thanksgiving for His provision of what we have been blessed with keeps us on the pathway to continued blessings. I also believe that God's intentions are to use His body to take care of itself, with Him as the source to His body. Not expecting each one to be an individually self sufficient member but vitally linked and dependent upon the remainder of its members to bring about the full provision of nourishment that His body requires. Never should one member be flourishing and another be dying from lack of blood flow and provision because of a severing from the body.
Love your conundrumming today! :)
Christy

Andrea said...

Kathleen, I love this post. You have hit the nail on the head! I have, many times, viewed both extreme doctrines as a conundrum.

But, you are so right, and I say, "Keep preaching the truth." Yes, "contentment" is the key word. God has a different walk for each of us, for we are all separate individuals with our own unique callings.

And that being said, the scriptures teach us against being saved by works, our own efforts, and against greed and selfish living.

So, thank you, dear friend, for you wise words we must all ponder.

Great post! Hope you have a beautiful weekend!

Andrea

Saleslady371 said...

A few years ago, many months passed without a sale. We were hungry. In our small group setting I asked for prayer. My best girlfriend (very wealthy) gave me a hug at the end of that night and whispered the Philippians scripture in my ear. I had wished it was a prosperity verse instead. But after reading your post, I see the divine wisdom. Eventually, we got a slew of sales to boot. She was right and so are you.

Jackie said...

Wonderful post! "Remain surrendered in a contented condition"........With the help of the Holy Spirit that's where I want to be! Glory to God!

Thanks for sharing!

Sweet Blessings!
Jackie

Debbie said...

I was just writing about this very theme on Laced with Grace today. Paul had the secret of contentment in ALL circumstances.

Blessings and love,
Debbie

beBOLDjen said...

This post is so very thought provoking.

I must admit I've run the gamut since traveling to Ethiopia. I've bounced all over trying to make peace with the two extremes. I've tried to find the balance that is required of me in order to run my particular race and to keep myself from burdening others by trying to make them run my race as if it were their own.

My current conundrum: James 2:15-17 For some people really do horde their abundance and others really do suffer for want of compassionate generosity. God is no less good in both cases. He remains Holy Judge and Perfect Provider in the midst of both situations.