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“For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.  I know how to be abased and I know how to abound.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:11,12,13

“and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field…..or anything that is your neighbors.” Deuteronomy 5:21

Well maybe it’s not my neighbor’s.  I mean I don’t want to take that person’s wife from them, I don’t plan on stealing his car; but I sure do want one that is just like it.  Just take a look at mine and then take a look at that one; that one is sweet!

Covet, not a word we hear or use very much; especially in general speech.  Many might recognize it from the ten commandments and have some idea that it is not a good thing.  Dictionary.com has the definition as: to desire wrongfully, inordinately or, to wish for, eagerly.

No we don’t use covet much; but there are words that get used often, want, desire and even to sometimes dream.  And here’s the thing with those words; they can be fine words, depending on the context/environment that they are used in.

Paul is writing to the church in Philippi.  Paul had ministered to that church and after leaving them, had been thrown into prison for preaching the gospel.  The Philippians had heard of this and, assuming Paul was in trouble, was in terrible need, they took up a collection an sent him the proceeds.  The person by whom the gift was to be presented to Paul, fell ill and Paul has him return to Philippi with his letter.  What Paul’s great concern was that the Philippians did not see Paul’s imprisonment nor their messenger’s illness as a reason for distress.  His letter is one of the most joy filled of his letters as he tries to communicate the fact that, through the Spirit, anyone can and should be content in whatever surroundings they find themselves in; whether trials or triumphs.  For Christ is above all circumstances and will cause all to work in the favor of the person who believes in Christ.  That in desiring to do the will of Christ, in wanting to walk in His ways, in dreaming of a time of eternal fellowship with Jesus Christ; any and all earthly circumstances are endurable.

Now understand the earthly context looks at it quite differently.  All too often, in the desiring of what we don’t have; we, in turn, look at what we do have with contempt.  Look at the wonderful house with its lush yards, its sumptuously large closets and incredibly adorned kitchen or gadget filled family room.  Sigh!  Now look at where I live by comparison; weed filled yard, with tiny little closets and a shabby, dingy kitchen.  We do this with people as well.  Look at her or him, look at how attractive they are.  Look how affectionate and compatible they seem to be.  Now look at who I’m stuck with.  Listen to how they talk to me.  We do it with situations also.  Why can’t I be retired?  Why can’t I have a job?  Why can’t I have a new job?  Wow those people who work for themselves have it made.  Each one of those brings about a comparison of the person’s current situation and how contemptuous they see it.

And there’s still more danger to the earthly concept of desire and action based on contempt; it is never satisfied.  When have you ever heard someone of wealth, say they are satisfied with what they have and don’t need more?  The person always buying the new car, wanting to know what the latest thing coming out is.  The person married to the super model; whether male or female who ends up cheating on them showing utter contempt for the other person.

Dear Sisters and Brothers; the contentment that Paul talks about is not in any way shape or form based upon earthly standards or measurements.  For one can never measure or put a limit on the resources, measure the capacity for giving or set a limit on the generosity of God, Our Father Almighty.  It is based on the Spiritual knowledge that all is in God’s control and therefore, God is all I’ll ever need.  Doubt that?  Ask the five thousand fed with five loaves and two fish.  Ask the widow who fed Elijah and her son with a never emptying jar of grain.  Ask the Israelites as they left Egypt and Egyptians were giving them gold, silver and livestock.  Ask Ruth as Boaz makes sure that there is plenty of grain in the field for her to pick up.   You see if you are in a place of need today; God knows that.  God wants you to be in a place of spiritual contentment knowing that He has all of creation at His disposal to meet your need.  If you are in a place of abundance, God wants you to be in a place of spiritual contentment, not just earthly contentment.  The spiritual contentment says I know that my abundance comes from God, to be used for God’s purposes and has nothing to do with my, effort to earn it, my talent to attain it, my righteous deserving of it.

When I ask; God give me this day…….I know it is never a good thing to look contemptuously on the blessings He has in turn, given me.  It is in the spirit of contentment, I can truly say; Thank you Dear Father.  Amen.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we greatly thank you for the manifest blessings You see fit to pour out on us daily.  Forgive us when we fall into the earthly trap of looking with contempt on those things which You have supplied, instead desiring different or more.  Give us spirits of contentment like Your Apostle Paul had; that we would know that You will meet every need abundantly no matter how the world would measure our situation.  That in so doing, we would live lives that praise Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

“And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven….”  Ecclesiastes 1:13

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter.  Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all”  Ecclesiastes 12:13

I must admit that, in the past,  I have found the message of Ecclesiastes difficult.  Why? Because in a more common vernacular I found it kind of a downer or a bummer.  It seemed Solomon was pretty down on life.   It gave us a great classic rock and roll song by the Bryds:  Turn, Turn, Turn, but besides that it seemed very somber.

Yet lately I think I’ve been blessed by God with a much greater, much more upbeat, deeper spiritual inspiration concerning this book.  For this is a book about doing, about human action and interaction, a book about the search for satisfaction and fulfillment.

The main character is King Solomon, son of the Great King David.  Under what auspices does Solomon undertake his journey and why should we listen to his report?  Well, when it comes to wisdom, short of Jesus Christ (well short I might add), it is hard to find a human to which God imparted more wisdom.  You see when Solomon took the throne, God asked him what he desired the most.  Solomon answered that he desires wise judgement to be able to lead the people.  God is so pleased with his not choosing power, fame and/or riches that He grants him not only very great wisdom, but also riches, fame and power.

So in his wisdom, Solomon believes that God has put it on his heart to search all that a person can do and be that would bring contentment, satisfaction and fulfillment.  Now here is when I got bogged down in the negativity and frustration of Solomon.  Because remember, Solomon was a person who had it all.  He had education.  He had riches.  He had popularity.  People came from all over the world just to meet him; in other words he had fame.

So off he goes.  First he starts with what he knows best, wisdom; that is a person who is wise must be happy.  Not so he finds.  For even with wisdom there are so many things wisdom doesn’t solve.  Okay riches then.  Nope.  Rich people still die and/or their family members die.  The rich are so often targets for evil.  Partying and getting drunk.  Solomon threw some knock down drag out all out parties.  But one couldn’t stay drunk all the time and hangovers were a bear not to mention drunks were fools.  Sex.  Solomon had many wives and concubines.  Yet there was no fulfillment there.  Solomon traveled, he built great palaces, he tried it all.  Thus, after many years of searching and understand this, Solomon truly believed that satisfaction could be found, that somewhere in the worldly pursuits, triumphs and victories rested the foundation to contentment.  His was an honest attempt.  And if anyone had the mental, physical and worldly resources to successfully find the human based happiness; Solomon was that person.  Though search as he did, Solomon did not find it among the world.  Darn!

Where does that leave us?  The world hasn’t changed.  Sure there is different technology, depth and breadth of worldly knowledge, a greater diversity of destinations to explore than Solomon had available.  But that is only variation on a theme.  The world is telling us today that satisfaction, fulfillment happiness rests with:  our level of education, the greatness of our wealth, who our spouse(s) is, how many admirers we have, the amount of our fame, how many victories we can claim, how we can alter our consciousness with drugs or other substances and countless other pursuits.  Here’s the thing, most of us don’t have the resources to chase after all those things.  However, there is one who did; who went before us searching all those things and utterly failed to find the happiness he sought.  Why would we ever want to follow in Solomon’s heart breaking, deeply frustrating journey, only to arrive at the same conclusion.

One would think that we could or at least should be able to make our own or find completely within ourselves the meaning to true happiness.  That would be correct if we had been the ones to create this world.  If we were the creator we would perfectly know where and how to create happiness.  We only have to look around at so many lives utterly shattered by wayward pursuits of earthly happiness to know we are ill equipped to determine or make our own happiness.

So hear is where the positive aspect of Ecclesiastes comes in; the uplifting message of eternal fulfillment and contentment.  Solomon did find it.  It just wasn’t in the world.  God didn’t leave Solomon frustrated and bitter in his searching.  God showed Solomon that satisfaction and justification rests with Him; with God.  Solomon declares that God makes everything beautiful in its own time.  Solomon testifies that there is rejoicing and joy in eating and drinking and enjoying the work that God has given each of us to do.

Do not be dismayed by the biblical use of the word fear.  For there is the dread of earthly fear and there is the awestruck, reverence of the Godly fear.  The Godly fear is not about dread as much as it is about being in the presence of the overwhelming Perfect Power.  Even though that power is Love; His love is still overpowering; as is His power of Justice and Righteousness.  God is the Creator.  As Creator, He created the ability to be fulfilled, to be content, to be happy.  Solomon found what it was or more accurately Who it was.  Love, life, fulfillment, contentment, happiness, all start with, are all sustained by and all end with God Almighty.  And as He gave His Son, Jesus Christ for our salvation; these other things He will give as well to those who believe on His Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank you that You do not keep Your Wisdom hid from us.  Thank You that You have given wisdom to men like Solomon and then shared that wisdom through Your Word that we might learn from his experience.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father when we search in the world for fulfillment.  Show us the blessings, joy, peace and contentment that comes from seeking You first and following Your Commandments.  That our work, our lives would praise Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

” Everywhere and in all things I have learned to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:12-13

“Consider the lilies of the field…….”  Matthew 6:28

A quick note about what this post is not.  Based on the title if some are thinking this is to be a discussion or argument about which economic system God prefers, then I suggest you keep on searching somewhere else.  I have found nothing in scripture definitively pointing to one system over another.  I believe God can use any and all systems to bring about His plan.

Yet lately there has been a significant amount of discussion about the pros and cons of different systems in helping the people to which the system applies.  So here is the thing, trickle down, capitalism, socialism, communism, equitable distribution of wealth are all man designed processes concerned with material welfare of people.

While these systems are of human origin the basic question still arises, whose material is it originally as well as where does it come from?  It would seem to me that scripture tells us that what we should be acknowledging and then therefore working with, regardless of the system we live with, is the Flow Down system.  That is, what we have, all we have, all we need comes from our Heavenly Father.

Okay, I hear the arguments starting.  Sure, comes from God, I get that.  But, if I don’t have what I think I should, it is because all those rich folks are hoarding what God wants me to have right?  Hold on just a minute.  God warns against those who are sluggards and won’t work expecting others just to give them things.  That is what the poor mainly are right; wanting what I have worked so hard for?  All rich are cursed; right?  All poor are good?  But wait if the poor stop being poor; will they become cursed?  Jesus Christ and Paul (in His Name) seem to give us some insights.

Paul tells us that he has experienced the ends of the spectrum.  He has known abundance and hasn’t felt cursed because of it.  He has known need without being bitter at God or his fellow person.  He has been full and he has been hungry.  How is he able to handle all these different experiences; through Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ always uses words with precision.  If He wanted us to just look at the lilies, He would have said so.  However, Jesus asked us to “consider” the lilies; which is a deeper process.  The lily doesn’t, in fact can’t decide to look a specific way.  It doesn’t select the best seeds, decide to be planted in only the good soils, meticulously plan out how much rain it will get or hours of sunshine it will expose itself to.  No, all those things happen because of God and yet it’s beauty is unsurpassed.

So what’s the point of all of this.  Flow Down seems to me to be summed up in Jesus’ statement:  “How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask.  Yes!  Woo Hoo!  That means I should ask away; money, power, promotion fame, ….you said it, if I ask God will give. Hmmmm:  How would Jesus define good?  When asked by Jesus, the wealth of the rich man kept him from following Jesus.  The man who kept getting blessed harvests from God; who kept tearing down his barns just to build bigger ones, to acquire and save more and more, in the end was called a fool.

So who knows what the good things are?  God does.  Keeping me from temptation, keeping me from evil, giving to me today what I need (daily bread), forgiving me; these are all good.  Let’s break this down to some practical terms and examples.  I am a writer who has had one book published and completed a second book.  I am asking God (please please don’t think that this is some underhanded, sly scheme of asking anything from readers of this) for some resources that it will take to get the second book published.  Today it didn’t come.  Am I to say that I was wrong to ask?  Am I to assume that God hates my book?  What I’ve received today is an abundant choice of food when I have been hungry.  We are about to have our coldest day in our history and I am warm.  In short, I received today exactly what I needed.  I did not need those resources today.  God will decide when I do.

God may decide one day that I need to receive a significant amount of resources due to sale of my books.  What should be reaction be then?  I believe it will be to understand; there is a need, it may be mine it may be of someone around me for me to use those resources for.  I’m not to bury that money in the ground as the unwise servant did.  I’m not to tear down what I have just to buy bigger things and bigger things as the foolish farmer did.  If I’m blessed with success in my business; who has been out of work for a long time that I can hire?  If my books take a downturn or, as I am right now, without steady work due to the economic downturn and I don’t have the same measurable material wealth; I obviously don’t need it.  God will provide.  He will Flow Down to me what I need.

Brothers and sisters know that while I can see the reality of God’s Grace and long to live in perfect contentment without fear; alas, I have not achieved it.  So that is why the words of Paul are so comforting.  For I know that it can be done.  And to be done, if it is to be done, it must be done; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father; we struggle mightily with questions about what is the best man made system, how to correctly measure prosperity whose to blame for achieving or lack thereof.  Forgive us Merciful Father when we turn from what You have so clearly showed us.  Pour Out Your Spirit upon us Dear Father that we might come before You with a grateful heart.  Flow Down Your most perfect blessings upon us which are always more than sufficient yet also keeping us from too much.  Put Love and Generosity in our hearts so that we would always strive to share Your bountiful gifts with others in need.  That in our sharing and thanksgiving we would be living lives of joyful praise to You.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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