Phil 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything but in everything…
Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man. (Pro. 27:20)
There was a 1934 movie entitled “Death takes a holiday” (1998 remake, “Meet Joe Black”)
-In summary death takes on human form to find out why people fear him…evidently death is not too bright if he can’t figure that out.
-But he wanders around in human form for a few days, falls in love, yada yada.
-Meanwhile people stop dying…and this turns out to be a bad thing.
The writer of Proverbs is saying here…death, actually never takes holidays.
People keep dying, day after day, world without end.
The eyes of man (men and women, mankind) are likewise never satisfied…never truly content.
The eyes can’t ever take in enough, the human heart can never have enough…to become full…satiated.
The eyes are symbolic of the heart here…it is with the eyes that we “take in” or “seek to possess” what is around us…or we lament what is not ours to have and yet we want.
The eyes are always looking, looking…always seeing what we don’t have, could have, want to have.
This proverb has never been more relevant than now in the age of constant images…images from everywhere, all the time…streaming more and more to our hearts through our eyes.
In the Netflix docudrama “The Social Dilemma” the most moving scene for me was when a young girl is posting selfies of her face and she receives instant positive feedback from many “friends”
Then she receives one post from someone mocking the size of her ears (her ears are fine by the way)…she instantly feels shame, she tries to cover her ears with her hair.
Now she looks at her own image, and tears form…she cannot hear the many who said “so pretty”
All she can see is her “ears”…ears that are growing more and more unattractive in her mind…as discontentment says “feed me, keep feeding me.”
She will scan every other image and every other face for more perfect ears than hers…and she will find them.
This is terrible…in so many ways.
When I say terrible…I don’t mean social media…I am not commenting on that per se.
What is terrible is the wrathful insatiable appetite of discontent in the human heart.
We feed it and then it will consume us…it will take our very lives.
I mean this quite literally…it can actually take lives.
Do what you want about social media….something or nothing.
But you must do something about discontentment…and you must address it wisely because it will not leave you and your family alone.
I was talking with my daughter, Casey (who is a counselor) about the people she works with and what drives so much of their discontent and unhappiness.
We spoke of this scene from the film and how she related to it personally…when she was a teen there was social media…but not nearly as readily available as now.
She said even if someone didn’t point out a “flaw” in her when she was younger…just hearing someone else talk of their own perceived “flaws” could trigger an unhealthy self-focus in her own mind.
The eyes are perfect representations of the pathway of discontentment.
The organ of discontent is the brain…what we think, believe, value…happens there.
But the prime pathway…is through the eyes.
We scan with our eyes…like a radar searching for things to lock on to.
A pretty face, a prettier face than mine, prettier face than my spouse has.
A car. A better car.
A house…a bigger house…a happier house…look at that warm glow from that window…wish my windows had a warm glow.
Someone with more health…or a family…or a dog, or a better dog…I bet that dog always obeys.
Her hair, or his teeth, or personality, or…
That smile…he or she is surely nicer than my spouse…just look at that smile…they are always kind, unlike my spouse, I’m sure of it…just look at that smile.
A job. A vacation. A bank account. Money…more money.
The eyes are no more likely to become full and satisfied than the grave is.
Death takes no holidays…neither does human discontent.
What are we to do?
If we are to be fools…we will try to satisfy our discontent by feeding it.
That is the point of this proverb.
Surely if I dump more in…someday…my eyes, my heart…will say “Whew, I’m stuffed…I’m content.”
But that is to be a fool…because we do not satisfy discontent by feeding it…it is never satisfied.
Any more than the grave itself will ever become satisfied.
Those who have struggled with addictions of all kinds understand this all too well.
Feeding addictions makes them stronger, more powerful.
The same is true with feeding discontent.
We must starve discontent to death by feeding our contentment.
We don’t just attempt to “not be discontent”…we instead are told to “pursue contentment”
How do we do this…well, we do it on purpose…it certainly won’t just happen to us.
We do it consistently…contentment must not take holidays…because discontent doesn’t.
I’ve read so many stories of people…actors, politicians, athletes, executives, body builders, pastors….whose answer to
“how much will be enough for you”
Was always… “Just a little more.”
This is to believe and follow the path of folly.
What is the wise path?
What is the way of feeding contentment?
First, we must realize the fact that we are all prone to discontent, and that to feed that discontent is to become more and more unhappy…and less and less content.
First…we need an understanding, true and honest knowledge about our condition.
All of us have hearts that are prone to discontent…the ways it shows up varies from person to person…the symptoms vary…but all of us test positive for this disease.
You can satisfy a tiger by feeding it…if it is full enough…it won’t eat you.
You cannot satisfy fire by feeding it…it only demands more…keep feeding it…it will consume you.
The human heart is like a fire, not a tiger…
Masters of media understand this and use the fact to further their own goals.
If the human heart was not predisposed to discontent…social media would not be the advertising boon that it is…it could not grab our hearts if our hearts were not so “grabbable.”
Second, we must repent of discontentment and all that it says about how we view God and his provision in our lives.
We have to keep on doing this…we are fully and finally forgiven for our sins when we believe the gospel…our relationship with God is secure forever.
But when we sin, we break fellowship with God and we suffer for it when we do.
So, we must continue to confess our sins…and move back into restored fellowship with God.
Finally, we must take consistent, proactive steps, ongoing steps to feed contentment.
-These actions of feeding contentment will at the same time…cut off nourishment to discontent.
-In this life…discontent won’t ever completely die in our hearts…but we can weaken it enough through lack of nourishment that it no longer has the power to control us.
This year we are Proverbs…a life of wisdom.
This month…the wisdom of contentment and gratitude.
We will focus on
- Understanding and acknowledgement of our condition and
- Repentance for our demanding rather than trusting hearts.
Next week: We will focus on some proactive, day to day steps to feed contentment.
FIRST, UNDERSTANDING: WHAT IS COVETING AND DISCONTENT.
Listen to the 10th commandment, of the famous ten commandments.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s. (Ex. 20:17)
The word translated “covet” is a word that means to “desire, take pleasure in something.”
It can be either a positive or a negative thing.
Here, of course, it is used in the negative.
In the positive it was used to describe how it was “pleasant to the sight” of God when he saw the creation he had made. (Gen 2:9)
But it is often used in the negative…like when Eve “desired” (coveted) the forbidden fruit.
Or in another Proverbs (6:25) in a caution about the adulteress “Do not desire (covet) her beauty in your heart”
In the New Testament there is a word used for coveting that is always used in the negative.
And Jesus 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)
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Col. 3:5)
What exactly does covet mean and how is it related to discontent?
In the Old and New Testament, it refers to desiring or longing for something that is not rightfully yours…it is not what God wants for you.
Desire twisted into idolatry.
This doesn’t mean all desire to have something you do not currently possess is wrong.
-Working to complete a degree for instance…is the desire for what you don’t have…and it can be good.
*My dad had dropped out of HS and was working as a plumber and laying in a puddle of water under a house…the layer of ice broke and he lay there freezing trying to complete the repair.
-He thought to himself… “Maybe I’ll go to college.”
That is not to say that being a plumber is less than a noble profession or that going to college is always a better thing.
The point is that his discontent with his current situation lead to some positive action on his part.
Someone could just as likely have been discontent with college…and dropped out and embarked on a happy and successful career as a plumber.
The same kind of healthy discontent can drive people to have better marriages or better health.
The desire to own a house leading to savings is another example…of wanting what you don’t have in an appropriate way.
Or even the desire for leadership in the church Paul wrote is a good thing
“If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires (the word used here is a translation the OT word for Covet) a noble task”. 1 Tim. 3:1
How do I discern unhealthy versus healthy discontent?
Let me offer a few questions to help think this through…
- Is this something I should desire or it is clearly outside the realm of God’s will?
-The desire to have someone else’s spouse for instance…no, God does that want that.
-There are some things we might want…that without question, we should not want.
- Could I reasonable hope to obtain this through morally right planning and am I willing to take steps to move towards this desire.
-So, is there a path of righteous wisdom to obtain what I want…yes or no?
-Then am I willing to take steps…or just sit around and complain and covet?
- Has this thing I desire taken over or does it threaten to take over my mind, heart, life?
-Is my heart moving in love for God and others…or away from it?
I think that for the most part…we are aware, if we are honest, of whether what we desire and how we are desiring it is appropriate or not.
Healthy discontent moves us to hearts and actions that lead to us becoming people who are more and more like Christ.
*These actions to move forward lead to increasing joy.
Unhealthy discontent does the exact oppositive.
*Our actions, or thoughts…make us increasingly less joyfully.
So…are you discontent with your discontentment?
Great…let’s pursue a heart that is moving towards contentment.
All of God’s commands against something are because of what he is for.
He is not a cosmic killjoy…trying to eliminate human happiness wherever finds it.
Quite the opposite…when Jesus said “Be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14)
He was not implying that you should never desire a raise or work to improve your ability to earn more…he was aiming for the heart.
He knows how joy happens in the human heart.
“Do you want to be happy as you move through your work life…then do the work hard to be content with were you are all along the way.”
“If you are not learning to be content today you will not wake up content tomorrow.”
Want to learn to become content…start today…with whatever your current circumstances are.
Listen to what Paul told Timothy:
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. (1 Tim. 6:6–8)
To know God, to be accepted by God…this is, in itself, great gain.
So…relationship with God…all by itself…could and should enough to become content.
And it you have something to eat and something to wear…well that’s helpful…be sure to be content with that as well.
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb. 13:5
Money is not evil; the love of money is…because when we love money…we love what it can get us…and we can becomes slaves to unbridled desire for more and more (even the very rich fall in love with the power money can bring)
Jesus said you cannot love both God and money (again, money as power to get what you want…a symbol of ongoing discontent)…you can only have one Lord, one master in your heart.
Rich and poor alike can easily fall in love with money and have discontentment in their hearts.
The antidote for the love of money…the path of contentment is to breathe deeply of the reality that God has said “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
Remember that foundational verse in Proverbs…
“Above all else guard your heart, it is the well spring of life.” 4:23
When God said that his people were not to covet their neighbors’ houses or spouses
He is demonstrating that he wants more for us than the 7th commandment…Don’t’ commit adultery.
Or the 8th commandment…don’t steal.
God wants our hearts to be free of the very desire to have what is not appropriately ours to have.
We wants to change our wanters…our hearts, the well springs of our lives.
Jesus demonstrates how this approach to God’s commandments is accurate when he connected the 6th commandment (you shall not murder) to anger in your heart.
And the 7th commandment (you shall not commit adultery) to looking at a woman with lust.
This isn’t to say that anger or lust is equal to murder and adultery…they are not.
But it is to say that what God has always been after is our hearts…they are the source of our lives.
Let’s look at another Proverb that addresses this problem of discontent in the human heart…and then finish with some time for personal acknowledge of our condition and confession of our sin.
“The leech has two daughters: give, give!” There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say “enough!” Sheol and a barren womb, a land that is not saturated with water, and fire that does not say “enough!”
The writers of Proverbs liked to use this kind of dialogue… “Two, no three, no four”
This was done for emphasis.
We might hear something like “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t do that!”
The idea is that when someone says “Give me one good reason.”
-They really mean “There is no good reason and you can’t give me one.”
Our reply is… “That idea is so bad, I can actually give you a bunch of good reasons why you should’nt do it.”
Here, the writer of Proverbs is saying to the unspoken question…
“Give me one good reason why I should not give in to this insatiable desire…one good reason why I should not feed my discontent.”
“Okay, I’ll give you one…no three, no four…actually five!”
Here is the graphic, memorable response to the one who thinks it’s wise to feed discontent…or who believes that they have not tested positive for the disease of demanding and discontentment.
The leech has two daughters…they are both are named or constantly cry out…“give, give!”
Not as in “they give”…but “Give me, give me!”
A graphic and gross word picture…a couple of leech daughters named “give”
We use the word “leech” today to refer to people who attach to others and drain them of their resources.
In the natural world a leech will suck the host of its blood and keep going until it is overfull…doesn’t ever seem to be satisfied.
-When I read this Proverb, I have this image of two sister leeches with dresses, wigs, lipstick… “hi, our name is ‘give’, so nice to meet you.”
I don’t want these sisters in my life…but I have them in my life…it is a picture of my heart.
Not a pretty one either.
Next we have “sheol” or the grave again…death never becomes satisfied with the number of dead…in fact it is not satisfied until everyone on the planet is found in the grave.
Then there is the barren womb.
The barren womb was, in the OT tradition, a thing of great desperation…never satisfied…demanding always demanding.
Rachel said to Jacob “Give me children, or I’ll die.”
To which he replied in exasperation “Am I God? How can I give you what you demand…I cannot.”
Palestine is a land of minimal rainfall and large areas are wilderness…when rain falls on parched ground it immediately is soaked up and never seems to be satisfied.
Finally, Fire…we have already discussed this…throw fuel on fire…it grows more demanding.
All this was meant to be memorable and impactful ways of painting a picture of human discontent
“I only need a little more and I will be happy! Give me one good reason why I should not stay on this path!”
I’ll give you more than one…leech, grave, barren womb, dry land, fire.
Wake up…stop this foolishness…this is a bad path you are one.
Okay…so are we aware?
Do we see our hearts?
Then, let’s repent.
What is repentance and why is repentance important?
REPENTANCE: IS TO TURN AROUND IN OUR MINDS (HEARTS) AND GO GOD’S DIRECTION.
It begins with seeing our sin, then agreeing with God about our sin…it’s doing an about face and going his way.
It is so important because of our ongoing need for restored fellowship with God.
When we sin, we break fellowship…not relationship.
He doesn’t disown us as children…but we do, like the prodigal, lose fellowship with our father.
When we break fellowship…we are living outside the realm of his power in our lives…diminishing joy, diminishing growth in Christlikeness, diminishing power to love others and change in good ways.
Why would he empower us to go in the opposite direction from him…what father would do that?
We repent to return to fellowship him…to enjoy life with him…to experience his grace and power in our lives anew
What exactly are we repenting of when we ask God for forgive us for our coveting, or ingratitude?
We are repenting of our words…our complaining, ungrateful, selfish words, our words that betray wrong values.
We could be repenting of our actions…our spending, our overworking, our foolish interactions with other people that are unwise and inappropriate, taking steps to feed discontent that are in essence idolatry.
It could be married people trying to catch the eye someone other than their spouse.
It could be going from planning a purchase (car, house) to allowing that thing to dominate your life.
It could be scanning online to compare and contrast the reality of your own life with the virtual unreality of someone else’s life.
And at the core level we are repenting of our demanding hearts.
Israel continually demanded that God do more or do other than what he was doing.
They aroused God’s anger because instead of gratitude and ongoing contentment and enjoyment of God’s provision…they continually complained…demanded that God do what they wanted him to do.
Their demanding hearts made them miserable…and broke fellowship with God.
Let’s repent of our words, actions…but today, especially of our demanding hearts
Because to demand from God is the opposite of trusting him…and enjoying him.
What are you demanding (subtly perhaps) that God do, or give that he is not doing or giving?
We cannot make him miserable with our demands and our discontent…he is eternal joy.
We can and often do…make ourselves miserable…and miss participation in his joy.
Others have rejoiced and learned contentment in every circumstance…they are like us and we are like them…so we can learn to do the same…if we will.
Do you want move in the direction of joy and contentment…let’s begin with repentance.
Lead time of repentance: Receive grace
Two Closing Songs