The other day (actually more than a week ago), I was really convicted by a Charlotte Mason quote that I read on the Ambleside year 0 email list. I'm too lazy to look it up, but says something to this effect:
Be careful not to make your house too comfortable. A simple shelter is the best, for anything more than that will keep you from experiencing and enjoying all that nature has to offer.
As much as I like my comfortable house, it wasn't hard for me to see the logic: The nicer my house is, the more I want to be in it, rather than outside enjoying creation. Another consequence follows: The more stuff I have and the nicer my house, the more time I must spend cleaning and maintaining, organizing and the like. This very much takes away from my freedom to be outdoors, enjoying what's going on in the part of God's world that I take as my back yard (or nearby neighborhood park). Furthermore, even if we wouldn't be outside, taking care of my "stuff" takes time away from my kids and my family.
After mulling on this for a while, an old familiar bitterness revisited me. I have a husband who is very handy and loves to start projects. I'm the type of person who likes projects finished. See the problem? Several times in recent years (we've only been married about seven and a half years), I've had to really take a couple steps back to keep the unfinished-project bitterness from taking root.
Then it suddenly occurred to me that these unfinished projects that I consistently work to ignore (so that I won't be bitter), are actually a blessing. They make my home less comforting to me, making outside more inviting. Who cares if the walls have coloring on them and are covered with smudges? They're ugly without trim anyway. Instead of wash them, I'll go outside and plant some seeds in the garden with the kids. And so, for the first time, I'm feeling ever so slightly grateful for these unfinished areas of our home. They remind me that this isn't home anyway, and I shouldn't be getting too comfortable.
A couple of days ago, I read 1 Timothy. I liked it so much that I read it again the next day. It really hit me between the eyes (and I'm not too lazy to look this one up). (1 Timothy 6: 3-11 or so). It's talking about how people promoting false doctrines are bad and promote controversy in God's church because they suppose that godliness is a means of gain (v 5).
6.But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
Okay, so Godliness is a means of gain (even great gain), but only when accompanied by contentment. That means, that if I'm godly in hopes of gaining something for myself (say, a nicer house, or more money in some way), then I'm wrong. That's not the Godliness that produces a great gain. Godliness is only a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. Can I really say that if I have food an covering, I'll be content with these? (The NKJ translated this food and "cover", if I remember right, which seemed to me that it implied both clothes and shelter -- who knows). Hmm... I have a lot of food, a lot of clothes, a perfectly adequate house with a few unfinished projects. Can I be content with that, or am I always dreaming of the next thing? (hint, it's the latter).
Now, I'm not saying that dreaming of the next thing is necessarily bad. I'm a visionary -- I need these dreams and hopes of the future. And I think it's Biblical to be yearning and working for our future (especially eternity). But when my dream is "Maybe he'll have some down time and finish a project.... " That, my friends, is lack of contentment.
Then Paul takes it further in 1 Timothy.
9. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
Okay, I'm not going to lecture on how we're all rich. We know it. We know that the poorest person in America is filthy rich in worldwide standards. I don't have to have any money in my bank account to be rich -- I have a house, more vehicles than I care to admit (the men around here, not just my husband but also his brothers, have a thing for buying vehicles), toys for my kids, mountains of clothes, mountains of food, yada yada.
In what ways does my richness draw me into evil, or away from God?
We have a family of friends, who are raising support to go into missions. He's been out of work for nearly two months, and their fourth child is almost due. They're living on, quite literally, no income. Chester hired the husband for a couple of days to help out with the house we're fixing up to resell (ooh, I actually have two houses -- ouch), but ran out of money to pay him. To me, this family seems amazing. I think I might go insane, living for months without income (they've never made much, and I doubt they have savings to live on). If I remember right, this is their third time that they've had extended periods without income in their five year marriage.
That to say, I'm contemplating quitting work when this baby comes. I believe that it's a godly desire to be with my kids. I think that my motives are right. I'm beginning to see some harm done from my having been the sole breadwinner for the past couple of years, and I think it's time for that to change. Chester agrees heartily.
But I'm scared to death of the prospect of living with no income in the event that Chester goes with fixing and reselling houses as our main income. One lump of income every several months? Spending LOTS of money to fix up these houses? What if they don't sell? What if they sell slowly?
In reality, It's God that I'm not trusting (and probably a bit of not trusting Chester too). God has always provided for us. Why would He stop? Our missionary friends are fine -- they're still eating, still have a house to live in, etc. My wealth is causing me to rely on myself, not on God. It's enticing me to not fully trust, causing me to sin.
Charlotte Mason and Paul are really saying the same thing, I think. Too much nice stuff makes you miss out on what God has for you. Charlotte Mason is harping on nature -- that's her thing, and it was in a section on the importance of outside time in a child's development. God broadens it in 1 Timothy through Paul's pen. My too much stuff breeds a lack of contentment, which leads down the road to desiring more. This causes me to distrust God, and probably causes a host of other problems I just don't notice yet.
So what do I do about it? I'm starting out by acknowledging that God is faithful and has always provided for our needs. I can trust Him to continue to do so.
Secondly, I am becoming grateful for what I have -- not the the things (indeed, I'm working to get rid of some of that excess), but for the reminders that God has better things for me that I can ever earn through a job. I can enjoy God's lovely creation more when I care less about inside. I can take time to really love my kids (which also means parenting properly, rather than lazily), when my energy isn't spent in ratraces for more. Gratefulness, just might be the road to contentment. And it's that lack of contentment that causes the problems (well, and ungodliness...)
Third, I will talk with my friends, interview them, to find out how God provides for them when they don't have an income. I tried to have them over tonight, but their kids are sick. I'll share what I find here. I think these are some giants in the faith, and want to learn from them.
So there you have it. Directly from my mind ramblings.