Contentment vs. Covetousness

I have this uncanny ability for remembering important dates. Unfortunately, what my brain registers as “important” has virtually nothing to do with history and everything to do with my personal history. I remember all of the days—first dates, breakups, birthdays. Considering all the things that could be remembered (namely math, history, bible verses) this one seems pretty rogue and less-than-useful. But I’m finding that the Lord uses these date memories to pause and praise.

Thanksgiving is typically a more reflective holiday as it’s dedicated to gratitude, thus lending itself to thinking back and thanking God. I decided to “scroll” back through my feeds to expedite the process. In looking back I stumbled upon a picture of my now husBen, then boyfriend sitting across from me, mid sip from a coffee mug at one of my favorite spots in my hometown. I remembered taking him there right before he left town to go home for the Holiday. I remember it being his first time for me to bring a boy home in years. I remember how my mom told me that I was a lovely version of myself when I was with him. I remember being so excited to see him hit it off with my brothers. But most of all, I remember him telling me that he loved me for the first time, across the table at that coffee shop, that Thanksgiving weekend three years ago.

The photo whisked me back into the moment. Photos have a way of doing that, whisking us back into moments, and transporting us back in time. The image brought it all back, and I was grateful to remember.

It’s funny though, even though I wouldn’t say I have since become ungrateful for that moment, I think I kind of forgot about it. Or rather, buried it beneath a thousand other thoughts. Every single day I peer into other peoples’ lives, what they own, how they wear their hair, how they decorate their homes, how they dress their kids, and I feel experience a mix of inspiration, that turns into pressure, that turns into covetousness, and if unchecked becomes discontentment.

I’ve learned that discontentment and forgetfulness go hand in hand. I have so much to be grateful for, but what I have seems to get buried beneath what I want. Is it not slightly ironic that in November we look at how great our lives are and say “thank you” for what we have. And once Thanksgiving day has passed, we say, “but here’s a list of things I’d like for Christmas.”

I want to discipline myself to reflect and rejoice more than I creep and covet.

The Israelites model this well as they too had a long list of reasons to be filled with thankfulness and contentment, but simultaneously coveted what others had.

The first few chapters of 1 Samuel describe the Israelites conflict with the Philistines, specifically the Philistines taking the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites and the ensuing calamities. In chapter six the Ark of the Covenant is returned to the Israelites and they all rejoice— the presence of the Lord had returned to the people or Israel. When addressing the house of Israel, Samuel called them to repentance saying:

“If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 7:3).

In that moment, the people responded well: “So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only” (1 Samuel 7:4).

And Samuel commemorated the moment: “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer, for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12).

Samuel marked the moment by creating a reminder, a tangible thing to point to the faithfulness of the Lord, so that he and all the people of Israel would be reminded that the Lord is faithful and had seen them through before.

Are you setting up reminders that will prompt you to reflect on the faithfulness of the Lord, then rejoice in his provision, and rest in knowing that he is good?

Social media can be that for us if we steward it well. It can cause us to reflect, rejoice, and rest. Or it can invite us to creep on what other people have and begin to covet their circumstances over our own.

In 1 Samuel 8 the people of Israel do just that. As Samuel aged, his bone-headed sons were next in line to become judges over the house of Israel. It should be noted that up to this point the governmental structure for Israel was that of a Theocracy, not a monarchy. Judges were more or less liaisons between God and the people. But Israel decided it wanted a monarchy instead of a theocracy, arguing to Samuel:

“No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like al the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:19-20).

The Lord was already meeting those needs for Israel, and had been meeting those needs for Israel, since the Exodus. It was the Lord who had defeated the Philistines in their lifetime. It was the Lord who judged them according to his covenant with them. It was the Lord who protected them while they were in Egypt, when they crossed through the sea, and while they wandered in the wilderness. Did they forget? Or did they just bury the memories beneath desires for what other nations had?

Our pastor shared this quote at church last week and it’s been lingering in my mind ever since:

“If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great….The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world” John Piper, A Hunger For God

I can’t help but ask myself what it is that I’m nibbling on? Am I hungry for Jesus, or have I stuffed myself with nibbles of trivialities?

Today marks the beginning of the Advent season. As we consider how to seek first the kingdom of God during this season, I want to continue to reflect on the Lord’s faithfulness throughout the year, rejoice in what He’s done, and rest in knowing that He’s already written all our days and that He is good. This discipline I believe will direct my gaze away from myself, what I think I want and need, and turn my eyes upon Jesus, the bread that satisfies.

How can you prioritize remembering this week?

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