Consider the Squirrels
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, or we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
You got to have it! You wanted it so badly that you couldn’t think about anything else. First time you saw it, It was marvelous and magical. So you planned, plotted, schemed, worked and saved until you could go to the store and buy it. You bring your new treasure home. What delight and contentment will now be yours… for about 3 days. And then the cycle reboots and you do it all over again. Perhaps another thing will do the trick. No. No it won’t. I know this from experience.
This way of thinking is the animating principle of the world. “If only I had this, my life would be complete.” We humans say these kinds of things to ourselves all the the time, Most will gather more things than they’ll ever need. And then when they leave this earth, its up to those who outlive them to deal with the residue
In some ways this philosophy of life kind of reminds me of squirrels. Research has demonstrated that they gather and hide way more nuts than they will ever eat. Yes yes, I know squirrels actually end up planting a lot of trees as a result. I had biology class too. But I can assure you that in the moment of gathering, the squirrels aren’t doing it because they have a deep commitment to ecology. They’re doing it because they are, by nature greedy and never really satisfied. And when they chase and scold each other under my neighbors chestnut tree, they’re not gallantly staging a protest to save the forest. They simply want more than the other squirrels. They’re never really content. The words “contentment” and “squirrel” are not terms we normally see together. I once saw a squirrel, face so packed full of nuts, his hind legs weren’t touching the ground so he hobbled away doing a hand stand.
Mind you, the antics of squirrels in the fall are fun to watch and sometimes quite funny. But It’s not so funny when human beings behave in the same way; because we are not squirrels. And contentment is actually a possibility for us.
As human beings we were created with the capacity that far exceeds that of squirrels and all other animals for that matter We were made in the image of God. That means that we are not merely bodies that live and move upon the earth eating food and breathing air. We are also spirits. We have souls. Souls that are meant to be in loving conversation with their creator. And we cannot feel quite right unless we are! We can try to gather more and more stuff and experiences and flavors of life or what have you as we attempt to fill up the the emptiness we feel, but our souls cannot and will not rest until we are in loving conversation with our creator.
Conversation. I use that term for our relationship to God because that’s how our relationship to him starts and also continues. We hear his voice. We hear him speaking through the word. And when we begin to understand that he is speaking to us; that all of the promises he offers us through his Son Jesus — forgiveness of sins, eternal life, heaven itself, all that is his — is for us, in other words, we have faith. And having heard the voice of our lord in faith we begin to speak to him in our prayers and in our praise. We speak of our joys and sorrows, our concerns our challenges. He hears us and assures us through his word and his provision. He actually has promised us that no matter what happens, no matter what we might be asked to endure, he will ultimately make use of it for our good.
This fact, this reality, this conversation we have with God so calms our hearts that the contentment we crave, which would otherwise elude us becomes ours. You see, by faith we realize just how big our Lord is: bigger than all of our problems, bigger than anything that might threaten us. By faith we also know that this God who is bigger than everything else, is on our side. How can this be true? Because he has nothing against us. Whatever sins we might have committed against him have been removed from his sight by going to cross for us. God now calls you his beloved sons his beloved daughters. And he has promised in many different times and ways that he will do right by you no matter how things might look.
That’s how you differ from squirrels! You can have all that good stuff in your heart and mind that comes from being in conversation with God. You know that gathering nuts is not all there is. You know that you have a God who loves you and will take care of you. So you can calm down as you live. You can be nice to the others because all of that fear that comes from a feeling of emptiness is fulfilled by the relationship you have to God through Christ Jesus. Contentment is yours. And it makes all the difference in how you approach your life with the people around you. As paul said in the text “There is great gain in godliness and contentment.”
And there’s a another thing the text mentions: Godliness. What’s that? What is godliness? It means being doing what God would do. How does one become more godly? It happens in the conversation with him. Do you know how when you spend a lot of time with someone, you begin to take on some of their ways. I remember when I was in school, I used to eat lunch with the same people every day. And over time, we began to start laughing at the same stuff and seeing things in similar ways. We were, sort of rubbing off on each other. It happens when you spend a lot of time with others. In a similar way, when you are in conversation with God he begins to influence the way you live and think…more than any other because God’s Holy Spirit actually works upon your heart… his spirit is in his words to you. He begins to rub off on you. Things like Loving others, gentleness, kindness — all the stuff the world saw in Jesus when he walked among us—begins to show itself in our daily lives.
The conversation with God started for you at the moment you were baptized. He said, “you are mine” You received his holy Spirit. Faith began to sprout and grow. As you grew in your knowledge of him, You began to understand his word and you learned to speak back to him, first perhaps it was “a come lord Jesus” or a “now I lay me down to sleep” taught to your by your parents. In Sunday School and worship you heard his voice more consistently. In Pre-confirmation and confirmation, we helped you to hear his voice even more. And we worked in a more detailed way on how you can talk to him.
This conversation, this relationship with God is to be ongoing. This way of life. This Faith into which you have been called must proceed. You can’t very well stay acquainted with another person if you never hear their voice and never speak to them. Don’t devolve into a squirrel! Be the children of God that you are called to be. AMEN