TEXT : Hebrews 13:5
TITLE: Challenges and Encouragements on the road to Contentment
The letter to the Hebrews is a letter to a group of (Hebrew) Christians “who are tempted to compromise their faith- this being tantamount to abandoning the gospel. They were tempted to withdraw from the good fight of faith… enticed by the teachings which threaten the uniqueness of Christ ; they are in danger of squandering their birthright in order to purchase temporary relief…”. 
At the heart of the letter to the Hebrews the writer addresses to deep discontentment that has crept into the hearts of these Hebrew Christians. Christ no longer is sufficient and supreme in their lives. When this happens – when the first love for Christ is lost (see Rev 2:4) from the heart of the professing Christian, other loves ( called idols) very quickly take the place that was His place. John Calvin is right. The human heart is an idol factory (Institutes). Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so the human heart abhors a vacuum. The heart does not remain in neutral. It soon engages another love. To the Galatians who had a similar problem, the apostle Paul wrote: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel…” (Gal 1:6)
It is against this background that we need to see the closing exhortations of the writer to the Hebrews in Ch. 13, and particularly this one: “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.” (Hebrews 13:5 ESV)
At the heart of this text is the phrase, “be content with what you have”. On the left side of that is an exhortation and a warning: “Keep your life free from the love of money”. On the right side is a promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Another way to say this is, at the heart of this text is the phrase “be content with what you have”. On the left side is the cause of that which makes us discontent (the love of money) and on the right hand is the cure for our discontentment (God’s provision).
The love of money is clearly another temptation to the Hebrews who were giving up on Christ and looking for other loves. Here the writer is echoing something of that which Paul has said to Timothy, pastor of the church in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3) :
But 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. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10 ESV). Advising his young pastor friend in many ways, he addresses the discontentment of many church members.
The Hebrew Christians apparently did not always struggle with discontentment. Listen to this:
“But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” (Hebrews 10:32-34 ESV)
This Hebrew Christian group to whom this letter is addressed once had a Christ centered perspective . They had it in the midst of many trials. They had Christ, and they lived their lives in sacrifice for others, knowing that they had treasures in heaven (Hebr. 10:34 ; Matt 6:19ff). Those were the former days, BUT now they were struggling. They were struggling among many things to keep their lives free from the love of money, because somewhere, as I suggested earlier, they had lost perspective of their greatest treasure, who is Christ.
Let us learn from this that yesterday’s experience of Christ isn’t sufficient for today! Christ must be continually walked with, relied upon, and spoken to … daily! God help us a to guard against a religion of yesterday! Hebrews Chapter 2 is a chapter that warns us against neglecting our salvation. Yes, it is true that we are saved by God’s grace minus any of our own effort. But how do you know that you are saved, Christian? You must walk in obedience to Christ. And that faith is called the “today” faith (see Hebr. 3: 8,13,15; 4:7). In this regard I want to warn you in particular against living in the past; living on past victories (i.e. falling prey to the Elijah syndrome – 1 Kings 17-19) where the prophet fought tirelessly against evil and overcame by the power of God, but lapsed into a deep depression – essentially because he was not careful to keep God at the center of his perspective. Satan knows when to attack you – when you have experienced spiritual victories, and when you are tired and vulnerable and you are off guard. When you are tired it is not time to take a rest from spiritual vigilance. You must continue to diligently pray, read the Bible and worship. Otherwise discontentment or disillusionment will catch you quicker than you think.
With these thoughts in mind then may I present to you a very real dilemma which I am afraid, many of you are presently facing with respect to the love of money.
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) a famous Russian writer of short stories and novels, wrote a short story entitled : “How much land does a man need?” He verbalizes this problem very well.
The central character of the story is a peasant named Pahom. He complains that he does not own enough landHe says:"if I had plenty of land, I shouldn't fear the devil himself!". Unbeknown to him, Satan is present sitting behind the stove and listening. Satan accepts his challenge and also tells that he would give Pahom more land and then to snatch everything from him.
A little later, a landlady in the village decides to sell her estate, and the peasants of the village buy as much of that land as they can. Pahom himself purchases some land, and by working off the extra land is able to repay his debts and live a more comfortable life. However, Pahom then becomes very possessive of his land, and this causes arguments with his neighbours. Threats to burn his building began to be uttered. He decides to sell and relocate to another commune with more available land. Here, he can grow even more crops and so he makes more money. However he has to grow the crops on rented land, which irritates him. After buying and selling a lot of fertile and good land he is eventually introduced to the Bashkirs, who own a huge amount of land which they are willing to sell. Pahom seeks to negotiate as much of their land for as low a price as he possibly can. Their offer is very unusual. For a sum of one thousand roubles, Pahom can walk around as large an area as he wants. He starts at daybreak, marking his route with a spade along the way. If he reaches his starting point by sunset that day, the entire area of the land which he has marked will be his, but if he does not reach his starting point as the sun goes down, he will lose his money and receive no land.
He is delighted as he believes that he has hit upon the bargain of a lifetime. That night, Pahom has a dream in which he sees himself lying dead at the feet of the devil, who is laughing.
The day comes. He stays out as late as possible, marking out land until just before the sun sets. Towards the end of the day, he realizes that he is far from the starting point and runs back as fast as he can to the waiting Bashkirs. He finally arrives at the starting point just as the sun sets, but he has utterly exhausted himself from the run, and Pahom drops dead.
His servant buries him in an ordinary grave only six feet long and three feet wide , thus ironically answering the question posed in the title of the story : “How much land does a man need?” The writer to the Hebrews reminds us : “Be content with what you have.”
Allow me then to summarize my observations concerning the lack of contentment, as observed from the life of the Hebrew Christians and from this moving story:
1. Loosing Christ at the center of you earthly perspective leads you to seek for other things (counterfeit gods). Tim Keller in his book “Counterfeit gods“ writes: “A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. And idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought. It can be family and children, or career and making money, or achievement and critical acclaim, or saving “face” and social standing. It can be a romantic relationship, peer approval, competence and skill, secure and comfortable circumstances, your beauty or your brains, a great political or social cause, your morality and virtue, or even success in the Christian ministry. When your meaning in life is to fix someone else’s life, we may call it “codependency” but it is really idolatry. An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel significant and secure.”
2. The end of the story is that your idols (who stir up continued discontentment) will kill you and they will leave dead at the feet of the devil, who will be laughing !
Which side of the statement “Be content with what you have “ are you on?
On the left side ? “Keep your life free from the love of money”
On the right side ? “… for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
1. What do you presently have in your hand? Is it really not enough?
2. What are you chasing, and why is it causing you to be breathless and exhausted, robbing you of your joy and contentment in the Lord?
3. Is Christ not sufficient for your needs, or is He? Answer this question honestly (if necessary, use Keller’s checklist again), and then read Matthew 6:25-34 .