While away speaking at David Rushbrooks induction service at the weekend I had 10 hours alone to myself in the car. What a pleasure to find that “Desiring God” by John Piper had been released for free this month and ten hours in the car was an ideal opportunity to hear it.
So many good things came of listening, so many good things to re-think and re-examine. But one of the things that struck me most powerfully was John Piper’s comments about money:
Speaking about 2 Timothy 6.
6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 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.
Paul adds the second reason not to pursue wealth: “If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” Christians can be and ought to be content with the simple necessities of life.
I’ll mention three reasons why such simplicity is possible and good.
First, when you have God near you and for you, you don’t need extra money or extra things to give you peace and security.
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.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5–6)
No matter which way the market is moving, God is always better than gold. Therefore, by God’s help we can be, and we should be content, with the simplenecessities of life.
Second, we can be content with simplicity because the deepest, most satisfying delights God gives us through creation are free gifts from nature and from loving relationships with people. After your basic needs are met, accumulated money begins to diminish your capacity for these pleasures rather than increase them.
Buying things contributes absolutely nothing to the heart’s capacity for joy. There is a deep difference between the temporary thrill of a new toy and a homecoming hug from a devoted friend. Who do you think has the deepest, most satisfying joy in life, the man who pays $240 for a fortieth-floor suite downtown and spends his evenings in the half-lit, smoke-filled lounge impressing strange women with ten-dollar cocktails, or the man who chooses the Motel by a vacant lot of sunflowers and spends his evening watching the sunset and writing a love letter to his wife?
Third, we should be content with the simple necessities of life because we could invest the extra we make for what really counts. For example, the “Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission 2002” by David Barrett and Todd Johnson reports that there are 1,645,685,000 unevangelized people in the world.1 That means 26.5 percent of the world’s population live in people groups that do not have indigenous evangelizing churches. This does not count the third of the world that does live in evangelized peoples but makes no profession of faith. If the unevangelized are to hear—and Christ commands that they hear—then crosscultural missionaries will have to be sent and paid for.
It’s worth thinking about; what do I find my delight in? Is it in the things I buy or in the God who is more satisfying than all those things. And am I satisfied with the free things he gives me which are infinitely more valuable than the things I want to spend my money on.