One of the all time greatest Disney movies is “Cool Runnings.” It is enticing–the struggle to overcome unbelievable odds. One of the climactic scenes of the movie has the two main characters discussing purpose. Derice, the bobsled driver, asks his coach, Irv, why he had cheated when he competed. Irv responds, “It’s quite simple, really. I had to win. You see, Derice, I’d made winning my whole life. And when you make winning your whole life, you have to keep on winning, no matter what. You understand that? A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without one, you’ll never be enough with one.”
So often, we feel compelled to win. Sometimes we are so compelled we will go to any length to be the victor, even at the expense of our integrity. And this is not confined just to sports; in business, relationships, and even arguments, winning is paramount.
Even our modern American culture is rife with language that tells us we have to have it all. Winning is having the latest and greatest, the nicest clothes, the biggest house, the newest gadgets. While having nice things is fine, if the desire to have them consumes us, there is a huge problem. All of us know someone who has leveraged his peace and contentment for things and appearances.
Paul gives us insight into this issue in Philippians 4. The church at Philippi had been an active supporter of Paul as he took the Gospel around the world. In this chapter, Paul acknowledges the church wanted to ensure his physical needs were being met, which also ministered to his spiritual needs. In verses 11-12 Paul explains what our lives should really be about, in respect to our physical possessions:
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.
Paul acknowledges how we are generally content when we have a “full stomach” or “plenty,” but where most often I struggle with contentment is in the “empty” and “little.”
As I think about this, my mind goes to the story in Luke 21:1-4, where Jesus sees the widow putting her gift in the collection box. Here, Jesus shames the rich for their “tiny” gift and honors the widow’s “everything.” She gives out of her “empty” and “little.”
Learning to be content with “whatever I have” is our first huge step in learning to be generous. The truth is everything is His and we are simply using what He has given us. It is in this realization we learn how to be truly grateful, and by growing more grateful, we learn that what we have is always more than enough.