Joe McKinney and I are teaching the Sunday school class here in João Pessoa. We are teaming up because both of us travel quite a bit so we cover one another's absences. We began teaching on the subject of contentment the first Sunday of September. I taught for three months on this subject almost two years ago.
The reason I began studying this subject and decided that it needed to be taught to the church came from simply reading God's Word and asking the question; "Am I living this truth?". Almost two and a half years ago, reading through the book of Acts, I came across a very familiar verse that I have used on many occasions, Acts 20:35. The apostle Paul quotes Jesus as saying: "It is more blessed to give than it is to receive". I stopped and thought about Jesus' words and began asking myself if I believed in what my Lord said. After meditating for a few minutes I decided that I would be living a little different if I really practiced what Jesus said. In other words I knew it was true but I did not feel comfortable saying that I really believed it. If I did, then my life would be different than it was at the time. I began studying and meditating on the "why?" I came to the conclusion that I was not living contently with what God had given me. During this study I realized that I probably was not the only one. So I taught the church what Jesus lived and passed on to his disciples, how the early church dealt with and felt about money and tried to help them see that the amount of income you receive is not where the problem lies. Your boss is not to blame for your financial anxieties but it is your discontentment with that which God has provided you. I am not saying that it is wrong to try and get a raise, a better paying job, educate yourself for better pay but what I do see in God's Word is that we are to be content with what we have at the time we have it. Be thankful and move on in contentment.
After studying how Jesus and the early church lived and taught about finances I began working on budgeting with the church. I first asked them how many of them had debts. I believe every single person raised his or her hand and, even chuckling, said it would have been easier if you asked who does not have debt. It is normal to live with debt. Why not? Everyone is doing it, right? That was almost two years ago. I bring up this subject again to the church here because it is of vital importance. I am living a lot differently than I was when I began teaching the class so long ago, and Jesus knows what He is talking about, as always. It is better to give than to receive. Give and give contently.
This subject is an eye opener for a lot of people. Not that they do not know the right way to manage their finances, but credit cards and debt have become the norm for them. Here in Brazil the economy has been growing steadily for the past 17 years, sometimes slowly but still growing. The middle class is growing, where a few years ago it was all but non-existent. It is "easier" to buy cars, houses, nice clothes, and electronics. It is "easier" because banks and stores are offering credit cards to just about anyone who has a pulse and is 18 years old.
I'm sure a lot of this sounds very familiar to you, especially those who grew up in the 50's to early 80's. You saw these changes taking place in the United States as well. You are now on the other side. The entire nation is feeling the pain now because so many people believed in the "easiness" of buying without having to save and be patient, not having to say "no" to their desires.
The old saying that hindsight is 20/20 is correct in this situation. Please pray that every Christian here and everywhere can live contently in every aspect of their lives, not just financially.