Philippians 4:13 Again

Philippians 4:13 is making the rounds on Facebook again this week.

My friends have posted both this article from 2014 (http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2014/01/16/philippians-413-many-christians-misuse-iconic-verse/) and the funny cartoon below.

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I’ve been thinking about it, too. At least I’ve been considering its meaning within the larger context of Philippians 4 because I can’t escape the subject of contentment.

Some of my reading as of late includes Enough by Adam Hamilton, The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist, and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up by Marie Kondo. Each one has challenged me to consider my own state of contentment. How much is enough? Is my money is making meaning? Which of my possessions spark joy? The questions run on a continuous loop in my mind.

In addition to this reading, I attended a gathering of seminaries on the topic of “Simplicity” last week. As a group we wrestled with the meaning and implications of choosing a simple life, not only as an expression of faithful ministry but also as an expression of authentic Christianity. The conversation was rich, imaginative, and deeply counter-cultural.

We shared our desires to live simply as institutions and to transmit our understandings of simplicity to our students. Surrounded by a culture of bigger, more, better, we fear that we are losing the battle for our students’ hearts. While we preach and try to practice contentment, we see the effects of discontent as our students too often succumb to the temptations of purchasing all the latest techno gadgets, spending money on restaurant meals, borrowing in excess of tuition costs, just to name a few.

Our challenge as theological schools is to cultivate the apostle’s attitude in our schools and our students. We long for our students to echo the words of Paul, from Philippians 4:11-13, when he writes, “… 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. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Choosing to live with less may not be popular or easy, but I am convinced that we cannot only survive with less but also thrive with less.

Less debt, greater financial freedom. Less worry, better physical health. Fewer possessions, more living space. Less busy-ness, increased quality time. Less distractions, increased peace of mind.

We can do all things, including taking a powerful stand against our culture of discontent, through Christ who gives us strength and enables us to be content.