St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Be Content With What You Have

Sermon on Hebrews 13:1-6

Text: Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
6 So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”

Do you suffer from FOMO? For those who are not familiar with the term, it means a Fear Of Missing Out. It refers to the idea that someone might be doing something or getting something that you won’t. You hear about a party, and you’re not invited to it. You feel a loss because someone gets to do something that you don’t. Everyone else has something and you don’t. You feel that your life is lacking because you don’t have it. These feelings have to do with a lack of contentment with what you have. In our text, the writer encourages us to “BE CONTENT WITH WHAT YOU HAVE.” (Verse 5) As we study this portion of God’s Word together, we are going to see 1. What This Looks Like In Our Lives and 2. Why We Can Feel This Way.

Our text comes to us from the last chapter of the book of Hebrews. In summary, the writer gives a number of exhortations to his readers. While they might seem to be disjointed, we see that they all have one thing in common. They are ways that Christians can show their Christianity and, in doing so, have the type of life that God wants to bless them through. As we briefly look at each of them, we are going to see how they show a contentment in our lives.

We read in verse 1, “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.” This verse deals with our fellow believers. We are to keep on loving them. While that might be an easy thing to say, is it always as easy to do, to put into practice? What do we sometimes see in our attitudes and actions towards fellow believers? Is it a love for them and the desire to see them succeed or are there self-centered thoughts that cause heated competition? Is it an acceptance of their talents and assistance in helping them develop them or is it a caustic criticism of what they say and do? Is there a familial concern for their needs or a calloused seeking of our own good? We also note that it says, “Keep on loving.” We don’t just love them when they are perfect and do everything we want them to do the way that we want them to do it. We show that we are content with what God has blessed us with, whether it be a material blessing or a talent, as we love our brothers and sisters in the faith.

The next verse says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Verse 2) Now we have expanded the scope of people that we interact with. It’s easy for us to show hospitality to those with whom we are familiar. We know them. We like them. There is some give and take in the relationship. How we make those whom we don’t know so well feel? What if there is a visitor at church? Can we ever give the impression, “What are you doing here?” The writer mentions the fact “Some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” We might think of Abraham when he welcomed the Lord and two angels into his home. He didn’t welcome them because they were heavenly beings. Rather, he showed hospitality to them, because they were there. The point of this isn’t, “You’d better welcome a stranger, because they might be an angel. Rather, we can look at the stranger and think that this is a person that God put into my life. It shows that I am content with what God has given me and see them as an opportunity to share what God has blessed me with.

This thought is closely related to verse 3, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” This group differs from the last in that they may not be right there in front of you, like the strangers in the last verse. It would be so easy to have this attitude toward this group, ‘Out of sight; out of mind.” We might even be minded to think of them as beneath our care and concern. If they’re in prison, they probably deserved it. Rather, we want to look at the prisoner and the mistreated and see how we might help them. If they have been mistreated, can we help with food, clothing, or medical care? We can empathize with them. Certainly, we can pray for them. I can do this because I am content with what God has given me.

Going on, we read in verse 4, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Here is a special place where contentment can show itself. First, we might think of the obvious lack of contentment in marriage, as it mentions the fact that the marriage bed be kept pure. Your spouse no longer meets your perceived needs, so you go and find someone who will. However, there’s more to this. It includes the lust that fills one’s heart. It includes seeking attention and validation from someone other than your spouse. Discontent is also felt when the spouse thinks that the other spouse’s job is to make them happy. When they don’t do everything the way that you think they should, you’re discontent in your marriage. You have forgotten that it is also your job to serve them. Being content in our marriages shows itself as we value our spouse. We want to have this attitude when it comes to marriage: “Out of all of the people in the world, God chose you for me.” When we have this sort of attitude, we won’t just be content in our marriage, as if we’re just scraping by. Rather, we will look at our marriage for what it is: a gift that comes from God that brings joy into our lives.

Finally, we come to verse 5, “Keep your lives free from the love of money.” As we noted in last Sunday’s sermon, this is an area where it can be easy to feel a lack of contentment. There is a feeling that we need more and more. If we have enough money, we can do whatever we want. If we have enough money, we don’t have to worry about things. The problem is that there is no definite dollar amount attached to the word “enough.” We are reminded in Ecclesiastes 5: 10, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.” Rather, as we think about our loving Father’s care in our lives and how richly we truly have been blessed, we can have the attitude expressed in 1 Timothy 6:8, “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

After telling us to keep our lives free from the love of money, the writer concludes the verse with the words, “Be content with what you have.” (Verse 5) But how can we do that? How can we be content with what we have? We continue in verse 5 for the answer: “Because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” The writer to the Hebrews paraphrases a promise that God made to Joshua, as he began his tenure as the leader of the Israelites after Moses passed away. It might be scary for Joshua as he began this mammoth task. Yet, God assured Joshua that he would always be with him, whatever the circumstances.

God comes to us with this same promise. No matter what might come our way, God promises that he will always be with us. He tells us that he will never leave or fail to uphold us. He will not forsake or abandon us. He will always go with us. God will be our eternal resource. What more could we ever want? Being constantly mindful of God’s fatherly presence and his never-failing promises is the key to being content.

Yet, how can we be sure of God’s unfailing presence in our lives? How do we know that he will not leave us on our own? First, the promise comes from God, and he does not lie. If he makes a promise to us, we can count on it as already having happened. Second, we need only look to the cross and see how much God loved us. There he was willing to sacrifice his own Son to pay for all the sins that we have committed, including our sins of being greedy and discontent. They were all washed away by the blood of Jesus. We have the assurance that all was completed on Easter morning. God also loved you so much that he sent the Holy Spirit into your heart to make you one of his own children. He promises that there is a place in heaven waiting for you. Since he loved you so much that he took care of your greatest need and has prepared a place for you in his heaven, doesn’t it just make sense that he will also provide you with everything that you need in this life? God’s promise “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” is the reason that we can be content.

That is why the writer to the Hebrews continues, “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” When God speaks, the believer responds. With confident courage, he quotes Psalm 118:6. Content with God’s perfect promises, covered with God’s perfect protection, the believer walks towards heaven’s shores unafraid. We know that with God on our side, we have a majority of one, regardless of what we might face or fear. We know that God will take care of us during our lifetimes, until we reach eternal life. This is why we can be content. There is no reason to have a fear of missing out. We know that we have everything we need, especially our God’s loving presence in our lives. Of what could we be missing out?

Does this mean that it is wrong to want something new or different? Not necessarily. It is not wrong, if you do not base your whole happiness on getting it. Because there will always be that one more thing that promises you that, if you get it, you will be happy. Also, it is not wrong, if you realize that you might not get it and be fine with that. You don’t let your lack of this or that crush you. Otherwise, it is not wrong to enjoy what you are seeking. You realize that it is another one of the ways that God has blessed you. As James reminds us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

Probably the most familiar verse in the Scriptures about being content was written by the apostle Paul to the Philippian congregation. Recall that, as Paul was writing this letter, he was in chains in Rome. You might think that he would be loudly complaining about the injustice of it all. Yet, we read, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12&13) Paul knew that the secret to being content was his relationship with his Savior. By God’s grace, we also know Jesus to be our Savior. We know that he will never leave us or forsake us. In him, we have everything we need. Because of that, we can be content. Amen.