It was an exhausting day. It wasn’t a bad day. Just exhausting.
I washed the dust, sweat and grime of the day down the shower drain, put on pajamas and sat back in my lazy boy recliner. I opened Biblical Theology and read until I could not keep my eyes open any longer. Contentedly, I headed off to bed.
I climbed into my Sleep-number adjustable bed and settled down for the night. That’s when the trouble started.
First, I sighed a deep relaxing sigh. “I am as comfortable as I could be,” I said, relaxing into a light doze.
Then I said, “Maybe not quite. There might be a small wrinkle right around where my knee is.” No big deal. I could ignore it.
No. It grew larger and larger in my mind. I knew that I would not be able to go to sleep on top of that huge mess that is wreaking havoc on my leg. So I leaned forward and adjusted the wrinkle. “Ahhhhh.”
Now my covers were messed up. I had to arrange them again. They were pressing down too hard on my foot. That might cause me some pain in the morning. So I kicked, trying to make a pocket for my feet.
Is that a crumb? I think that there is a crumb in my bed. How can I sleep with a crumb in my bed. Where is it? Where did it go?
Why is my pillow flat now? I removed the crumb. I fluffed the pillow. I settled back down.
Now I’m hot and starting to sweat again. I throw the covers off.
Now I’m cold. Why can’t the temperature be perfect? Why is the crumb back?
I remove the imaginary crumb, fluff again. Pull the covers back up.
Now there’s a wrinkle under my leg.
I never have this problem when I am camping. I know that there is no way I am actually going to get comfortable, so I just go to sleep.
Eventually, I fluff and worry and toss and turn and fuss myself to sleep. Other nights, I give up and get up before I wake my wife.
But the other night something came to me:
Isn’t this the heart of covetousness?
No matter what good gifts God gives us, no matter what we have, we always say to ourselves, “Do you know what I need? Just a little more. Then I will be content.”
If only I had a bigger truck, a bigger car, a better house. Look at my neighbor’s house. He sure is lucky. If I had that house, then I would be happy.
Look at his wife. Man, how’d he score a woman like that. If I had his wife, then I’d be happy. I wish my kids were like that guys kids.
This food doesn’t taste quite as good as it should. This chair isn’t quite as comfortable as it could be. If I had one more gadget, a little more money, a little better friends.
If my preacher was a little more interesting, if my church was a little bit more attentive to my needs.
Then for sure I would be content.
This is the first thing Satan said to man,”Yea, hath God said you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”
Is there really something that God didn’t let you have?? The nerve!
And so our sinful hearts are again revealed. Covetous is the plaguing thought that you are not really getting everything that you are owed, that something is being held from you – something that you deserve. God owes you. He really isn’t good. He’s stingy and holding out on you. Look at your neighbor; what’s he got that I don’t got?
Then we read what Paul writes.
11Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am,therewith to be content. 12I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Phil. 4:11-13).
It would help us to remember that Paul was in prison in Rome when he wrote this. He learned to be content in every situation. He understood that the problem was not in the goodness of God. God’s goodness is infinite. He is our almighty Father, able to give us all things necessary for body and soul, and willing also, being a faithful Father.
The problem is our sinful heart. Covetousness makes us restless. Discontent drives our grumbling and murmuring. And the heart of it is idolatry. We worship and serve the creature, rather than the creator. We look to things for our comfort, placing our trust in money, gadgets, friends, things, and wrinkle free sheets.
Notice also that Paul says he has learned contentment with nothing as well as contentment with abundance. Contentment with abundance is frequently the harder of the two. When you have nothing, you have very low expectations from your possessions. But when you abound, it is very simple to turn those possessions into idols, and seek from them that which they can never provide.
Augustine prayed, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”
My wife says, “Why don’t you just go to sleep, you weirdo.”
And I am again reminded that this earth is not our home. We are commanded to set our affections on things above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
As long as our minds are on this earth, there is always one more wrinkle, one more crumb, one more aching joint. We can really get ourselves into a dither over nothing.
I know that there are many with problems far greater than a wrinkled sheet. I have my own things over which I could fret, some huge, some smaller. When it comes to the great big things: betrayal, slander, abuse, chronic illness, death, and so on, we immediately look to Jesus, saying to us, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
But we often don’t think of that when we get ourselves into a dither over wrinkled sheets. But the wrinkled sheets expose our restless hearts every bit as much as the big things. The things of the earth can never be your only comfort in life and in death. They will never be a solid ground on which to place your trust. But they can make you exhausted and restless, until you finally cry out to the Lord to cleanse you from your covetousness and teach you contentment. This is what Paul means when he says that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him.