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14 Million Reasons to Be Content

Be careful what you wish for, the old saying goes. You might just get it.

News outlets in South Africa have been gleefully reporting the story of a student at Walter Sisulu University in East London who checked her bank account for her monthly food allowance of R1400, only to find she’d been given R14 million. Due to a massive administrative error by the company responsible for allocating the allowances, she was given ten thousand times more than she usually got. Ten thousand times more. Just think about that.

In another time, another place, it might’ve ended there. She would’ve breathlessly contacted the authorities before posting some photos of her bank statement, they would’ve sheepishly apologised and taken their money back and we’d all have had a laugh about it. But we live in a generation that seeks gain without graft and pleasure without consequence, and so there was more to the story. What started as an error involving commas and zeros has turned into a nightmare involving death threats and criminal prosecution. After discovering the undetected deposit, she went on a shopping spree to the tune of R818 000, and in all likelihood would have carried on were the authorities not tipped off by suspicious retailers.

…we live in a generation that seeks gain without graft and pleasure without consequence

The instinctive gut reaction to this story is probably disgust at the brazen greed of somebody blowing money they knew wasn’t theirs, with no apparent concern for the inevitable backlash from society and the government. Many people are furious that she would spend amounts she could not pay back, as if to say, “You gave it to me. I spent it. It’s not my fault.” She is not a child with zero impulse control; she is an adult, and anger towards her attitude is perfectly understandable. But people seem to have risen up in righteous fury, as if they, in a similar situation, would immediately have followed the most lawful protocol.

I’m not so convinced.

We can all theorise about checking our bank accounts only to see a balance that looks like an international phone number, but try to imagine it actually being you. Your account. More money than you’ve ever imagined. In that sense, I feel for this young lady, that she was put in this situation. Her actions were sinful – criminal, even – and should not be defended, but they reveal how quickly and easily we can be enticed by money and how tempting it is to spend your life coveting what you don’t have.

I Can Do All Things

One of the most misunderstood, misused verses of Scripture probably has to be Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength,” wrote Paul from a jail cell. Today that verse is found stitched onto soccer boots or scribbled in exam notebooks. It’s proclaimed with good intent, but generally accompanies achievement in a certain arena. Of course, no success in any field is possible without God. We only exist because He’s given us life, so in that sense, it’s true that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. And yet Paul made that statement in a very specific context that we seem to apply the least. He was talking about money. The Philippian church had sent him gifts of aid to support him. So here, in Philippians 4:10-13, is the actual context of his famous line:

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 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 everything through Him who gives me strength.

There’s a lot we can take from this glimpse into Paul’s thought process towards finances, but one word stands out to me: He calls it a secret.

The Secret

Secrets, by nature, aren’t obvious. They don’t jump out at you. They’re hidden from conventional wisdom. They fly under the radar of common culture. Think about it: Paul could be content in any and every situation, but he described it as a secret he had to learn. From where? From whom? He certainly didn’t learn it from the world around him.

Think about the culture around us today – do we see contentment in any and every situation? I see the exact opposite, and I see it across all economic sectors. I see desperate escapism among both the wealthy and the poor. I see people desperate for money as a validation of significance, and those who’ve reached the summit and now realise that it’s not enough. I see crimes committed by those exploiting the poor in order to get wealthier, and crimes committed by the poor – not to have enough to live on, but out of greed and materialism. I see restlessness and turmoil all around. Much of it the result of a love of money, the exact opposite of contentment.

I see restlessness and turmoil all around. Much of it the result of a love of money, the exact opposite of contentment.

But Paul saw Jesus. He learned his secret from Jesus. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-29. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” How quickly we come to the stability and safety of money as a rest for our souls and how easily that throne can be shaken. All the while, Jesus waits for us to find our contentment and satisfaction in Him – that we might find our joy in Him when we have nothing and when we have everything. We learn the secret from Jesus only to find that the secret is Jesus. He’s our strength, our significance, our escape, our reality, our provision, our contentment.

The Love of Money is a Trap

Maybe this student is a calculating criminal. Maybe she’s a pleasure-seeking opportunist who got in over her head. Maybe she’s just a weak human being, like the rest of us. Maybe she’s all those things. But she’s discovered something that we all need to know: The love of money is a trap. And now it’s time for her to find the One who sets us free from it.


This article was reviewed on 22 November 2021. It was originally published on the Four12 Global website on 14 September 2017.

 

Shaun played punk rock for a living, worked for a chicken company, and then wrote copy for adverts. Now he’s a full-time pastor leading a congregation in Oxygen Life Church in Gqeberha. He is married to Sammy Jane and they have two children. Follow him on Facebook for more.

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Commitment
Hearing God
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Being Generous
Study Scripture
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Goodness
Men
Serving
Word of Wisdom
Brokenness
Sickness
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Hope
Trusting
Gifts
Baptized
Fasting
Overcomer
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Leadership
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Repenting
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Relief Fund
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lead
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Repent
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Obey
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Israel
Healthy Church
Teacher
Multi-site Church
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Loving Others
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Hopelessness
Lee Strobel
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Refining Fire
God's Glory
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Sin
Worship
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Trials
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Offence
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resilience
steadfastness
uncompromising
Four12 Conference
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Money
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Youth
Death
Tribulations
Partner
Overcoming
Humbleness
Immorality
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Planting A Church
Christian Leaders
Debt
The Word
Discipline
Condemnation
Bear Fruit
Complacent
Recalibrating
Teaching Kids
Partners Relief Fund
Apostolic Partnering
Netherlands
Marriage Training
Church
Apostolic Field
Administration
Racism
Church Partnering
Christian Values
Cosmological Argument
Christian Authors
Review
Husband
Isle of Man Conference
Apologetics
Elders
Heaven and Hell
Obedience
Spiritual Gifts
Caring for Others
Depression
Online Church
Spouse
Conflict
Meekness
Lust
Prophecy
The Gospel
Purgatory
Control
Finances
The Word of God
Modesty
Judgement
Bearing Fruit
Comfort
Divorce
Teaching Children
Four12 Partners Relief Fund
Pastors Training
The Poor
Letting Go
Values
Partnering
Heart of God
Justice
Church Partnership
Great Commission
Existence of God
Christian Literature
Old Testament
Romance
Apostles Teaching
Apostles
Evangelism
Holiness
Partnership
Stewardship
Caring for People
Doubt
Church Involvement
Wife
Reconciliation
Overseers
Lying
Deception
Hell
Raising Children
Godliness
Miracles
Word of God
Ordained
Equality
Breakthrough
Defending My Faith
Covenant
Teenagers
Four12 Churches
Training Pastors
Needy
Rastafarian
Translations of the Bible
Preaching
Authentic Community
Relationship with God
Faith and Works
New Christian
Creation
Reading
Worldviews
God's Love
Presence of God
Apostolic
Faith
Holy Spirit
Pastoring
Suffering
Brotherly Love
Eternity
Community
Wives
Bishops
Shepherd
New Believer
Greed
Immaturity
Raising Kids
Parenting
Poor
Bible
Ordinance
Unforgiveness
Refreshing
Defending The Gospel
Matrimony
Teenage Years
Four12 Church
Youth Leaders
Ireland
Redemption
Godly Leadership
Disciple
Church Discipline
Church Health
False Teachers
Fatherly Love
Tongues
Goats
Fear God
Godly Love
Body of Christ
God's Presence
Authority
Faithfulness
Holy Spirit Baptism
Patience
Teaching
Character of a Deacon
Grief
Compromise
Blueprint
Character
Addiction
Pornography
Signs
Christening
Starting A Church
Parents
Poverty
Study the Word
Stewarding
Punishment
Being Hospitable
Sharing The Gospel
Restoration
Training Kids
Malawi
Leading Youth
Surrender
Testimonies
Christ
Delegating
Servant
Social Gospel
Character of God
Worth
Gift of Tongues
Godly Elders
Big Churches
Salvations
Sacrificial Love
Potential Leaders
Baptism
Fear of God
Hospitality
Peace
The Bible
Church Leaders
Hardship
Fellowship
Holy Living
Character of an Elder
Adultery
Rebelling
Signs and Wonders
Baptise
Infant Baptism
Power
Possessions
Study the Bible
Steward
Hatred
Hospitable
Spreading The Gospel
Relationships
Training Children
Health
Youth Training
Counting the Cost
Healing Equip
books
Raising Leaders
Shepherds
Contentment
God's Character
Affirmation
Judaism
Enlightenment
Building Deep
Prostitution
Godly Team
Footholds
Breaking Bread
Festivals
Idolatry
Prayer and Fasting
Theology
Foundations
Heaven
Fellowship of Believers
Leading Church
Diversity
Church Accountability
Rebellion
Witchcraft
Baby Christian
Kassie du Plessis
Protector
Tithing
Envy
Quiet Times
Retaliation
Lessons
Spreading The Word
Cheating
Training Teenagers
Cancer
Youth Ministry
Following the Call
Four12 Equip
Eldership Training
Community Leading
Pastors
Rest
Sacrificial Serving
Sonship
Jewish
Reason
Selling Out
Prostitutes
honour
favour
Devil's Schemes
Children
Forgiveness
Income
Prophetic
Tithes
Helper
Illness
Principles
Living for Christ
Government
Discipling
Sancti
Words of Knowledge
Babies
Prayer
Sexual Purity
Christmas
Jealousy
Meditation
Promises
Loss
The Cross
Persecution
Unfaithfulness
Sacrifice
Brazil
Prophetic Training
Healing Conference
Identity
Small Group
Biblical Pattern
Systematic Theology
False Gospel
Testimony Apostolic
Jews
Reasoning
Watering Down
Reaching Out
Expectancy
Christian Character
Generosity
Jesus
Purity
Trust
Helps
Mortality
Christian Family Values
Lukewarm
Home Group Leaders
Exhort
Sanctification
Dominionism
Beliefs
Praying
Celibacy
Fathers
Comparison
Training
Bible Study
Tests
Cross
Fear of Man
Find Forgiveness
Sacrificial Service
Brazil Churches
Prophetic Equip
Voice of God
Team
Home Group
Change
Servant Leadership
Apostolic Leaders
Authentic
Religions
Intellectual Pride
Ambition
Fruitfulness
God's Favour
The Church

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