May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
I’m sure many of you have raised kids. Or maybe you’re raising kids. And so you remember. And if they’re siblings, that’s the first instance where you have to teach kids to share. Sometimes maybe you have to teach your adult kids to share, your partner to share.
But I’m talking about kids. Mine left to go to Children’s Chapel, so I’m going to talk about them now. I’m not going to tell you if this story happened when they were three and five or 13 and 15, because the answer is yes.
But if if your house is like mine, you got toys everywhere. You got Legos. You got cars. You got stuffed animals.
And sometimes when my boys try to play with each other, one of them will say, “I need to get all of the toys.” And so at that point, if you get all the toys you’ve won. Have you won playing together? Is it a competition?
Because what happens when you have all the Legos? Your sibling, your friend, can’t play. What happens when you have all the cars? Your friend gets to watch you play. Your sibling gets to watch you when you have all the stuffed animals.
What good is that? If there’s no interaction, there’s no play, there’s no sharing.
In our epistle reading today, Paul’s writing to a people who are trying to figure out how to live together. The church in Philippi had conflict. All churches have conflict. Shocker. If it’s your first time around here, we have conflict too, just to let you know.
Paul was writing to people and Paul just doesn’t, like write letters for this just because. He doesn’t write to a letter saying, “Oh, I haven’t checked in a while. I’m just going to go tell them all these nice things.” Paul writes letters to address issues. He hears about something. It’s like, “Oh my goodness, they’re at it again. I’m going to write a letter.” So any time you see Paul saying something, there’s a reason he’s saying it.
He doesn’t just think it’s a good idea and they should try it. He’s trying to answer a question or he’s trying to solve a problem or he’s trying to tell them how they live together in the midst of their conflict. And we see throughout Paul’s letters, folks can’t share. In one of his letters, Paul literally says, “some of you rich people, you’re getting all the food first and you’re leaving just scraps for everyone else. “Get it together” is essentially what he says.
And in our letter today to Philippians, he starts off in verse three saying, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, regard others as better than yourselves.” He’s not just writing this because it’s a good idea. He’s writing this because there are people there who are regarding themselves this better than others.
He’s addressing an issue. He’s telling folks, “Consider not just yourself.” He goes on to say, “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interest of others.” Let each of you not look to your own interest, but to the interest of others.
This verse is really interesting in the Greek that word “interest” isn’t there.
So in Paul’s writing to these people, telling them to get it together, he’s like, “Let each of you not look to your own…” Whatever it is, he’s letting them fill in the blank. He’s saying to those people that each of you not look to your own schedule and how busy you are. Let each of you not look to your own bank account and how much money you have.
Let each of you not look to your own job title and how important you are. Let each of you not look to your own wardrobe. Let each of you not look to your own interests.
Because if you win the game and you have all the stuff, what good is it if you get all your own interests? Whatever Paul’s talking about, what good is that?
Because sure, I have all these. I have all the toys and is. But number one, my friend may not have any. And number two, when my hands are this full, where’s the room for what God wants to give me?
Paul goes on to say in this letter to the Philippians, he tells us how to do it. He tells us to do what Jesus did, “have the same mind that is in Christ Jesus, though He was in the form of God,” though he had all the toys, didn’t regard equality with God, didn’t regard the toys as something to be grasped or exploited or seized or hoarded or craved.
But he emptied himself and being found in human form. He humbled himself. He gave of himself. He gave the toys. He gave his time. He gave his power.
Ultimately, he gave his life.
And he calls us to do the same. We’re not called to be Jesus. That might be a toy you try to grasp on to is being the savior of whatever situation. We’re not called to do that. Jesus took care of that.
But we are called to empty ourselves. We are called to look beyond what we can grasp. We are called to give.
And this isn’t just a church problem and isn’t just a Christian problem. This is a human problem. There’s a book I read this week. I got it on Tuesday, and by Wednesday morning I had finished it because I couldn’t put it down. It’s by a journalist, it’s called Scarcity Brain. And he travels all around. He goes from Iraq to untouched people groups to a monastery in New Mexico. And he talks to a lot of different folks about why we crave things. He talks to scientists and psychologists and he tries to figure out why are humans never satisfied?
Why do we never feel like we have enough? It’s actually a trick in our brain, that hoarding tendency that we want all of it. He lists out chapters of things that he thinks we want, all that we want, all the escape. We want to be able to get away. We want all of the certainty, all of the influence, all of the food, all of the stuff, all the information, all the happiness, all the toys.
We want it all. But what good is it when we have all of it?
I mentioned last week I served at 4 Saints Episcopal Food Pantry on a Saturday, and I joked that I didn’t actually do a ton of work because very quickly I was asked to drive Shirley home. And if you remember last week, I told you I drove her home eight miles on the east side of Fort Worth.
And in those eight miles, I passed three dollar stores and zero grocery stores. Remember, I asked us to think about when we drive home eight miles when we leave here and go to miles. How many grocery stores are we going to pass? But that’s not the most impactful thing that happened that day, because when I got Shirley home, I helped her take the groceries into her house and she started to set up some stacks.
And so she had a stack here. She had a stack here, she had a stack here, and then she went to her freezer and pulled out some meat and other things that she had had that they didn’t have at the food pantry. And she put some here in here and here. I’m like, Shirley, are you reorganized? What’s going on? What are you doing?
She said, “This is for my neighbor across the street. And this I’m going to take to the lady next door. And this is what I’m going to keep.”
If you remember, Shirley rode two busses to get eight miles to pick up food at 4 Saints, and relied on a guy to give her a ride home.
But she did not regard that food as something to be hoarded and grasped and exploited. But she gave of herself. She emptied herself. She shared her abundance.
At the end of this book, Michael Easter, the author, sums up what it’s all about. He says, “Our world is overloaded with everything we’re built to crave. The fix for scarcity brain isn’t to blindly aim for less. It’s to understand why we crave more in the first place and then shake our worst habits and use what we already have better. Then we can experience life in a new way, a more satisfying way.”
We as Christians don’t do nice things. We don’t give, we don’t share because it’s “a good thing to do.” We do it because we think it’s the most satisfying way, because we are called to use what we have better.
That’s stewardship; using the gifts, the talents, the ability, the time, the money…using what we have better.
And if you think this is just pop psychology, it kind of is. But Jesus echoes what Michael Easter says. Or maybe it’s the other way around, and the author echoes what Jesus says.
Jesus, in a conversation with folks in the Gospel of John, was talking about why he’s here, what he came to do, what his purpose is. Jesus says, “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.”
Jesus didn’t come so we could have life where we grab everything and hold on to it. Jesus didn’t come so that we might have life where we might win that life. Jesus didn’t come so that we could have all the toys. Jesus came to show us what it means to live.
Jesus showed us what it means to share. Jesus showed us what it means to be rooted in abundance.
So we’re called to emulate that. We’re called to walk in the way Jesus taught us. We’re called to put down the toys, to share what we have so that others around us can experience God’s abundance.