I remember a wooden list holder mounted on a wall near the kitchen of my childhood home. Pop, my step-grandfather, made many wooden holders in his workshop and gifted them to friends and family. The small dowel rod he chose was the perfect size to hold a paper roll from a calculator.
The paper roll extended down the footlong piece of wood with the end of the paper tucked securely under a metal bar. Nearly every day, family members jotted down on the paper, food items, such as ketchup, bread, or Cheerios. Usually on Fridays, we tore off the paper and used the list as a helpful guide for our shopping adventure at the grocery store.
The usefulness of our family's grocery list leads us to recognize the many benefits of list-making.
A list can help bring a sense of order. Like reading a book with a beginning and an end, a list provides structure and helps us take in information more quickly.
A list helps us remember important items, tasks, or dates. Whenever we write a word or phrase on a list, we are saying “yes” to one thing and “no” to other things.
A list can help relieve stress. A to-do list is a great tool for providing a record of the work needed and the work accomplished.
A list can become meaningful, such as Steven Spielberg's classic movie, “Schindler’s List.” The movie is based on the true story of a German businessman who used a list of names to save more than one thousand Jews from concentration camps.
A list, such as a birthday list or a prayer list, can connect us with people and God.
Since we know the benefits of list-making, what might a contentment list look like? The author of Hebrews offers believers such a list in Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 (New Revised Standard Version):
“Let mutual love continue.” (v. 1)
“… show hospitality to strangers.…” (v. 2)
“Remember those who are in prison….” (v. 3)
“Let marriage be held in honor by all.…” (v. 4)
“Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have.” (v. 5)
“Remember your leaders.…” (v. 7)
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (v. 8)
“… offer a sacrifice of praise.… Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have.” (vs. 15, 16)
The author of Hebrews desired to encourage tired and troubled believers. He wrote a letter, or what seems more like a long sermon, to encourage them in their faith. Some might say the concluding words of Hebrews seem more like a list of rules; however, considering all we know of the intended audience, let us view the list as inspirational instructions in faithful living.
Like our family’s grocery list, the Hebrews’ list was not intended for one person but rather for a faith community—the body of Christ—to experience together with God. With mutual love at the beginning and sacrifices of praise at the end, the Hebrews’ list encourages faithful living in community that pleases and glorifies God together.
As we follow the desires of God’s heart, we find contentment. Certainly, contentment can be experienced through showing hospitality to strangers, remembering prisoners, and honoring marriage. In verses 5 and 6, the writer shines a spotlight on contentment by encouraging believers to be satisfied with the love of God rather than be distracted by the love of wealth.
We all know we need money to live, but the writer of Hebrews reminds us that we are not to love the money we have. Instead, we work hard for the money we earn; we are grateful to God for the money we receive; and we practice good stewardship by spending wisely, saving for the future, and giving generously.
To be free from the love of money, we must believe that what we already have in God is enough. The scriptures remind us to seek first God’s righteousness, abide in God’s divine presence, and trust God to supply our every need.
It does seem that the writer of Hebrews describes contentment as an ideal state of being, a place where we trust God in faith and experience love like no other. If we combine the benefits of list-making with the Hebrews’ list in scripture, we might create the following contentment list:
Be at peace with who we are.
Be satisfied with what we have.
Be humble in the presence of God by saying “thank you” more and “give me” less.
Pop, a Presbyterian pastor, was a joyful and faithful person. He was content in making wooden gifts in his workshop and showing the love of God with his words and deeds. When he died, I recall a family member saying he died without a lot of money. However, if you define wealth in terms of love, then he died a rich man.
Whenever we are tired or troubled in our faith, may we find contentment in God and encouragement from others by taking delight in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.