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Adam: Be Content With What You Have
Life Lessons from the Old Testament Sermon Series
Genesis 3:1-4:1



Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Second Sunday after Pentecost—June 14, 2009

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Today we are beginning a Summer Sermon Series on Life Lessons from the Old Testament.  The Apostle Paul says in Romans, “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” 

Each week we will look at a character from the Old Testament, and what their example can teach us for our own lives.  Sometimes it is a positive example.  But, one confirmation of the authenticity of the Bible is that it portrays not only the great faith of the saints of old but also their faults, foibles, and failings.  If you were making these stories up, you wouldn’t include these negative examples from what are supposed to be heroes of the faith.  

But, as Paul says, “EVERYTHING that was written in the past was written to teach us.”  That includes not only what we can learn for the positive examples of the saints of old, but also what we can learn from the negative example of their faults, foibles, and failings.

We begin this morning with such a negative example, really the saddest example in all human history, which has had a profound effect on all of us and our world.  The fall of Adam and Eve into sin.

Great Britain is right now in the midst of a political scandal which will probably bring down the current government.  You could call it the “nickel-and-dime” scandal.  Their members of Parliament are paid a good salary, but can also be reimbursed for certain official expenses.  It was recently discovered that for years, many of the most prominent MP’s were charging the government for all sorts of strange and questionable items.  The most bizarre, and perhaps quintessentially British, was over $5,000 for cleaning the moat of one MP’s country castle. 

But, what seems to outrage the people just as much, is these very wealthy, well-paid people “nickel-and-diming” the taxpayers for all sorts of little items, not allowed under the reimbursement rules: a box of matches, an ice cube tray, a bag of compost, a chocolate candy, a package of cookies.  And, some of the worst offenders are some of the wealthiest MP’s, with personal fortunes in the millions.  Several of them were forced to resign from the cabinet and will probably lose their seats in the next election.  Some were considered rising stars and possible future Prime Ministers.  They were paid salaries of hundreds of thousands, they had millions, but their careers are now over all for the sake of getting a few extra dollars in phony expenses.

It seems crazy to give up so much for so little, but we fall into that trap all the time.  Dear Abby had a letter last week from a woman who broke up her marriage with an affair.  Now she is miserable with her new husband, and regrets every day all that she has lost. 

This pattern really goes back to Adam and Eve.  They had paradise, after all.  A perfect world that we cannot even imagine.  The world they lived in was like heaven is described in Revelation: no death, or mourning, or crying, or pain.

There was only one thing which God denied them: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”  Why did God impose this one restriction?  Martin Luther comments, “Adam needed this command concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so that there should be an outward form of worship, and an outward work of obedience toward God.”  Not eating from this tree was Adam and Eve’s act of worship, because it was by obeying God’s command to refrain from eating of this tree that Adam and Eve showed their faith in God and thankfulness for all his creation.

Adam and Eve had paradise.  How could they be discontented?  What more could they want?  But, they were the first to fall for Satan’s temptation to give it all up for the forbidden fruit.  “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

The fall of Adam and Eve into sin has had a profound effect on all of us and our world.  As Paul explains in Romans, “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned. . .  through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners. . .  the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men.”

Adam and Eve lost paradise not only for themselves, but for us all.  Just as they were cast out of the garden, because of the sinful nature we have inherited from them we all deserve to cast into hell.

But, God was gracious to Adam and Eve, and gracious to all of humankind, including you. We read in today’s Old Testament Reading how he immediately promised to send a Savior, born of a woman, who would crush and defeat Satan.  Adam and Eve understood that only God himself could accomplish such a victory, and that the promised Savior would have to be God, come down to earth and made man. 

The last verse of today’s Old Testament Reading says, “Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain, and she said, ‘I have gotten a man, the Lord.’”  God promised the Savior would be God made flesh, born of a woman.  Adam and Eve trusted the promise, and thought the first child born into the world was already the promised Savior.  “I have gotten a man, the Lord.”

But, as Paul says in Galatians, “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman.”  It would be many centuries, many millennia, before the promise was fulfilled, in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”

By his perfect life, his sacrificial death on the cross, and his resurrection, he paid the penalty for the sins of all of humanity.  As Paul explains in Romans, “Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

Because of his perfect life, his sacrificial death on the cross, and his resurrection, your sins are all forgiven.  His death opened for you the gates of paradise.  As Paul says in Acts, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

But, Peter warns, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” Satan does not want you to be blessed forever in the paradise of heaven.  Just as Satan spoiled the first paradise, he wants to drag you down with him to hell, by leading you to reject Christ as your Savior.   

And so often the first step on the road to hell is tempting us with forbidden fruit.  That is still Satan’s most successful ploy.  With forbidden fruit he is trying to lure you away from Christ.

We have voles in our yard and last week I was looking in the hardware store at all the different kinds of mousetraps and bait.  That’s what forbidden fruit is, the bait in Satan’s trap, deceiving you with the promise of riches or pleasure or some other temptation.  But, it’s bad bargain.  You’ll get as much satisfaction out of forbidden fruit as the mouse gets out of the bait in the mousetrap.  For, to get that forbidden fruit Satan is tempting you with, you will lose so many better blessings you already have in this life, and you are starting yourself on the dangerous path of rejecting Christ and his will, which will end in you losing paradise in eternal life.

In 1st Timothy, Paul warns against one of the most common forbidden fruits, money, but you can apply his warning to whatever forbidden fruit is Satan is tempting you with: “Godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  But you, man of God, flee from all this.”

Hebrews says, “Be content with what you have.”  That seems almost un-American, because in our society we emphasize ambition, getting ahead.  But, there really is no conflict.  There is nothing wrong with ambition.  The problem is what you could call “raw ambition,” ambition without priorities, and without morals.

Contentment is recognizing God as the giver of all good things.  As Psalm 103 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. . .  who satisfies your desires with good things.”

Contentment is putting God and his will first in your life.  As Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Contentment is trusting in God to continue to provide for your needs.  As Paul says in Philippians, “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Contentment is trusting, as Paul says in Romans, “That in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

A few verses later in Romans, Paul gives the rationale for such contentment: “If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”  Christian contentment is based on knowing that God has already given you the greatest treasure and gift of all, eternal life through Jesus Christ your Lord. “If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

“Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”  We learn many important life lessons from the first example in the Old Testament, the negative example of Adam and Eve and their fall into sin.  We are warned by their example of the old ploy Satan still uses, trying to lure us away from the paths of righteousness with the bait of forbidden fruit.  We learn from their example the folly of giving up the blessings you have for the tempting allurements of forbidden fruit. We learn from their example that no matter how attractive forbidden fruit appears to be, it will always be a bitter poison, not a source not of happiness but of sorrow.

“Be content with what you have,” Hebrews says, “because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’  So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper.’”

That is the life lesson we learn from Adam: “Be content with what you have.”

Amen.

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