Two new girls moved into my neighborhood during my fourth-grade school year. Once they discovered I owned a horse, we quickly became fast friends. There’s something about horses and young girls that just seem to go together like running shoes and sidewalks. Anyway, the three of us did everything together, including passing notes during class. But we didn’t pass notes written in English. No. That could mean big trouble if we were caught. Instead, we constructed a secret code and faithfully used it for all our confidential communications during school hours. Pretty smart, huh?
The only problem with our system involved memory. How does a fourth grader remember an entire alphabet of code without having a cheat sheet? Of course, we couldn’t, so we kept the encoding sheets tucked away in our desks safely out of view.
Mrs. O’Grady, as it turned out, wasn’t as clueless a teacher as we had thought. During recess, she found a bevy of notes in my desk and the cipher sheets in my friends’ desks. As we marched back into the classroom, we were greeted by a smiling Mrs. O’Grady looking like the cat that swallowed the canary. To our dismay, the secret code we had worked for weeks developing was now neatly printed all over the blackboard. We were exposed. Of course, it didn’t end there. We also spent the next two Thursday afternoons in detention writing “I will not write notes in school” 100 times each.
Some secrets are meant to stay that way—my fourth-grade code for example—and others are meant to be learned and shared. Paul tells us, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
As important as the last part of this passage is, I’m drawn immediately to the “secret” part in the middle. Paul is on to something powerful here and he wants us to know it and experience it just as he did. How can he be content in whatever situation or circumstance he finds himself in, especially the hunger, need, and being brought low circumstances?
Paul was that man in the field that saw a treasure and sold everything to buy the field. Paul’s secret of contentment was keeping his eyes on the Treasure of his life—Jesus Christ. I like to think of it this way. Covetousness is desiring things in this world so much that I loose grip on my contentment in God and search for it elsewhere. Contentment is desiring God so much that the things of this world, the things I covet, loose their grip on me.