Jumbo shrimp, clearly confused, act naturally, just war, pretty ugly, or original copy. Oxymoron’s. Seeming contradictions. Ideas that, when placed beside each other, appear to make no sense; yet they do.
Paul’s statement in Philipians regarding “abundance and lack, hunger and plenty” feels very oxymoronic. It doesn’t make sense. They seem opposite at a significant level; but even that is multiplied by the rest of the text. In the midst of all those contradicting terms, Paul introduces the idea that he’s content.
It’s not just that he’s content when he has plenty. It isn’t that he’s satisfied only when he has enough. He says he’s even content with the hunger and lack. He is okay when he doesn’t have enough. That’s what makes this text so utterly challenging and deeply frustrating.
But, it’s not like he was endowed with some special “contentment” gene. He makes no claim to have never been frustrated or always been satisfied. In fact, he says just the opposite. He owns that he had to learn to be content. And he uses a term that implies learning from experience, not from formal education and imputed information.
Paul’s contentment didn’t develop through 12 Rules for Contentment, or Six Special Verses, or Meditate Your Way to Quiet. Paul learned to be content by actually experiencing seasons of lack and seasons of plenty. He went through those conditions and came out the other side. He’s in prison even as he writes. And we dare not think contemporary prison system. We have to think Roman inhumane treatment. Yet, Paul is content.
Whatever he has…is Enough. His confidence in God is such that whatever he has to face, in Jesus, he will be empowered to face. And for him, that is Enough. It may not be Enough money or bread or clothing or freedom or opportunity…but it is Enough, in Jesus. He really did believe that nothing was more important than his relationship with God and his eternal destiny in Jesus. That made all human conditions pale in comparison.