What Is Enough?

When Leah and I got married, everyone told us that the first year would be the hardest. We laughed their dire warning off. We had been dating for three years by that time, so we knew they were way totally wrong. And, as it turns out they were. Not just the first year, but even the second flew by effortlessly.

Now, coming upon the celebration of our third anniversary, it is apparent that much of the ease of life was due largely to both of us working full-time. We were by no means rich, but the ratio of income to bills was soundly in our favor. When Leah decided that what she really wanted was to be a baker, I heartily supported the decision. (For the record, I still do.) In order for her to do it seriously, we decided she would quit her day job and make a go of baking for realsies. It’s by no means been smooth sailing, and as a result I’ve realized we will certainly not become rich based on anything we’re doing right now. Maybe if an amazing job fell from the sky, or a rich relative I never knew dies, or I begin a lucrative career selling drugs (poverty-stricken is probably not the best state in which to watch “Breaking Bad” or “Weeds”), we might find our way to vast sums of money… But working customer service? Filling occasional cake/cookie orders throughout the week? Not quite.

So what does this mean? This means, that as we are living life right now, the only hope we have to becoming wealthy is solely through an Act of God. Now here’s the question(s): Does God care if we’re rich or poor? Does he have a preference? Is he deliberately not letting us be rich or is this a simple matter of reaping what we sow?

A teacher once told my class that he lives in a one-room cabin he and his wife built. He has a paid for used car and a bike, but no TV. He said that he was wealthy. Because wealth is just another word for having choices. Every morning he could choose an outfit from a full cabinet. Choose what to eat, choose how to get to work. He could make all kinds of choices, and that’s all wealth was good for. Making choices available that might not be available otherwise.

When it gets right down to it, that’s what I think Leah and I are missing/hankering for the most. We’ve already decided we have no interest in an opulent mansion or extravagant toys. We just want to be able to live life on our own terms… And I think that’s probably where a lot of us fall. We’d like to have enough money that we didn’t have to think about it. I do realize comparatively with the rest of the world (and perhaps a significant portion of the US) we are in fact quite wealthy. We have always had enough. More than, actually. But that doesn’t stop us from fantasizing about what kind of lives we might lead unhindered by the confines of a budget.

So what’s God’s take on this? Does he prefer us to reach that point or not? Would he rather us develop character by struggling, or display character by being placed near the magnifying glass of money? Are they just two different but equally holy paths?

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5 responses to “What Is Enough?

  1. Very few people in the world (historically and currently) have ever been wealthy enough to be able to live life on their own terms without thinking about money. Even people who have well-paying jobs can never know from one day to the next whether they will be able to keep them, or whether some disaster could strike that would cause them to lose everything they have. Perhaps God wants some of his followers to be wealthy for a time for his purposes, but there are many spiritual dangers inherent in wealth, foremost among them perhaps the danger that we come to rely on money for our sense of security, and not on God. Scripture seems clear that we are supposed to work hard and do the best we can to provide for ourselves and our families, and that we are supposed to be generous beyond common sense with whatever God gives us (even if it’s just a little. I need to work on this.), but that we shouldn’t make pursuing wealth a high priority.

  2. Proverbs 30 8:9 says

    8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
    9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
    Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.

    Jesus too instructs his followers to pray for their daily bread. When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what HE needed to do to inherit eternal life Jesus quotes him a selection of the Ten Commandments and the man says he has kept them all and Jesus says he still lacks something one of the commandments Jesus left out, not to covet. Jesus says he should give his stuff away and he goes away sad because he has a lot of stuff. Jesus then says it would be easier to do something impossible then for a rich man to be saved. His proposition must have been impossible because the disciples seem stunned saying “who can be saved then?” Jesus says what is impossible with man is possible with God. To drive those words home the very next chapter in Luke after a rich man goes away sad because he has (too?) much wealth Jesus runs into zacchaeus the chief (richest) of the tax collectors (rich guys) and he voluntarily gives what he has away to make amends for the wrongs he’s committed and Jesus says that salvation has come to him.

    I’ve talked with a friend of mine who is consumed with guilt over the fact he’s an American and compared to the rest of the world he’s rich. He believes that the Bible has nothing nice to say about rich people and riches and wealth but that’s just not true. God himself brags on Job to Satan and Job was the wealthiest man in the east (wherever Uz was). The Bible also has nothing bad to say about a select few people. Jesus is an obvious one. Two others are Joseph and Daniel both of them became second in command to the richest wealthiest nation on earth at the time Egypt and Babylon.

    Bottom line, I believe, is that using the Bible as my source of truth, the lens through which I view and understand the world around me… It’s not about wealth it’s about the heart which only God can see but that being said riches do seem to impede our spiritual progress. It gets harder to fly to the heavens the more you’re loaded down with earthly baggage.

  3. Oh how I wish I had an answer for this question…I would like the Truth…and if in finding the Truth of God on this matter, it would have to be true for everyone on the planet, yes? And if so, what about the example of Jesus? I will be interested to read your reader’s comments and answers…

  4. We both know I have some strong (if newly gained) opinions on the matter of money and social responsibility, but I’m going to forgo them and head directly for the root. You say you’re looking for choices and my friend, they’re as present now as they would be when you’re rich. The difference now is that some of them will cost you something you don’t have (or don’t think you have).

    Your predicament reminds me of Luke 14:28:

    “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?”

    There, it seems is as if Jesus would be saying to check, because your choices may be more limited than you think. To paraphrase v.29-30, “The last thing you want to do is get stuck with your ass hanging out in the wind.”

    Even the story about the king that follows the story of the tower would seem to lean in this direction. But then comes the punch line to hit you right between the eyes as always.

    V. 33 “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”

    Now at the beginning of the parable he talks about family and “carrying your cross” and so we can infer that story about money is just another picture rather than what he expects on a practical basis. This may be true.

    What I can tell you with complete certainty is that when Jesus uses phrases like “give up everything” and “cannot be my disciples” he meant business. What he practically desires can be viewed as uncertain if we want to hide behind the parable’s subtleties. Still, if he says everything, I think it’s fair to say that if he still have anything, we haven’t quite gotten there.

    C.S. Lewis put it like this: “No one can settle how much we ought to give. The only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”

    Still, the issue isn’t the giving or the keeping. The issue isn’t the want. The issue is the heart. It’s easily taken captive by greed. It’s just as easily snared by negative thoughts and negative language brought on by poor circumstances. Being poor isn’t the answer, just like being rich isn’t the answer.

    Listen to me when I say this. I’ve gone to a great deal of effort to find peace in whatever money I have and it’s not a battle that’s been won by will power, prayer or a disciplined budget. It’s been won by consistent charitable action. I’ve given away nearly everything I own in big single drops and in smaller regular giving. If you want to sort how you feel about money… start by ignoring everything you think about money and just get rid of some (it’s all the better if it’s someone you don’t like by the way).

    Free your mind and the rest will follow… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tIYpvlQP_s

  5. Pingback: Just Enough. | Hunting for God·

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