Find Out How Much Is Enough
My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Proverbs 3:21-22
How much is enough? To be very candid with you, that is a question that I have struggled with personally for several years. Oh, it isn’t that I have so much or think I need so much that I have drawn a line and said to myself, “When I get there, I’ll give the rest away.” The issue with me involves a lifestyle. It is part of the fabric of my faith forced by my coming to grips with the needs of the world.
I know some who have come to grips with the issue of simplicity and have given away virtually most of what they possessed because they had become convinced that material goods had possessed them. I’m thinking of a young woman who came from a wealthy family who was converted and then put her silver service in the trash because she was convinced that it was wrong for her to have so much when others had so little, and she was fearful that if she gave her silver to the poor, they would begin to worship it just as she had.
While that may not be your conviction, have you ever thought much about the issue of how much is enough? Ronald Sider, a Ph.D. in history from Yale University, came to grips with this question and his long search ended up in his writing a thought‑provoking book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. Guy Davidson and his church were confronted with the issue, and instead of building a new church building, gave their building fund to an organization which feeds the hungry, and the postscript to that act of charity is that eventually they got their building anyway.
I confess I am personally troubled with magnificent and very costly church buildings which are used for three hours on a Sunday morning and then sit empty for most of the rest of the week, while struggling Asian congregations pray for a corrugated metal roof to keep the rain out during typhoons. Yes, I know that some people will give pipe organs to their church or pay for stained glass windows who would never give to provide for the roof on a cinder block church half-way around the world.
Forgive me, but I find it difficult to generate much compassion for people whose major problems are 1) How do I lose weight, and 2) Where can I park my third car, boat or camper, when 50% of the world’s population goes to bed hungry every night.
Frankly, I could elicit more response if I told you how to increase your net worth, or how to overcome the problem of burn‑out, or cut your taxes, but perhaps this in itself sends a message to the heart: something is fundamentally wrong with a society that measures the quality of life by how much we have and ignores what we are.
I’m not suggesting five guidelines which will free you from the curse of clutter, but I am challenging you to look at your life and confront the question, “How much is enough?” I’m fully confident that as you ponder the issue and go to the Word, the Holy Spirit will direct you as He has thousand of others, but in the process I suggest that you find a copy of Sider’s book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger and read it. Or pick up a copy of Richard Foster’s book, Freedom of Simplicity, and give it a fair reading. Yes, you may still buy that second car or computer, but if you do so, it will be because you need it, not simply to justify your selfish desire to have more. And in so doing you possess them instead of their possessing you. Think about it. Remember, Jesus said, “A man’s life does not consist of the abundance of the things or the possessions that he has.”
That question of, “How much is enough?” is one that every person must answer for themselves.
Resource reading: Proverbs 4:20-27.