How Much is Enough?

Three times during the last week, I have been asked the question that is the title of tonight’s post. While I have been asked this in my capacity as a counselor, and even pastor, the truth of the matter is the question really hits home for me personally. You see, I struggle with material things; probably more than the average person. One of the first posts I wrote for this blog was about “stuff”, and the desire for more stuff – and I am at it again.

Part of the problem is that I am around a great number of people who seem to have bottomless pits of wealth to do anything they feel like doing; and on the other hand, I help people who have lost jobs, have dealt with illness, are losing their homes and their businesses; and are truly hard workers who just aren’t able to catch a break. And I’ve been on both sides of the equation, so I have a unique perspective.

When I was younger, I was one of those guys who enjoyed material success at a relatively young age. Janet and I wrapped ourselves in the trappings of the good life and yet, there was something missing. I went through the motions of building a business, but I really didn’t enjoy what I was doing. You see, I have always felt compelled to pursue financial success. But as some of you know, our lives were changed by the suicide of a young woman I knew from work; the one who paid a visit to Dr. Kevorkian to end her life (see “How Dr. Kevorkian Changed My Life”).

That single event was the impetus for me to change directions and try to find out what I had been created to do. Janet and I made the decision that I should attend seminary and we sold the house, and the cars, and re-dedicated ourselves to follow a Christ centered life. That decision was probably one of the best we have ever made. By the time I got through school, we had gone through everything we had accumulated during our marriage – and as tough as it was, it was one of the best times in our lives. It reminded both of us what it was like back when we started out; and had to live on far less that we thought we needed to be satisfied. Oddly, during those times in our lives when we struggled, we have been closer to the will of God and have been less possessive of our things.

The years I spent in seminary, trusting God to provide, were absolutely miraculous years. We lived expecting God to provide for our needs; and He did not disappoint. I even remember the times when I thought we would not be able to pay the mortgage, but somehow the money was always there. I even remember hitting my knees and thanking God for his provision and asking Him to bless us with a ministry income that would allow us to keep our home. And God was faithful and answered that prayer.

So what is it about human nature that most of us want more? When we are in positions of need, we depend on God to get us through, but as soon as we are out of danger, we seem to say, “Thanks, Lord…I can take it from here.” And suddenly, we do stupid things like depend on ourselves to make more money, or to achieve success, or to receive recognition from others. What is it that drives us to think that God, who got us to where we are, will desert us in our time of need? I’ve studied this for years, and I still get caught up in the “stuff” of life. And so, once again, I find myself asking the question about how much is enough.

And I sense that I am not alone. Based on the number of questions I get from others, and the conversations that financial discussions always seem to generate, people are scared and wonder if they will have enough to get them through the rest of their lives – as if they can can even control how long their lives will be. And another thing, when Janet and I have less, we feel more dependent on, and closer to, God. It has always been that way. Suddenly, when I am blessed with more, it seems easier to depend on myself and be drawn further away from God. The obvious verse for this evening is from Luke 16:13, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” And while I fully subscribe to this, for me, it sets up an internal conflict that I sometimes have trouble dealing with.

So, how about another verse from Luke, 12:24, “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!”  Somehow, this verse really resonates with me tonight. Because it affirms God’s love for us and how He will always take care of us. And so my encouragement tonight is to remind you that God will provide for your needs. He knows what His plans are for you, and will provide you with the resources to carry out His mission for your life. And my prayer is that you will allow the love of God to flow over and through you, and that you will be satisfied with whatever material resources He decides to entrust to your care. After all, it all belongs to God anyway…….

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