How Much Is Enough?

“There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” -GK Chesterton

Enough can be a very elusive proposition.  Enough is like running in a race and you are on the last leg of your run.  You can see the finish line coming up, but you never seem to cross it.  It seems like just when you get close to it someone moves it a little further away.  This can be the case with “enough.”

If you live in America, you understand the desire for accumulation.  Often we live in houses packed with things that we don’t use but are unwilling to part with.  We have garages that cannot house our vehicles because they are stacked to the ceiling with things that won’t fit in our house.  We keep clothes in our closet that do not fit or are out of style because we have an emotional attachment to them.  We keep wanting the newest and the next best and the fastest and product marketers are all too happy to convince us that we need these things.

I once was volunteering in a local ministry’s thrift store and a lady came in and bought a couch.  Later that day her husband came to pick it up and his comment made me laugh.  It seemed that he didn’t really think that they needed another couch in their house because this would be their seventh.  His words to me as we loaded it onto his truck were, “I don’t know why she needs another couch, she only has one rear end to sit on!”

So the question is, how much is enough?

I like the Chesterton quote above, but as I study it closer two things come to mind.  The first part of the quote deals with an action, the second part of the quote deals with an attitude.  We like actions (accumulate more and more) because they show progress and make us feel good.  Attitude (desire less) is a different matter.  It is much more difficult to change our attitude because it is an internal change and we can’t really see the change happening.

1 Timothy 6:17 speaks about the moving target of enough and how wealth can come and go:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God,who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Even if you don’t consider yourself rich, you can still be caught up by the trap to put your hope in wealth instead of the Lord.  The fact is that wealth is elusive and fleeting.  It can be gone in an instant.  If you think about the things that bring us the most enjoyment, the aren’t things at all.  They are relationships, experiences, and memories.  They are usually simple things that don’t require much in the way of wealth. 

I wrote a post about the fact that “God cannot pour his riches into hands already full.”  You can read it here.

It seems like a contradiction, but the paradox is this: sometimes to have “enough” what we really have to do is simply let go.

Father, help me to remember that when I have you, I have enough.  Help me to keep my priorities straight and to focus on accumulating the things that matter, not the things that will not last.  Thank you Jesus that you are enough for me.

What Things Are You Clinging To?

“God cannot pour his riches into hands already full.” 

I heard this little nugget of wisdom as I drove down the road the other night.  I was listening to the last part of a Chuck Swindoll sermon titled “When God Says No.”  Something about it resonated within me, so I grabbed a pen and scribbled it on a file folder sitting on the seat next to me.

When I think of the words “hands already full” I get a visual in my head of my son.  He is three years old and his favorite toys are his trucks.  “Trucks” is an all-encompassing term for trucks, cars, motorcycles, planes, and anything else big or small with wheels.  We don’t go anywhere without at least a few trucks, more likely we have a backpack full of them.  You can never have too many trucks; at least that’s what Joel thinks.  The image I have comes from my son’s two small hands.  Even though they are small, he still manages to somehow carry as many as ten trucks at a time.  Wheels in the palm, bumpers perched on trunks, big ones and little ones, he keeps stacking in his hands until no more can fit.  Then he begins the precarious move from his room to the den to the hall to the garage to the car.  It is something to see.  One wrong move and they all come tumbling down.  Sometimes I need Joel to grab a hat or something to bring with us, but there is no more room in his little hands. 

I wonder if God feels like that with me?

What are the things that you latch on to with both hands and are unwilling to let go?  I know I can think of a few.  Perhaps it is a job that brings you comfort.  Maybe it is a dream that you have held forever. Or maybe it is a relationship you keep coming back to.  Whatever it is, your hands are aching from the strain of holding on to it.  Have you ever gripped something so tightly and for so long that when you finally let go your knuckles ache and your hands are tired.  That is how we get sometimes with our wants and desires and even our things.  We stubbornly hang on tight, refusing to let go.  Just like a child who won’t share a toy, we will not be denied.

But what if that keeps us from something better?   What if in seeking what we want, we miss out on what God wants for us?  This is what I got to thinking about when I heard the statement, “God cannot pour his riches into hands already full.” I almost looked down to see what my hands were clinging tightly to.  In my mind, I know that I cling to financial security even though I have never found it.  I cling to my relationships with others, even though they don’t provide for all my needs the way God can.  Sometimes, I cling to my pride and the desire to be recognized for what I do.  For all the ones I can think of there must be countless others that I am unwilling or unable to recognize.

My question then becomes this, do I want to hang on tightly to what I think is important (and will most likely slip away or at the very least not make it through to eternity) or do I want God’s riches, the ones that last forever.  Matthew 6:20 says, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy…  These are the riches I want.  Riches that last. 

I think there is a more important lesson to be learned here, however.  I think the bigger picture here is that God desires a relationship with us where we rely on Him first and foremost. He desires that we come to Him, not just to be blessed, but because we recognize the futility of going it alone.  This is the story of the Bible—God calling out to His people, patiently desiring a real relationship with each of us.  I wonder how many of us would be honest and admit that we cling to things out of fear.  We fear what will happen if we let go.  Like a life preserver to a man adrift in the ocean we hang on.  But what invariably happens is that the rope on the end of the life preserver is not attached to anything firmly.  So we drift and we float and we are never pulled to safety.  We anxiously wait for the next financial crisis, or the next relationship to end or the next business deal to fall through and we are shaken when it happens, but don’t let go.  Here is a thought.  Maybe each thing that we cling to and lose is merely God removing it so He can replace it with something better.  Perhaps instead of scrambling to recover what was lost, we should pause and see what comes next.  Even better, maybe we should ask God to fill us with the blessings and riches that He thinks we need.  This may sound hard to do, but one way or another, He is going to get your attention. 

I’ve tried it my own way and held on to things that were not right for me.  I have also lost things that I held dear.  But that is just it: they are only THINGS.  They are nothing compared to the relationship I have with my Lord and my Savior.  They will not last forever.  The riches of God will.  So I am raising my now empty hands to Him.  Asking for His blessings in whatever form He sees fit.  I am waiting for my hands to be filled with the treasures of Heaven.  I think I am going to like this…