Rev. Sandy Johnson
How Much is Enough?
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“Nelson Rockefeller, heir to the Rockefeller fortune was asked once “how much is enough?” He paused for a moment, smiled and replied, “Just a little bit more.” Whether we are rich or poor, one thing we can never seem to get, is enough, ” we always seek more. “Studies have shown that when the “more” means moving from deprivation to having adequate food, shelter, clothing, health care, and a few amenities, happiness does substantially increase. Beyond that point, however, additional income contributes very little to people’s sense of well-being, though they image it will contribute much. Once you have met basic needs, the extras don’t add much happiness,” in fact it often distracts from it and nurtures a habit of dissatisfaction.
How much is enough? How much of what? I guess it depends on what your objective is. If your objective is to lose weight, enough might look like this: (Pour ¼ glass of milk). If you want to maintain your weight – not gain or lose, you might think this is enough: (pour a little over half glass of milk). But if your objective is to gain weight, then enough looks like this: (Fill glass full of milk). How much is enough? It’s complicated. There is no easy answer.
Every Sunday morning, we say the Lord’s Prayer and ask God to give us our “daily bread.” We understand that this means more than just enough food, but that we ask God for support for our body and our very lives. The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer of enough. It is a prayer that demonstrates our trust that God will provide to us what is necessary. It is not a prayer for excess, but for enough and we trust God to make that determination.
And by trusting, we then must shed our anxiety about our needs and no longer covet excess. We can then receive God’s “enough” with gratitude that moves us to share all we can with others, so that they, too, may experience God’s “enough.” When we pray “give us this day our daily bread,” we seek bread not just for ourselves but for others as well.”
How can we understand the concept of enough? Think back to when you began your careers. Was money tight? It was for JJ and me. We were both working for a nonprofit organization and our salaries were low. We scraped by to make ends meet. We always thought that when we had more money, life would be better, easier. We worked for years, trying to reach that point of “enough.” Our salaries increased but so did our expenses as we chose a larger more expensive lifestyle, a larger home, brand new cars, and European vacations. We became dependent on credit cards and living beyond our means, always searching for “enough.” I always thought that if only I made more money. If I made $50,000 or $75,000 or $100,000, then my money worries would be over.
The drive for enough finally ended when the economy crashed in 2008-2009. Our house of cards collapsed as my income declined and the debt remained. I am embarrassed to tell you that we had to declare bankruptcy. We reorganized our debt and spent seven years paying back what we could. Our search for enough ended in a pathetic realization that we always had what was important. We always had enough – because we had God and each other.
Here I thought that money would make me happy, somehow enough would be found and life would be good. It’s interesting that most of us don’t define ourselves as affluent because we can always see others who earn more, or whose lifestyle is above our own. We are rarely satisfied with what we have. “When the Oakland A’s signed outfielder Jose Canseco to a $4.7 million annual salary, Rickey Henderson, his fellow outfielder, refused to show up for spring training, complaining that his $3 million contract was unfair.” (114)
I’m not sure how “enough” gets tied into what others earn, but for some of us that is part of this enough equation. We must fight the urge to keep up with our neighbors; to define our success and happiness based on others and on some unrealistic idea of “enough.”
When we have a “clear sense of who we are, our purpose in life, and a self-confidence anchored in God, we will be able to reject the tinsel of status and opt instead for the real thing.” That real thing isn’t Coca Cola, that real thing is transformation through Jesus Christ. When we can identify for ourselves what enough is, we can then put into practice what Jesus is teaching us.
We understand as Christians that Jesus calls us to love one another and if the “other” is someone who doesn’t have food to eat, we are compelled to offer something to eat. But it isn’t always that easy, that clear cut. Several years ago as we were getting ready to go on our summer vacation I received a message that one of my girlfriends living in Orlando was being evicted from her apartment, she and her teenage daughter. She had lost her job; she had sold off her belongings trying to keep a roof over their head. She was losing the battle.
Here I was going on vacation, expecting to spend several thousands of dollars on fun and enjoyment and my girlfriend had no place to live. I’d like to tell you that I did “the right thing.” I’d like to tell you that I cancelled my vacation and sent her the money, but I can’t. As much as I felt that was what I should do, I couldn’t convince my family that it was ok to give up our family vacation. So I sent her a token of what I probably could have sent and went off on my trip.
Doing the right thing and embracing the idea of “enough” is complicated. It isn’t only about ourselves, there are others that are impacted. We all have an idea in our minds how much “enough” is. We each have our own idea of how much is enough, enough set aside for a rainy day! But do we ever feel relief knowing that we have amassed “enough?”
I think the point is that we will never be able to identify “enough” for ourselves. It is only through constant communication with God that we will discover the blessing of “enough.” We must spend time in prayer asking for direction, receiving discernment and using the resources God has given us to do those things He wishes us to do. Sometimes that may mean that we have to give up on something we enjoy, to be able to give something to someone else. In doing so we can celebrate God’s generosity and experience the joy of being the hands and feet of Christ. “Each of us has to decide what to do with what we have. With the best of intentions our decisions are flawed, so we live always by grace.”
Our scripture today says a lot about enough. Jesus tells his disciples that they aren’t to worry about the day to day necessities of life. He wants them to understand the depth of God’s love for them and that there will always be enough. He gives examples; he tells us to look at the Raven. Here is a bird that has no means to earn a wage, no fingers to grab groceries to fill a cart and no means to store up for himself a stockpile for a rainy day. He simply lives on the generosity of the land, the generosity of God who loves him very much. Then Jesus tells the disciples about the lilies in the field. They don’t have the means to create wealth, or store up resources either. They simply are there, growing in the field. Bringing beauty to those who come upon it. Does God provide for this lily? Of course. There is always enough, enough sunshine, enough rain and enough soil to stretch its roots into.
Again Jesus says, if God takes care of these – the Raven and the Lily, why would we think he won’t take care of us? Maybe we’re afraid? Maybe we’re afraid that our idea of enough is really too much? Is that why we worry? Are we afraid that our idea of enough and God’s idea of enough won’t match up? Here’s our idea (hold hand up high) of enough. And here’s God’s (hold hands lower).
It is very likely that God will ask us to give up something, something we love, to help others, to help bring our idea of enough into alignment with God’s? Jesus tells his disciples, “sell your possessions, and give alms.” Can we get rid of our excessive lifestyle and give away our treasure? Jesus reminds us that whatever we hold most dear is where our heart is. Do we treasure money more than relationships? Possessions more than service? What do we value most?
So the question then becomes not how much we have, but what do we do with what we have? “Jesus was asking all who followed him to give up everything, or I would argue to be willing to do so. We must all acknowledge that everything we have belongs to God and must be given back to Him. It is not ours to possess. That’s the way it is in the kingdom.
But the way in which life and possessions are given to God differs widely. For some, it means literally selling all and giving the money to the poor. For most of us, Jesus gives no such directive other than repeated indications that the poor are to be the uppermost in our consideration. Either way, everything is to be given up in following Christ. The words of Jesus are not obscure, but they scare us, defy our impulses and are difficult to manage, so we tend to ignore them or interpret them the way we wish they had been said.”
I find it ironic that the amount of money that the American people spend on overeating, added to the amount we spend on diet programs and weight loss gimmicks, together would be enough, enough to end world hunger. Sisters and brothers, “The way we live matters. It matters to God and it matters to others whose lives are affected.
The point is not that a simpler lifestyle would eliminate hunger or poverty (it would not), but that a life given to God becomes focused on God’s will. Because God desires love and justice for the poor, we must desire the same. For most of us that means, among other things, spending less time and money on ourselves and becoming far more generous to those who are impoverished.” 
This Christmas we will all have the opportunity to put into practice what we are learning this morning. To determine for ourselves what is enough and to give the amount over “enough” to a project that can make a huge impact on some folks in Louisiana. We will be asked to give up one gift this Christmas, you decide the amount and then make a donation to our mission trip to help those affected by the floods last August. It is our church’s intention to send a team of 8-10 people to help with hands on, back breaking work to make the lives better of at least one family whose home was ruined when the waters overtook their property.
One man said that he hoped to God that FEMA would give him “enough” so he could start over. I imagine that his idea of enough has changed through this experience. You see that storm which dumped more than two feet of rain within the span of 48 hours, caused catastrophic flooding, more than 60,000 homes were damaged. It is estimated that over $100 million in damage was done to crops. The lives of those in Louisiana will be changed for years to come.
But we can offer some help. We can make donations to this project as gifts to our family and friends. For years I have made donations to other charitable organizations in my family’s name instead of buying my mother another pair of earrings. I am excited this year to be able to donate that money to our own church, to do the mission that Christ has called us to. To make a real difference in people’s lives by stepping out of my comfort zone and offering to travel to Louisiana, to sleep on the cold, hard ground, and to have the privilege of participating in whatever kind of work they think they can teach me to do! Yeah, I don’t have many skills in that arena. But I’m willing, willing to learn. I hope there are power tools involved.
Most of our congregation will stay home and will be praying for our team as we travel and that’s perfectly ok. It is my prayer that all of us will get behind this project and choose to change how we experience Christmas. It is my prayer that perhaps for the first time, all of us will give a generous gift to Jesus so that we can transform the world. As we discover what is enough, we will be freed to give generously and audaciously, and to experience the joy that comes with obedience to God. Let us pray: Gracious Lord, we long to experience the satisfaction and peace of “enough.” I pray that we all surrender ourselves to you and that you would bless us with just enough and inspire us to share the excess. Lord let us transform lives through our service, dedication and love for you. Amen.
 Simon, Arthur. “How Much is Enough? Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture.” Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI. 2003. Page 111.
 Ibid, 112
 Ibid, 113
 Ibid, 115
 Ibid, 119
 Ibid, 122
 Ibid, 131