When is enough enough? No decision affects our futures more.
As consumer debt rises, so do the levels of personal and relational stress permeating our families, workplaces, and churches. And pastors are no exception. Confronting our consumerist tendencies produces a wealth of benefits. But why is it so hard to decide that enough is indeed enough? As Benjamin Franklin states, “Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.”
We live in a world of “discontented accumulation.” No matter how much we acquire, it never feeds the real hunger of our lives. And the solution to the problem is more spiritual than financial in nature.
Hebrews 13:5 (NIV) reads: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.’” The writer of Hebrews hits on the real struggle: our dissatisfaction comes from missing God’s intimate connection to the whole of our existence, not just our finances. We can’t fix a checking account balance unless we first fix what drives our priorities in this world. And our priorities must begin with God, not the inflated values of a world bent on gorging itself on one fleeting delicacy after another but never truly being filled.
Like our physical diets, our spiritual menus must include real foods, not merely emotional candy that leave us unhealthy and always craving more. Spiritual energy and vitality come only from living lives devoted to a deeper understanding of who we are and of the Creator to whom we belong. No job, car, house, or title can provide this.
In teaching about stewardship, I realized that families and individuals must develop a healthy lifestyle in order to experience financial health. Good budgets and debt reduction are not enough. In order to change our financial future, we have to address what drives our financial behavior.
And Jesus taught that our resources give us opportunities to live faithfully before God and one another. Money, for Jesus, was another tool for doing great good in the world.
Here are six biblical core values that, I believe, can change our lives. These principles are certainly not exhaustive of all the Scriptures teach about stewardship, money, or resources. However, they provide a framework for stewarding our resources for significance in the kingdom of God:
- The Principle of Enough (Hebrews 13:5). What happens when consuming becomes our God? The writer of Hebrews encourages us to be satisfied with the indispensable promise of God’s faithfulness. Regardless of the ebb and flow of the world’s gifts, God’s gift will never rust, fade, or slip away.
- The Principle of Proper Perspective (Matthew 6:24). We cannot serve two masters; God does not give us that option. Such clear distinction between the things of this world and the things of God gives us the opportunity for clarity in our decisions. What seems like a stark, declarative statement actually provides a clear point of reference by which we can understand God’s plan for our lives
- The Principle of the Good Steward (Matthew 19:16-22). In a world where “good” is defined in terms of the accumulation of material possessions, Jesus counters by saying that “good” is a matter of care and stewardship, even to the point of giving away that which we treasure. Most financial problems arise when the things we possess in reality possess us. Part of being a good steward involves understanding the temporary nature of all the material goods we possess.
- The Principle of the Shrewd Manager (Luke 16:1-18). Clearly, Jesus is not endorsing the manager’s dishonest practices. Rather, he is teaching us that, like the manager, we are called to be shrewd managers of the resources that God gives us. The parable might be paraphrased “If only we were as wise and shrewd in achieving eternal things as those who are intent on possessing dishonest things.” Of course, this requires focus, planning, and a faithful heart so that we may adequately respond to God’s kingdom plans. Only when we spend as much time and effort preparing our lives (and resources) for kingdom good (through the building of relationships, for example) as we do for pleasure will we experience a true measure of God’s enormous potential in both our earthly and our eternal lives.
- The Principle of the Widow’s Mite (Mark 12:41-44). What does it mean to give out of our poverty? Jesus understands that trusting God is much easier in times of abundance than in our times of need. However, some of life’s greatest lessons are learned from our commitment and response as we experience times of hardship and sacrifice.
- The Principle of the Faithful Giver (1 Timothy 6:17-18). Be “ready to share” (NRSV). Paul’s command highlights the nature of why we give – because God expects us to do so. Our resources serve as another opportunity to be a part of the work of God in this world and to do good things in God’s name. We do not share our resources for pride or personal gain but because God covets the whole of our lives, including our earthly possessions, to be offered in His service.
Sitting on a friend’s desk is the famous discourse of the apostle Paul concerning his thorn in the flesh. He asks God to remove it. I love how Eugene Peterson, in his work The Message, translates God’s response: “My grace is enough; it’s all you need… for everything else there is Mastercard”.
Truly, it is better to stop at enough.