As we enter Thanksgiving and the gift-buying days leading up to Christmas, now is a great time to talk about what is enough. According to the consumer version of this season (in the U.S., at least), excess becomes our expectation, even our norm: excess food, excess buying, excess entertainment and activity.
“Enough” is a word not only of sanity and balance, but also of spiritual grounding. In 2 Corinthians 9:8, Paul says that God gives us every blessing in abundance so that, by always having enough of everything, we may share abundantly in every good work. So our purpose is not to have everything in abundance, but rather to share abundantly. Having enough of what we need (in contrast to everything we desire) encourages us to share abundantly. With the “enough” that God promises, as we know from the Macedonians in Paul’s day (2 Corinthians 8:1-6), those who are centered in Jesus Christ can share abundantly, despite material poverty, because of the “wealth of generosity” in their hearts and lives and the sufficiency of God’s grace.
One good resource for exploring this idea is Lynn Miller’s book The Power of Enough: Finding Contentment by Putting Stuff In Its Place. This book makes an excellent piece for personal or group study. Miller explores Paul’s understanding of contentment (see Philippians 4:11-12) and key concepts such as the difference between need and desire, how a surplus economy works, and buying based upon “inherent usefulness.” (For example, if the purpose of a car is reliable transportation, then it does not have to be sexy, classy or any of the other intangibles that car dealers try to attach to their products.)
The Power of Enough is very practical. In each chapter, Miller offers personal reflection questions and exercises based upon our daily-living decisions. For example, in his “What Stuff Means” exercises, he invites you to write down what a house, food, clothes, and so on mean to you, where you formed those opinions, and whether those beliefs work for or against you. He then asks readers to discern what is “enough” in relation to their “stuff.” Miller’s basic principles apply equally well whether you are putting together your first-ever budget, planning for retirement, or deciding whether to invest in stocks or real estate.
In the Bible, “enough” is not just the bare minimum, Miller says, but rather sufficiency in everything. When we recognize that we have enough to be able to share abundantly, no matter what our external circumstances, we know that the things we own have nothing to do with who we are. We are set free, not just to have gifts or even to give gifts, but to be the gifts of God that God designed us to be for the rest of God’s world. The sufficiency of God’s grace: now that’s enough for this season and far beyond!
Written 12/7/2010 for the General Board of Discipleship
of the United Methodist Church