When is enough, well, enough? In a society that bombards us with messages telling us we need more and more, where do we draw the line? As followers of Christ, what is the appropriate amount of “stuff” we should own? Some people teach that the blessings of God results in material wealth and the more things we possess, the more we are blessed. At the other end of the spectrum are those who teach that Christians should not own anything but rather live life in a state not far from destituteness; the more we suffer, the more we are blessed. As I have found with most things, the truth more than likely falls somewhere in between these two extremes.
I confess to leaning a little closer to the side of those who say to refrain from owning anything in this world. To be certain, we cannot be possessed by that which we do not possess. It is far too easy to succumb to the trap of finding our identity in what we own or earn. In the Western world in particular, we are judged by our occupation or the size of our home or what model of car we drive. As we strive to achieve acceptance among those around us, we tend to buy more and thus be known for what we purchase. It would be better to own nothing and be identified by what we believed instead of what we owned. Better still, live simply and let your life define you. Jesus didn’t command everyone to sell all they had, but he did make it clear that it was at least an option. When we are consumed by our stuff that is when it is time to sell it all.
I am generally repulsed by the teaching of the so-called “prosperity gospel” which is the other of the two extremes. I have always wondered how people in very poor countries felt when they see satellite broadcasts if preachers telling them that if they aren’t wealthy then they have too much sin in their lives; if they were truly following God they would be leading a lavish lifestyle. I find no basis in Scripture for this teaching, and in fact find Jesus teaching a message that is exactly the opposite. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor”. He commanded a rich young man to sell all of his possessions. When Christ called the twelve disciples to follow Him, He required that they leave everything behind. The Bible does not teach a gospel of prosperity but rather of earthly poverty that will be exchanged for heavenly glory. Don’t get caught in the trap of the “health and wealth” preachers. I’m not certain of their motivation, but I am certain of the devastation of their false doctrine.
As I have said before, I have no corner on the truth but I will share what I believe is the proper balance in answer to the question of, “How much is enough?” I believe if we will live humbly before God and seek to live a life that is patterned after His that we will be able to discern what the right amount of “stuff” is for us to own on this planet. We are called to care for the needs of those in poverty, to feed the hungry and give water to the thirsty. If we will make these things the top priority for the money with which we are entrusted, I think the rest will take care of itself. We should live a simple lifestyle so that we can free up as many resources as possible to devote caring for those around us. As God blesses us with more and more, it is our duty as His servants to take that money and use it in His service, for His glory. We should always think of the needs of another before our own. I see no issue with taking care of our needs; it’s when we cross from “need” to “want” that we must be on guard as to how we spend the money we have been given.
Seeking first the Kingdom of God should be enough to settle the money issue. Everything we have has been entrusted to us by God so that we might use it to further His mission. When we utilize our resources to serve others, to demonstrate kindness and mercy, we do what we have been commanded to do. As you look around your residence and consider the material things you own, examine whether you are taking your identity from any of it. If so, it’s time to get rid of those items. If you determine that you have far too many extra items in your possession, consider giving away those things to someone who does not have what you do. How many clothes, dishes or televisions does one person really need? Go through your house a room at a time praying over your belongings and asking God what He would have you do with them. Ask Him to show you much is truly enough. Hold loosely to anything that is of this world, and cling to that which is eternal. Live simply and donate all you can to the hurting in our world. Don’t grieve over what you give away; only Christ can truly bring you joy. Every possession we lose in this world gains us another piece of Heaven to hold in our hands. Repent of holding tightly to that which you can never keep. Rejoice in gaining what you can never lose.