How Much Is Enough?
If I ever had the opportunity to preach a sermon, I think this just might be the question I would pose. It really feels to me like money and all the issues surrounding it is the greatest hinderence to our americanized Christianity truly being a radical faith that it was intended to be. There are a ton of Bible verses I could point to, but I’ll just use one chunk of a letter from the apostle Paul to Timothy.
7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction…
17Command 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. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (I Timothy 6)
There are plenty of other verses that would lend support to this, but I can’t escape the simple straightforwardness of this message and that it seems directly applicable to us in the United States. We should be content with “food and clothing” and we should be “rich in good deeds” and “generous and willing to share.” So obvious, and yet, what does that mean for us?
Does food and clothing include shelter? If so what kind? Should we purchase a home? What about a vehicle? Is there a point that we can say “this is enough” and simply stop accumulating wealth and possessions beyond that point? Is there? Is it something we can only decide individually or can a local community church make a collective decision? What about larger bodies?
This is clearly not something I’ve come to a solid answer or decision on, but rather something I’m constantly struggling with and have been continually disappointed that it doesn’t really seem to be brought up in church.
You’ll hear the occasional sermon on financial stewardship, and the pastor might be so daring as to call church goers to give a 10% tithe. And it’s rare, but you might even find a pastor who will point out the scriptures warnings of the dangers of riches and wealth. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon where a pastor will take a stab at defining what “rich” is. No one ever puts a number to it. And we can talk all day about tithing 10%, but has anyone ever tried to define how much is acceptable or necessary to live on, to spend on ourselves?
These are my questions. I don’t have answers, but I think it’s a conversation worth having. Where do you stand?