We have lost the meaning of the word enough. We live in a world where actually it is hard to see a driving force in our society that acknowledges the value of enough. Everyone who is getting more wants even more and everyone selling them more wants to sell more. Enough is almost a bad word in our western unrestrained consumerist culture.
The problem of course is that when we reach our level of enough and pass it with the regularity and distance that we do then the balances of world shalom are so tilted that other human beings have to live in abject poverty for our dissatisfaction with enough.
The Bible makes a couple of strong pointers to God’s ideal of enough. In the wilderness when God supplied the Children Of Israel with food, they were sent out to collect enough for one day and were not allowed to gather anymore than was enough for that one day. In the New Testament Jesus teaches us to pray in The Lord’s Prayer that we would have daily bread in the same kind of way; no more, no less, just enough!
One Sunday morning in Fitzroy, awhile back, I was comparing and contrasting Jesus encounters with the Rich Young Ruler and Blind Bartimaeus and how difficult the rich find it to follow Jesus and perhaps how the poor might indeed be blessed but we should never stop campaigning for the eradication of poverty either.
Before I preached, one of our congregation, one of our elders, Desi Alexander used Proverbs 30 v 7-9 in his prayer of intercession. I had never taken those verses in before but in the context of Mark 10 and these two very different encounters with Jesus it instantly became definitive verses on our modern dilemma of poverty and wealth –
7 "Two things I ask of you, O LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, 'Who is the LORD ?'
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
The book of Proverbs is indeed wisdom and here is prophetic wisdom for this generation. From a world that could never have imagined the extent of wealth that we enjoy, millennia later, the understanding of the temptations of poverty and wealth are spot on. I have lived at both sides of the balance.
In 2005 I lived for a few months on the west side of Vancouver and witnessed a class of community who had so much money that they really had no need for God anymore; in fact God would have been a real hindrance to the lavish lifestyle they enjoyed. It was actually a poverty of soul caused by riches.
Over various years I have spent many months engaging with various township communities on South Africa’s Western Cape. In these places I was a witness to an environment of poverty that caused crime to be rife not because those folk were any less human than my friends in West Van but because the tragic consequences of their wretched poverty drove them to it.
The prayer in Proverbs to have neither poverty or wealth suggests that we need to come to terms with the word enough and live our lives so that everyone has enough and settle for its blessing!