What is enough?

Daily Reading for May 30

Merely being satisfied with what we already have is not sufficient; we also have to confront our desire to have more things and more money. We have to “decide what is enough and then stick to it in order to save our very souls.”

This is far from easy. Right now I am looking out my back door at the place where I would really like to have a deck. It is close to the kitchen, and I can foresee easy, lazy summer meals under the trees. We do not need the deck—we have other places to sit outside—but I have been thinking about it for years. Every time I get ready to call the carpenter, however, I hold back. I cannot feel good about spending $5,000 on something we do not really need. I know I would feel even better if I would just make a decision to forget the deck and send the money to support Habitat for Humanity in Guatemala or Judith’s weavers in Mexico. I am also a little angry with myself for getting stuck on something so frivolous when I know that such a question is pure luxury in a world of want. While we try to be responsible with our funds and carefully think through what we want to give away and to whom, we probably do not give away nearly enough and we have certain blind spots. And, to be honest, we tend to console ourselves with what we do give away and ignore some of the nagging issues. Like the deck.

Nonetheless, I know that if I am going to maintain a vibrant faith, hard questions about money have to be asked and answered. If you are like me, perhaps you will join me in asking a few hard questions such as these:

How much money is enough? How much do I really need to keep for myself and my family?

What addictions does my money feed, such as spending, shopping, the appearance of success, luxury, power, control?

Where does my money come from? Do I benefit from systems that oppress others? What kinds of seeds are my investments growing in the world?

How does my faith direct the use of my money? What people, causes, movements, programs, political candidates would I like my money to support?

What messages do I want to give to my children and grandchildren about my use of money?

Do our children really need the money we want to give them? Are there others who need it more?

How can we open up a conversation about money with members of our families, our communities, and our churches?

How much is left over after we have done our giving? How can we live on less and give more and still live in this culture?

We cannot brush off these questions. If we have been educated beyond high school, if we have jobs, insurance, and retirement packages, if we own our own home or can comfortably afford a rental, we are wealthy. Most of you are probably not millionaires but are more like me, worrying about whether or not to build the deck in the back of the house. Wherever we are on the continuum between “getting by” and wealthy, the answers we give to questions of wealth and the actions that flow from them might just, as Pierce suggests, save our very souls.

From Your Daily Life is Your Temple by Anne Rowthorn. Copyright © 2006. Seabury Books, an imprint of Church Publishing. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY. www.churchpublishing.org

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