“Here mom, you can have the rest of this. I’ve had enough.”
It still shocks me every time. Somehow my kids – in spite of their choco-holic mom – have learned to stop eating when they are full, and to give their excess to me or their dad. They even do this with ice cream. Unbelievable.
I, on the other hand, never seem to have enough. There’s almost always room for one more sip of a milkshake, one more bite of cheesecake, or one more chocolate chip cookie.
When did I lose my sense of “enough”? When did I become so insatiable?
And it’s not just food. I am this way with much bigger things, too. I always have room for one more pair of boots, time for one more vacation, and energy for one more home improvement project… To the point that I am ready to start planning for the next experience even before the current one is over. Actually, if I’m honest, sometimes I start planning the next thing while I’m in the middle of my current project/trip/experience.
But I have started noticing a nagging feeling lately. It’s this thought that I can’t shake.
Maybe my attitude of “never enough” isn’t just irresponsible or selfish or careless – maybe it is actually in direct conflict with Jesus’ message.
Jesus didn’t teach the American Dream. You knew that already, right? He didn’t teach us to fulfill our dreams, live life to the fullest, or to go in pursuit of the latest [phone/coat/car/house/vacation] upgrade. Jesus said different things. Upside-down, backwards things. Things like:
- “Whoever sees his neighbor in need and does nothing….”
- “Treat others as you would treat yourself…”
- “To whom much has been given, much is required…”
- And, to the rich young ruler, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor.”
I don’t like these words because I don’t know how to follow them in my own life – and even I did, they sound really hard to do.
But I can’t stop thinking that as I dream about building a pergola in my backyard and turning our 3-season porch into a legit sunroom (I’m ALL about this idea)…….. there might be someone else who is dreaming about building a hospital for their village, or an orphanage, or a well for clean water. Or maybe as I’m dreaming about the next activity or camp to sign my kids up for, someone else is dreaming of a Bible translation in their own language or enough money to buy a school uniform and supplies. Maybe as I’m dreaming about getting pet chickens, someone else is dreaming of chickens so they can have a source of income and nutrition. Kinda puts things into [a very uncomfortable] perspective for me.
I don’t think that God expects us to never get nice things or that we are all called to take a vow of poverty. But I think that in dismissing “sell everything” as too extreme, I have also sub-consciously dismissed many of Jesus’ teachings.
I remember listening to one of the richest men in America talking about a missions trip he took to Haiti. His words sounded almost exactly like the rich young ruler. “I realized that I don’t need my private jet to be happy… but I sure do like my private jet. I wouldn’t want to give it up.” I laughed at the thought of him not being able to give up his jet, but I am the same way with my own excesses.
I want to live honestly… to live in a way that I can say I am following Jesus’ example and teachings as best as I can. But I sure do like my home improvement projects and fun road trips. I don’t want to give them up.
Do you know how the rich young ruler responded to Jesus’ words?
“But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich.” [Find the whole story here: Luke 18:18-30]
This is me right now. I am the rich young ruler. I’ve grown up with more than enough, in a culture steeped in the American Dream… but I’m pretty sure that it is a hamster wheel keeping me trapped in the perpetual pursuit of happiness. I want my priorities to always be aligned correctly, and to use my energy and money and time towards things that are full of meaning. But I am conflicted because I really like what I have.
My constant prayer is that I can sacrifice my “more” monster and embrace a sense of “enough”. That I would recognize my own excesses, be grateful and content with what I am given, and that I would learn to say, like my kids, “Here God, you can have the rest of this [money/time/energy]. I’ve had enough.”
The picture above is a screenshot from a short LifeKids.tv YouTube sketch of the story of the rich young ruler. Check it out!