Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die.
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
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.
Cherishing the gift of enough has never been a strength of human nature. Oh, I know when I’ve had enough whining and complaining from others, enough poor service from a business, enough of being put off or put upon or put down. Those ‘enoughs’ are easy to quantify. They come with frustration, fatigue and flares of anger. The only positive they offer is knowing I’ve positively had enough!
I know when I’ve had enough, but do I know when I have enough? When it comes to provision, to material things, what is enough, and why does it matter?
Not enough always matters in the essentials for our well-being. Conditions like hunger, cold, and constant threats to mental and physical health are stark indicators to our sense of ‘not enough’. These lead to patterns of desperation that seldom result well.
The proverb warns of another danger: having too much. Too much generates a complacency at best and voracious greed at worst. Both encourage us to think we can depend on ourselves, our wealth and our possessions instead of on God. They become our focus. Their peril lies in their subtlety: they divert us dollar by dollar, gratification by gratification, until our consumption consumes us.
In a culture that constantly yells “More is better!” what is enough? How do we move from being a slave to what we have, or want to have, to wanting to have our riches in relationship with Jesus?
Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. (Ecc. 5:10)
Too many possessions end up possessing us. Too few to meet our daily needs end up depressing us. ‘Enough’ stops the constant need to scrounge, to shuffle, to scheme. Enough lets us sleep in peace: “The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.” (Ecc. 5:12)
The core of the issue of enough isn’t what is enough, but Who. It’s not what I have, but Who I have that determines my enough: “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8)
All things, all times, all that I need — that just about covers it! God is my enough. There is nothing, no urgency, no need that He will not meet for my good, in His perfect timing, for His purposes. He is my sufficiency. His power is made perfect in my insufficiency.
Paul experienced both ends of the need spectrum, from want to plenty. He learned “the secret of being content in every situation” by discovering that “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:12-13) That kind of contentment only comes through complete confidence in God’s unfailing love and absolute trustworthiness. It comes from walking by faith and not by sight. It’s a hard lesson for most of us to learn as thoroughly as Paul did.
Part of the difficulty comes from our sense of need. God knows how often our need is for character development: learning patience, perseverance, compassion, selflessness. We tend to identify needs like relief from stress, deliverance from suffering, worry, etc. What we want is more ease, more sense of accomplishment, more fulfillment. What we need is to become more like Jesus.
If I never lift anything heavy, my arms will never get stronger. If I never go the second mile, or walk uphill, my legs will be weak. If I never have to exert myself, my heart will get sluggish. God wants my arms strong to reach out to others, my legs ready to run whatever race He has set out for me, my heart beating with a vital compassion for others and devotion to Him.
Turning everything over to God isn’t weakness, but strength. It opens the door for His power to work in and through me. I might face an obstacle the size of a Douglas Fir and start going at it with my little hatchet. How much smarter to ask God whether I should be cutting it down, going around it, tunneling through it, or staying put. How much wiser to wait for His answer, His timing, His equipping. How much more peaceful to rely on Him, knowing He is wise enough, strong enough, and loves me enough to do what is best in every situation. That’s the secret of contentment.
And that’s more than enough.