Monday, November 26, 2018

How Much is Really Enough?

Financial advisors spend much of their time dealing with people who don’t have enough. Maybe they haven’t handled their finances wisely, amassing large amounts of debt. It might be because they’re not earning enough to support themselves and their families. Or it could be attributed to a variety of other reasons, including major, unexpected expenses, such as severe illnesses, or high repair/replacement costs for cars or “big ticket” items like air conditioners, furnaces, and roofs.

It’s tough when you really don’t have enough.

How should we respond when we're
being told too much is never enough?
However, some people have a very different question to answer: How much is enough? That’s something many of us never ask ourselves. Or, if we do, the response is typically the same. Years ago, one of the world’s richest men was reported to have been asked, “How much is enough?” To which he replied, “Just a little bit more.”

That sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? How could a person with great wealth be dissatisfied with what he or she already has? When that “little bit” is achieved, the target somehow moves just a tad farther out. Makes no sense, right? But we’ve all done it.

We don’t need fabulous wealth to wrestle with this “little bit more” issue. The boss gives us a raise at work, yet within weeks the additional compensation begins to seem inadequate, especially if we learn a coworker also got a pay increase and is earning more than we are. In setting career goals, we reason if we could just arrive at a certain level of income, that would make us happy. But once we get there, it appears we’ve set the bar too low.

And it’s not just about paychecks and bank accounts. We can have a closet full of clothes, yet strolling through a retail store, we can’t help thinking a new dress, shirt, or pair of shoes would really be a nice addition to the wardrobe. That 50-inch high-definition TV we already have is okay, but having a 65-inch model would even be better. We’re feeling satisfied with our five-year old car – until a neighbor drives up with a new one right off the showroom floor, loaded with accessories we didn’t even know were available.

We’ve just finished observing another Thanksgiving Day. For many of us, as we salivated over the array of food set before us, “just a little bit more” was the all-day answer to our “how much is enough” question. Long after we’d appeased our hunger, we were still treating our taste buds.

This is a “normal” human weakness it seems, which might be why God decided the last of His 10 commandments should be “You shall not covet…anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17). Coveting what others have never leads to uplifting thinking. It may motivate us to work harder so we can have it too, but once we’ve attained “it,” it never seems to be enough. And this puts us at odds with others, the old “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.

Proverbs 27:20 warns, “Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man.” One translation of Proverbs 30:15 reads, Greed has twins, each named ‘Give me!’" What the Bible calls “the flesh” – our sinful nature – doesn’t understand what having enough means. It always wants more. 

The solution to this is making a conscious decision about what will be sufficient, what’s “enough,” even when opportunities emerge for us to acquire more. The apostle Paul, who experienced his share of both prosperity and deprivation during his lifetime, stated, I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12).

Out of that “classroom,” Paul reached an important conclusion: But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

Perhaps this is an important principle we all need to keep foremost in our minds, especially since the Christmas season is officially upon us. Over the next several weeks we’ll be bombarded with messages telling us about all the stuff we “deserve” and “need.” Have we learned the secret of being content? Can we distinguish genuine needs from wants? Are we willing to make a determination about how much is really enough?

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