Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Idea Of Enough

Ever since my wife worked as an intern for Nashville's NPR station, I've found myself listening to their programming during my commute. I recently heard an interview where the guest told a story about Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller at a party for a wealthy banker. Vonnegut asked Heller if it ever upset him that the banker made more money in one year than he had ever made from the book Catch-22. Heller replied, "No, because I have something he will never have. I have enough."

We don't hear many people say that. We typically think about what we could have if we only had a little more. The meaning of "enough" is certainly hard to grasp. But then, what is the source of "enough"? I think it depends on what you want to gain. 

Some teachers talk about Luke 18:18-25 as if it's a story about the evils of money. A rich man asks Jesus what he has to do to gain eternal life. Jesus tells him, "live a perfect life by keeping the law." At first, this sounds like Jesus is saying "Just do what the Bible says". But I think Jesus knew nobody could live a perfect life except for himself. If that's the case, then maybe we can see Jesus' first response as his way of saying, "Well, you aren't capable of gaining eternal life." 

The rich man then says, "I've been doing that already. There's got to be something else." So Jesus looks past the dude's pride to its source and says, "Sell everything, give it to the poor, and follow me." This shook the rich man, because, well, he was rich. But more than that, he put his trust in the security and comfort offered by wealth above the life Jesus offered. 

Those teachers I mentioned often stop the story when Jesus says, "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Then these teachers have expounded on money. 

I don't think the point Jesus made was, "Money is evil. Only poor people are righteous." Jesus merely revealed the man's idol. It could have been anything, guys. If a socialite had approached Jesus, he could have said, "How difficult it is for a popular man to enter the kingdom of God!" If this conversation happened between Jesus and a genius, it could easily have been, "How hard it is for an intelligent man to enter the kingdom of God!" If the men found comfort, security, and identity in his friends or the power of his mind, then he would have made relationships or intellect his god. 

I think we could fill in the blank "How difficult it is for a _________ man to enter the kingdom of God" with any descriptor. In fact, Jesus could simply have said, "How difficult it is for a man to enter the kingdom of God!" 

If he had said it this way, maybe we would better relate to the people hearing him. In verse 26, the people said, "Then who can be saved?" We all struggle with idolatry. I think John Calvin rightly said the human heart is a perpetual factory of idols. If we constantly find ourselves putting our trust in wealth, relationships, intelligence, or anything besides God alone, then who can be saved? 

Jesus then says in verse 27, "What is impossible with man is possible with God." 

So if Jesus wasn't saying, "Money is evil," what was he saying? I think he took an opportunity to tell us "You can't do anything to gain eternal life. Only I can do that for you. And if you try to do it on your own, you may as well try to successfully shove a giant animal through a tiny hole."

When we make something like money an idol, it will never give us enough of what we want. The idol will continuously promise to fulfill our desires, and then fail to really deliver. 

But what is impossible with these idols is possible with God. If we truly seek after God as the fulfillment of our desires, putting our trust in Him, finding our security and comfort in Him, He will always provide what we need. He is enough. 

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