How Much Is Enough?

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  • **As we begin this season of Advent, we would like to share this first devotional in our Christmas series.

    Speaking of Israel’s watchmen God says, “They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain. ‘Come,’ each one cries, ‘let me get wine! Let us drink our fill of beer! And tomorrow will be like today, or even far better’” (Isaiah 56:12, NIV).

    How much is enough? Thanksgiving and Christmas are traditional feast days, and feasting is by no means forbidden in Scripture. Rather, we are enjoined to rejoice and be glad. Who that know Jesus Christ have not great cause for celebrating? It is not my purpose to put a damper on Thanksgiving or Christmas feasts but to be reminded of Jesus’ words to Martha, who was worried and troubled about many things when only one thing was needed. That one thing would have sufficed.

    My husband and I were invited, along with six or eight others, to the home of a very wealthy lady in Texas. The menu? A large and delicious salad. Nothing else, as I recall, except perhaps coffee. She explained that she had been studying that passage in Luke 10. An unforgettable meal and an unforgettable lesson—it was enough.

    Here in America most of us have far, far more than enough. Some families have agreed together to scale down gift-giving in order to be more generous to those who are in real need. The proliferation of garage sales indicates that people do eventually come to the realization that they have Too Much Stuff. They put it out for sale and along come folks who, although they are very likely in need of nothing, find something irresistible. They lug it home—but do they set about dealing with what they can now get rid of?

    Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, took stock each year of all his possessions. Anything which he had not used for a year he felt duty-bound to give to someone who could make good use of it. If you haven’t used it for a year, you don’t need it! How many suits or dresses does a man or woman really need? Have you counted up the T-shirts or shoes you haven’t worn for more than a year? The pens that clutter the back of that drawer? The tapes and CDs you never listen to? The stuff in the hall closet, the basement, or the trunk of the car?

    It took Lars and me a few years to wake up to the fact that we could travel much more lightly than most of the people we see in airports. Why, we asked, does anyone want to be burdened with so much stuff? It’s enough to make you want to stay home! What, I wonder, would be my response if the Lord Jesus said to me what He said to those He sent out to the harvest field: “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals”?

    As faithful stewards of what we have, ought we not to give earnest thought to our staggering surplus? Remember God’s words, “If there is a poor man among your brothers. . . do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted towards your poor brother” (Deut. 15:7, NIV). The word steward is an interesting one, derived from the word sty, a pen for pigs, and ward, one who guards. 1 Peter 4:10 reminds us that “each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (NIV) “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (KJV).

    **Excerpt originally published in the Nov/Dec 1999 Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter.