The Theology of Enough

I have a hard time understanding how people who live with so much, as we do, think that they can get by without judgment when people live like this (at a Guatemala city dump). Some people choose poverty. But there are people right here next to us that have not chosen this. And if we turn our backs on them, we are turning our backs on Christ. -Rich Mullins

I want to talk about something that has been burning in my heart for a long time now. First let me give you some back story – For years I had the false mindset that the direct result of faith in God was prosperity, safety and comfort.

Then my husband went to Kenya, and God completely shattered that way of thinking. Kent saw people who had nothing, yet their faith in God was so rich, so beautiful, so sufficient – it wasn’t just something that fit neatly into their lives – Christ was EVERYTHING to them. Now I can see how spiritually poor I was compared to these amazing Christ followers. I had unknowingly made idols out of my comfort, my safety and my possessions.

So in the last 4 years, we have slowly down-sized our house size by 75%. We have pared down our possessions by giving things away. We live a bootstrapped life – we rarely go out to eat, we don’t go see movies or shows, don’t go on vacations, you get the point. All this to say, downsizing was something necessary for us to do so we could release our grip on self-gratification and material things. I don’t say this so you can pat us on the back, I don’t even share it with the hope that you will do the same. I simply invite you to dream with me for a moment.

Poverty was not created by God, but by you and me – because we have not learned to love our neighbor as ourselves. -Shane Claiborne

What if all who profess Christ and believe the Bible would actually do what it said? God is very clear about taking care of the poor, the widow and the orphan. God’s commands to Israel were so extensive that they were designed to eradicate poverty. (Deut. 15:4) God was then furious over Israel’s failure to care for the poor and the oppressed. (Isa. 58:1-3, 5-10)

In the book, The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne says, “We need neither the gospel of prosperity, nor the poverty gospel, but the gospel of abundance rooted in a theology of enough.” This is taken from Exodus where God commanded the Israelites to only gather what they could eat, and no more (Exo. 16:16) and of course from the Lord’s prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

There is enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed. -Gandhi

In the early days of Christianity, when there was not enough food for everyone to eat, the whole community fasted until all could come to the table together. This kind of boggles my mind. We are so far from this model of doing life with our brothers and sisters in our self-serving culture.

“Does God’s dream look like Wall Street?” If everyone lived the American dream, we’d need four more planets. Can the world really afford the patterns that we’re living in? -Shane Claiborne

The theology of enough. It is something that my husband and I are still working on – we still blow money on crap that we don’t necessarily need. But the hope is that the grip will loosen more and more.

God’s love for you and God’s love for the larger world in need cannot be separated. God’s longing to see you liberated for life that really is life can’t be neatly pulled apart from God’s longing to see the poor liberated for life that really is life. My friend Nate, who works with Compassion International, sees this pretty clearly. Nate will be the first one to tell you, “Compassion’s work, releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name, is releasing me from wealth in Jesus’ name.” If your life is anything like mine, God longs to set you free from addiction to pleasure, appearances, busyness, consumption, envy, greed and self-absorption.  -Margot Starbuck

What are your thoughts, friends? Do you struggle in this area?

12 thoughts on “The Theology of Enough”

  1. Absolutely. As an entrepreneur, I constantly struggle to find the balance between my desire for success and all the things that can come with it (money, material possessions), and the gratitude I must have for the things God’s already blessed me with. Out of the gratitude, though, the contentment for the now, what we’re already able to respond to, comes more blessing in our chosen profession. But even then, we can’t feign gratitude for what we have in order to attain more!

    Still something I’m learning, like you.

  2. You’re speaking my heart. I feel as though I’ve been on the precipice of serious lifestyle downsizing for a long time. I am making baby steps but I haven’t fully taken the plunge. But it is so on my heart. I don’t need all of this stuff. I don’t need a raise to buy more of it. I have enough. And I even have enough to share with others, too.

  3. This is incredibly timely! The youth group I help lead at my church went to LA this august to help out the Dreamcenter there, and we are having an emphasis on our trip tomorrow in church! The excess and poverty I saw so strongly contrasted there, the million dollar homes and Skid Row.. it hasn’t left me and I hope it never will. One thing I think about daily was from an older man I got talking to on Skid Row: in his younger years, he had the opportunity to travel some and he told me “compared to people in third world countries, I have nothing to complain about.” …amazing! If this man who has nothing compared to my standards has “nothing to complain about”, then how am I ever justified to complain about my own life of excess?!

  4. I may read this every week for the rest of the year. Praise God for his mercy and compassion and faithfulness to each one of us, to show us His heart and invite us into His kingdom. Thank you for sharing.

  5. This is ironic because my husband and I just purchased a 2300 square foot home in April and in many ways we already wish we hadn’t. It was a first home purchase for both of us and we wanted a space that was large enough to have a photography/design studio for me to work from home but it’s a lot to furnish and manage and feels excessive. We know we can’t see right now but we talk almost daily of when we will downsize.

    For now we are enjoying the home we have and know that we are very blessed. We also remind ourselves daily that our worth is not measured by what we have and know that if we lost it all we would be just fine because we have love… God’s and each others’. 🙂

  6. Thanks for sharing. My wife and I have been downsizing partly out of the necessity and partly out of wont. We find it somewhat difficult, though, both of us with our crafts to really live a spare life. If we actually had studio spaces outside of the house it sure would help, but we don’t at this point.

  7. Evie,
    I was directed to your blog via Pinterest, but I have lingered due to your content.

    This post is beautifully written. So many of us are blessed. Yet we waste our money on empty “stuff” instead of helping the less fortunate. Your efforts are inspiring.

    Thank you for sharing your story.


  8. @scissortail – this is an issue for us too, as my husband and I both office out of our home, we definitely need space for this. We managed to do this when we were first married in a tiny one bedroom apartment. It was challenging! And we surely could not do that again now that we have 2 kids. But, ultimately I think Shayla said it perfectly. It really comes down to our heart attitude and whether we have more than enough or just enough it’s a matter of the heart on can we be content with what we have, and if we have more than enough, can we share what we have with others that are in need?

  9. I came upon your site via Pinterest, and I’m so glad I did. Immediately clicked on you Faith tab, (after looking at your tutorial for paper-clip earrings) and read this article. I was so inspired. I think the holidays are the most difficult time to be mindful of this sort of contentment. It’s easy to start wanting and wishing- usually for unnecessary things. Likewise, as a newer mother, I find it difficult to create an environment for my child that teaches joy in simplicity and contentment in enough, when at this time of year he is bathed in things. Thanks. I’m going to send this to my whole family!

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