So let me talk about some nothings before I start about somethings. If this blog is anything, it’s self indulgent. So you can read this, or skip to the “real part,” whatever tickles your fancy. OK, here we go with the nothings:
Last week I stepped on a nail and it pierced my foot pretty good. All the way through my TOMS Botas sole and then another inch into my foot. It was the strangest sensation I have ever had, pulling that old, rusty nail out of my foot. There are nerves inside my body that I never knew I had until that moment when I could feel the nail sliding out that inch of my foot. In the middle of it, though, I actually laughed out loud because I had an inner monologue going on that was pretty much verbatim that part in Family Guy when Stewie gets the glass stuck in his head after failing at his gymnast routine: “Do I take it out or leave it in?! Do I take it out or leave it in?!” I laughed because, even in that moment, I realized how funny Seth McFarlane can be sometimes. Though, not in recent memory…
Moving right along, I just got a Spotify account. Today. For those of you unaware, it’s kind of like iMesh. Which, for those of you unaware, was like Napster. Which, for those of you unaware, was like iTunes. Except illegal. Well, Spotify is like iTunes, but instead of using your own music, you have access to an increasing number of albums to stream from the Music Libraries of the Interwebs. For free. So, now I have pretty much an unlimited music library any time I have internet. And I can pick which tracks or artists I want to listen to- not like those radio station websites where you pick an artist and it tries to guess what else you’ll like. Sometimes I just want to listen to the Doors, you know? Or Led Zeppelin. Or Ke$ha. Not everything else that may or may not sound like them. So It’s pretty cool.
Which, I guess, will segue nicely into story time (NOTE: for those of you who were looking for it, this is the “real part”). I had an amazing opportunity to go go to Malawi (Africa) a few years ago. I was on a short term mission team, and we were able to serve in the country for about two months. It was a huge shaping part of my life. A lot of growing up happened on that trip. And looking back, I am glad I was still pretty naive when I went, because, had I then known all the things I know now, I wouldn’t have been able to function due to brokenness. The people of that country were so good to us. They became family. They gave us new names. And much more.
Our translator and guide, Captain Robert M’tengowalira (literally, weeping tree), had a lot of ridiculous things he would say. Fir instance, when asked what he would have to drink, he would say, “You know, Yamikani (my Chichewa name. Literally, praise), I think I will go with orange Fanta. Do you know why?” and I would say, “No, Captain. Why?” and he would answer, “Because I have never seen a Coke tree.” He also compared the meals we ate to building a home. In our stomach. But not everything he said was so silly. He was wise beyond his years.
One of his phrases that I picked up on that struck me the most was something he would say after meals. When he was offered more food, he would decline by saying, “I am enough.”
Not, “I’m full” like we would say here in the States. Not “stuffed.” Not “going into a food coma.” But “enough.”
I’m not sure if he meant it in the way that I took it. It could have just been the language barrier. But I took it much deeper than that. How often do we exhibit self control in our lives by saying, “I am enough.” Not, “I have everything I want.” But enough. Enough to get by. Enough to do what we need to do. Enough to support us, but not control us.
In our American culture, we have a dream. We call it the American Dream; to work hard and rise from obscurity into unimaginable success, riches, and fame. To have more than we could ever want. Stories like that exist all over our history. Sammy Sosa, Michael Jordan, Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates… You know, THOSE guys. Household names because of what they’ve done. What they have. And what we think we should model.
And yet, nowhere in the Bible is that something we are taught to model. In fact, it seems to be in stark contrast with what the Bible teaches about material things. Think about the parable of the rich man and the store houses. Or when Jesus said store up for yourselves treasure in Heaven. Or when John said if you have two coats, give one away. Or, the most famous, probably, the rich young ruler. Easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.
And so there are several roads here. And, believe me, I’m not saying everyone needs to be Shane Claiborne. That would be counterproductive. However, what I am saying is that the amassing of riches is not something scripture endorses. And that looks different for everyone. The neurosurgeon or anesthesiologist who works at St. Richie’s (get it?) and has a family of 6 is going to have a different level of “enough” than I am. They are also going to have a lot more financial responsibility for the Body than the single college student who isn’t working and is, in fact, now in debt $80k for that degree in social work.
It comes down to this: how many shirts do you want to own? Seriously, John was on to a good thing. If I have shirts and my neighbor is walking around naked, I am obligated by the law of the Kingdom to clothe him. Some of us are called to have one shirt and take it off to clothe our neighbor. Some of us will own shirt making stores that produce thousands of shirts to hand out. But the question is: are we doing it? Are we passing those shirts on to our naked brothers?
What are we spending ourselves on? Our time? Our money? Are those things Biblical? Or are they selfish? Do I have a 5 bedroom house when I only need a 3 bedroom? If I do have extra bedrooms, do I use them to house people who need a bed? Or do I use them for decoration? Do I buy that 2012 Jetta because I think of it as an investment, or do I buy the 2009, even if I can afford the 2012? What kind of example do I set for those around me with a choice like that?
How much is enough?