How much is enough? “What kind of question is that?” we might respond. “You can never have enough.” There’s never enough money to cover every potential financial disaster. There’s never enough stuff to make us feel loved and whole.
“The notion that we will never have enough is part of the dysfunctional story of modern technological, capitalist society that we have internalized,” said theologian Ched Myers in a recent interview with FMN Director Mike Little. We carry, Myers said, a sense of anxiety that leads us to believe we can never have enough.
That’s not God’s message, however. “The old story [in the biblical book of Exodus] actually says there is such a thing as enough,” Myers contended.
In the story, God provided a mysterious substance called “manna” as food for the people of Israel, who had been wandering, often hungry, in the wilderness. “It’s the very first lesson that biblical Israel is taught after God liberated them from the social and economic condition of slavery in Pharaoh’s Egypt,” Myers explained.
The gift came with a set of instructions, the first of which was “to make sure when you go out and gather this manna that no one gathers too much and everyone gathers enough.”
“So this Sunday School story turns out to be an old story whose time has come again as we come up against the limits of our dysfunctional economic story,” said Myers. The story invites us to explore what is enough for us, in our time.
“One of the best ways for us to investigate that is to be in relationship with people who have less than we do. We tend to aspire upwards, so we are constantly comparing our economic condition to those who have more, and so we are always aspiring to have more. We tend to scapegoat people who have less as being somehow less worthy or less hardworking. I think scripture actually invites us to get our perspective by having real relationships with people who are, in fact, more marginalized, less socially mobile, less fiscally well off than we are, because it is from those folks that we can probably best get our bearings about what constitutes enough.”
Myers continued, “That question–‘what is enough?’–from a Biblical perspective can only be answered collectively. We tend to ask that question individually: ‘What is enough for me?’ Scripture invites us to ask that question as a social question: ‘What is enough for all of us so that everyone has enough?’
“Then we can apply our common sense to what is enough for everyone: adequate housing and shelter, adequate food and clothing, adequate social space, mobility, good work, those kinds of things. When everyone has enough, then any individual who enjoys affluence in the face of someone else’s poverty has too much. I think that’s exactly what Exodus 16 tries to communicate to us.”
by Ched Myers
Ched Myers shared these insights and much more on “Faith and Money: Making the Connection,” the audio resource from Faith and Money Network. A mix of the inspirational and the practical, of challenge and support, the resource offers a uniquely open discussion of the many aspects of money we tend to struggle with as people of faith. FMN Director Mike Little’s interviews with a range of remarkable people who are creatively connecting their faith and their money are available on CD or for digital download at www.faithandmoneynetwork.org.