catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 19 :: 2003.10.10 — 2003.10.23


Enough is enough

America’s affluence presents unique challenges to this country’s Christians. Never before has a culture had so much and never before have so many people wanted more. Possessions breed the desire for more possessions though it ends in futility. Because Jesus calls Christians to depend on God, Christians today are in a unique position to respond to society’s need to acquire.

How Much Is Enough: Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture is an excellent Christian response to materialism, consumerism, and affluence. Oddly, it could appeal to someone with a six-figure income, a rebellious adolescent who senses that all is not right with society, or a social worker in a developing country.

Arthur Simon achieves this by showing us that Americans, hard at work and making more money than ever, are increasingly dissatisfied with life. He shows us that our capitalist system with its need to stimulate desire and fulfill it leaves the consumer wanting more and receiving less. We also see that America’s abundant consumption is starving the rest of the world. (Simon points out that the money Americans spend on overeating and consequently dieting is enough to feed the hungry in the rest of the world.)

“If our particular culture encouraged the persecution of Christians, the challenge would be more sharply drawn. But this culture doesn’t beat up on most of us; it seduces us with a desire to have more of what money can buy,” writes Simon. It is this desire that kills us?spirit, soul, and body. He writes,

A far different path is the life of faith. To believe in Jesus is to trust him as Savior and follow him as Lord. That puts us on a quest entirely different than that of acquiring things, because Jesus wants to transform our purpose in life from one of getting to one of giving. When that happens, material possessions take on a new meaning. Paradoxically, they mean less and more at the same time. They mean less because they no longer have a possessive hold on us, and are no longer seen as necessary to satisfy our heart’s desire. But they also mean more, because the eyes of faith, seeing their true value, can honor them as blessings entrusted to us by their rightful owner, who wants them to be used in ways that accomplish his purposes.

Simon also recognizes that the outcomes of the big and small decisions motivated by giving or getting are different for each person. His purpose is not to outline a lifestyle for all Christians but to encourage Christians to make those choices in light of their motivations. There may be spiritual reasons to live in a big house in the suburbs and commute downtown, but the motivation for making that decision should not be the desire for an opulent house in a well-off neighborhood and an excuse to drive an SUV to work.

Of course there is nothing wrong with possessions; it is the love of possessions that Jesus preached against. That is why, when Simon’s family decided whether or not to have rugs in their home, they chose to have rugs because buying and owning rugs not only covered their floors but helped to provide jobs to the workers who installed them and the factory workers who made them.

Finally, Simon points out that there is nothing more freeing than independence from possessions. Knowing the value of material things as gifts from God allows us to appreciate God’s goodness and frees us from wanting more and allows us to experience the joy of giving. How Much Is Enough? provides an excellent model for Christians to respond to America’s dependence on stuff.

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