In a short poem titled “Joe Heller” which was published in The New Yorker magazine in 2005, author Kurt Vonnegut gave an account of a conversation between him and fellow author Joseph Heller. The conversation took place at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island. Mr. Vonnegut pointed out to Mr. Heller that their billionaire host made more in one day than Heller’s novel Catch-22 made in its entire history. Heller’s response was that he had something that the billionaire did not. When Vonnegut asked what that was, Heller responded by saying that it was the knowledge that he (Heller) had “enough.”
What does it mean to have enough? Does it mean having enough money that you are able to buy whatever you want, whenever you want it? Does it mean that you have everything you could possibly have and there’s nothing more that you could possibly want or need? Or does it mean that what you have is all you need, whether it is a lot or very little?
Ecclesiastes 5:15 says, “We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us.” In his first letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul mirrored that thought but expanded on it when he wrote, “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8) So it is clear from God’s Word that having enough means being content with having just what you need – food and clothing. In other words, what you need to live on. In fact, as Paul says in verse 6, being content is equivalent to great wealth.
But are we content with what we have? Is it enough? Or, as with the billionaire in Vonnegut’s poem, is “enough” something we can never have? Do we go through life thinking, “If I could just win the lottery, then I’d have all that I need?” Maybe we think, “What’s wrong with wanting more money?”
In 1 Timothy 6:9-10, Paul continued by saying, “But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” The love of money can lead to disaster. Why? Because the desire for riches can lead us into temptation and that temptation can, in turn, cause us to seek out other desires far more evil. Our desire for more money can even pull us away from our faith in the one who has given us all that we truly need, eternal life with him in heaven, free from the chains of sin.
God knows what we need, and he will provide it. Instead of seeking worldly things, we should follow the instructions given by Jesus in Matthew 6:33: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Hebrews 13:5 says, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’” That’s a promise that is worth more than all the riches on earth. We need to be like Paul, who wrote to the church in Philippi that he had “learned how to be content with whatever I have.” (Philippians 4:11) Paul went on to say in verse 12, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”
Like Joseph Heller, Paul knew that he had “enough.” May that be said of all of us.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188, USA. All rights reserved.