“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
This wise little nugget has become known as Parkinson’s Law.
Originally it was comment on ever-growing bureaucracy. But it doesn’t take much to relate this principle to our financial lives in this way: “Expenditures rise to meet income.”
With this in mind, it’s easy see why it is so difficult to ask ourselves:
How much is enough financially to meet my family’s needs?
And conversely, we struggle with this too:
How much can I give away to support the work of my church and other Christian ministries?
Should we figure out how much our families need first, and then use the finances left over to answer the second question? Or should we flip these questions and address giving first? How do we know how much is enough—both in terms of what we spend on ourselves and what we give away?
Moving into Grandpa’s House
As I shared in my last blog, my wife and kids and I recently moved into my deceased grandparents’ home. Living here has certainly brought back memories—both about my childhood and the latter years of my grandfather’s life.
My grandpa absolutely loved ice cream. The prospect of heading to the freezer after supper and picking from his selection six varieties of ice cream (at least) was enough to make any grandchild more than happy to visit!
It was painful to watch grandpa slip into senility, but there was one “up-side” for him. After Grandpa ate a bowl of ice cream, he promptly forgot what he had done. So it was always time for ice cream! Watching his enjoyment of bowls of ice cream always brought a smile to my face.
Keeping Up with Our Appetites
Like Grandpa’s ice cream, our income never seems to keep up with our appetite for the things we like. We occasionally give a “spoonful” of our ice cream to someone else for a “taste,” but our charitable moments can quickly pass and then we are left to consume a “freezer full” of resources ourselves.
Often we delude ourselves into thinking we’ve fixed the problem of how much to give by offering a “spoonful” to others at a regular time, in a regular amount. Setting up regular monthly gifts to church and other ministries can make us feel like we have corrected a tendency towards over-consumption.
However, setting aside regular “spoonful” doesn’t mean that I am not sliding into the senility of eating far too many bowls of ice cream each day!
How many bowls of ice cream is enough for me or my family to eat? God’s Spirit has to lead us to solid answers for that question. Without this wisdom from God, we succumb to the senility of over-consumption.
How Much Is Enough?
Rich King Solomon noted, “Whoever loves money never has enough … This too is meaningless.” (Eccles. 5:10, NIV). And in the book of Proverbs Solomon says, “The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want.” (Prov. 13:25, ESV).
These verses show us that having enough is, in many ways, about the condition of our hearts. It’s about what we love most. When we love personal comfort, security and pleasure most, we never have enough. When we most love what God has an appetite for, then we discover that what we have is enough.
If what’s in my freezer (personal comfort, financial security and pleasure) is at the core of my fulfillment—or as Solomon says, I love it—then the answer to “how much is enough?” will always be “a little more”.
If everything I have belongs to God and my heart is set towards His appetites, then I can be content and find joy in giving away what God first gave to me. In this way, I can:
- provide for my dependents;
- give to my church and other ministries;
- bless the poor;
- make wise business and other investment decisions without being held captive by fear.
These are the things that honor the Lord, so I want to see as much of His money put towards them as possible. That checks my consumption.
So I have to ask, do we think that the treats in our freezers or the resources in our banks are the true source of provision and contentment? When we think this way, there is never enough for ourselves and there is precious little left over for God’s pursuits. Sure, we can easily give a few more “tastes” from our disposable income or dormant capital. But the truly big funds for the Kingdom are unlocked only when we choose to live at simpler lifestyles. In the freedom of this simpler lifestyle, we can give more generously while finding contentment in Someone who really can fill us up.
Americans spend $22 billion/yr. just to store our “more than enough” stuff.
How should that relate to this:
- Of the world’s 6,500 people groups, 2,500 are still “unreached”.
- More than 1 billion people today live on less than $1.25 per day.