Have you ever wondered, “How much is enough?” As a child, I was intrigued by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s fondness for life’s good things. His sartorial elegance earned him the nickname, “Tweed.”
My study of Dr. King fixed upon a famous posed photo of him, finger on cheek, revealing a Rolex watch. Dr. King, like Jesus, was a paradox. Upon winning the Nobel Peace Prize, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, Dr. King donated his windfall to charity.
The accumulation of material wealth leads us into bondage, not toward spiritual satisfaction. When we attempt to fill the empty place within our souls with things, we realize that God alone can fill that space.
In the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21), Christ says, “Watch Out! Be on guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life doesn’t consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Speaking before the Miami Dade Chamber of Commerce last weekend, Lifetime Achievement Award winner and attorney H.T. Smith quoted his wise grandmother, Mrs. Polite:
“Happiness is not measured by how much you have, but in how little you need.” Christ makes the same point in his instruction toward accumulating wealth.
In Luke 12:13-21, Christ addressed the “haves;” in Luke 12:22-34, He addressed the “have nots.” Christ compared the desire for money to drinking saltwater, that “more” did not sate thirst, but increased it. The attitude of the “Rich Fool” was “To get more and store it, to sit back and take life easy; to eat drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19). The Fool was unable to see beyond himself.
Our Bible study group has found Beth Moore’s Breaking Free timely. In the chapter, “How to Find Satisfaction in God,” Moore says, “The most obvious symptom of a soul in need of
God’s satisfaction is a sense of inner emptiness. The soul like the stomach can send us signals of emptiness. When we’re hungry our stomachs growl, the signal of our soul growling is when we’re irritable, selfish, overly ambitious, angry, have impure thoughts, are envious and resentful.”
Jesus is expert at teaching theological balance. In a passage following the “Rich Fool” parable (Luke 12:22-34), Jesus forbids anxiety and worry. Jesus never suggests we should live in poverty, or pursue a shiftless, thriftless or reckless life. He recommends that we do our best, and leave the rest to God.
Christ advocates that we work toward things that will last, and remain at life’s end, such as honor, integrity and righteousness. We should aspire to reaching the kingdom of Heaven to receive the bounty that Christ has promised in Luke 12:31b, “The Father will give us the other things.”
Christ wasn’t a miser, nor opposed to anyone seeking a life of quality. But, He taught that temporal things should not displace God as the focal point of our lives.
Christ wore clothes that had value. At His crucifixion, soldiers cast lots to see who would get them (Luke 23:34), confirming the prophecy of Psalm 22:18.
The physical items we covet (clothing, adornments, and autos) are seasonal. But, the qualities of honor, purity and goodness are for all times, and are indestructible.
When God fills our souls, and our hearts become fixed upon Heaven, God promises to provide us more than enough.
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami. To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or email the pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org.