“What do people mean when they ask, ‘Do you have enough?’” inquired a pastor at a church I used to attend. He followed up with, “Enough of what?” The answer to the question was obvious. Have we saved enough for retirement, enough to pay college tuition, enough to ensure we have freedom and peace and safety and whatever else we’re hoping to pin down? Humans like to quantify, to count, to control. The pastor was asking us to question ourselves, to ask what we hoped would fulfill our deepest longings for security and peace, He was also asking if money can be measured in terms of being “enough”? Are there cases when money might actually work counter to our goals of freedom and peace? Is the stuff we collect even ours?
Wealth is not bad or good in itself, but our attitude about wealth and the way we acquire it certainly can be damaged. Because the people of Judah had stopped thinking that God was enough, an insatiable and callous pursuit of wealth had taken hold of them:
For wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait.[a] They set a trap; they catch men.
Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit;
therefore they have become great and rich; they have grown fat and sleek.
They know no bounds in deeds of evil;
they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper,
and they do not defend the rights of the needy.
Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord,
and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?” Jeremiah 5:26-29 ESV
Like fowlers who trapped birds destined for sacrifice or food, the wicked set traps for the weak and poor so they could use them for their own advantage. The hunters’ bags are full of helpless prey that will never fly free again. Their houses are compared to a cage full of deceit. Jeremiah seems to be painting a picture of the grand houses of the wicked as places where the hunters will become hunted; they have invited deceit to live with them. They have trapped the innocent but in the process become enclosed in a cage of their own making, and it’s one infested with deceit. What troubling images!
Because it’s so normal for people in general to wonder, “do we have enough?”, it’s easy to become callous. When the bottom line is “enough”, the “bounds of deeds of evil” can slip. We can be indifferent to the plight of those who are being taken advantage of – we ourselves can fall into the fowlers’ traps. Jeremiah reminds us that a society that’s based on acquiring wealth and on survival of the fittest, this attitude may seem to nurture some successful people. In the end, accepting this mentality as the status quo will lead to an unjust society and God’s eventual judgment.
Pray for a better understanding of what “enough” is for you. Is your view healthy? Does “enough” include the perspective that all we have is a gift of God? Could faithful giving be more of a source of “enough” than clinging to our possessions as our own? Ask God for guidance in this process.