How Much is Enough?

December 7, 2017 — 3 Comments

[G]ive me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, Proverbs 30:8b. 

For five years, I was an English teacher at Grace Prep High School in State College, Pennsylvania.  Every year, the school participates in Air School—learning outside the classroom.  In 2009, Air School consisted of a long weekend in an Amish community in Virginia.

My husband Paul and I and three students stayed with an Amish family—mother, father, and their three remaining, as yet unmarried, children.  Seven other children had grown up, married, and established their own homes, so there was plenty of room for us.

No electrical lighting, no microwave, no television, no radio, (I-pods and phones were verboten to ensure the authentic experience), and no computers.  There was a propane powered hot water tank (Yay!) and we cooked on the woodstove (in May!).  We washed dishes by hand in the sink and dried them with a linen towel.  I tried to milk the goats.Meals started in the fields and emerged from the kitchen—homemade bread, cheese aged on the farm, rhubarb from the garden.  Everyone worked hard; everyone ate well.

Conversation adorned our work; play and fellowship guided our evenings.  We prayed together before and after every meal.  Before each meal, our host thanked God for the feast and asked Him to help us to eat only a reasonable amount, to eat that which would be enough.

Bread baked in the woodstove oven, the granola we mixed, baked, cooled and blended with chocolate chips, feeding hearty appetites grown through physical labor.  Enough was hard to define there just as it had been at home.  How much was enough?

Oh, just a few more bites, just a little more to savor.  Even though our visit lasted only three days, I carried more protoplasm out of Virginia than I had carried in.  Pushing ourselves away from the table is often the hardest physical exercise of all. When it comes to dessert, it’s my greatest struggle.

When we recall the seven deadly sins, gluttony might be the one we struggle hardest to remember —especially when an Amish feast is before us.  But the seven deadly sins—gluttony, greed, wrath, pride, envy, lust, and sloth—are all sins of excess.

We can eat the right amount of food, buy the right amount of material goods, have the right amount of appropriate anger, have the right mindset about ourselves, have the right mindset about others, properly direct our sexual desires, and engage in the proper amount of leisure and rest.

When we do, we have correctly identified enough.  When we overindulge—or indulge where we should not, we embrace a deadly sin.  That is—a deadly sin.  We tell ourselves that a little bit more won’t matter—won’t hurt—is insignificant.

Controlling all our appetites and attitudes—for food, for goods, for situations, toward others, and toward ourselves—requires discipline few of us fully grasp.  And our sins of excess are more costly than we realize—in our relationships, in our health, in our finances, and in our ability to help others.

As many of us do, the Amish father prayed before we ate.  But after we ate, he thanked God again for His provision.  Being thankful reminds us that we do not provide our own resources.  We receive them through the grace and mercy of God.

Asking God to help us consume only enough, to control our emotions and desires—to find our enough in Him and in our love for each other will help us be ready to look beyond our desires to see others’ needs and to have resources on hand to meet those needs.

The enough we find in Him prepares us to minister in our communities in ways we have not yet thought possible—to minister in service and in giving—being companions within communities.

I’m grateful for the three days I walked through an Amish community, for the companions who walked with me there. I hope it made me a better companion to walk with others in my part of the world. For walking with others is the true work of the Church.

Revised and reposted from 2016.


Photo Credit: Pixabay

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3 responses to How Much is Enough?

  1. 

    Nancy, great words here. “Enough” was a word I studied and prayed over a couple of years ago. Our culture encourages over-indulgence. It’s hard to stop at satisfaction. Sometimes we mistake what is enough with the thought that we “need” more.

    Thanks for the exhortation to keep a grateful heart as a way of realizing we have enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 

    Dear Nancy

    Your blog post “How Much is Enough?” where you share your teaching experience was enlightening.

    I’ve never met an Amish family, but I’ve seen some movies about them.

    They work a lot.

    It sure must have been an experience to stay with them.

    You mentioned the seven deadly sins in your blog post.

    That got me thinking about the fact that the seven deadly sins have become what many people aim for in modern culture, they have so to speak become ideals rather than sins.

    It’s a relevant point to ask God for help only to consume enough.

    God bless!
    Edna Davidsen

    Like

  3. 

    Great article! It reminded me of one of my favorite Proverbs. “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
    Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (30:8-9) Basically, Agur is saying, “I want just enough.” How few of us in the West are willing to pray that kind of prayer. We get caught up in wanting excess, especially in the area of money. But I like how Agur reminds us that having too much can actually be a detriment to our sense of need for the Lord. Thanks for sharing! I’m encouraged.

    Liked by 1 person

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