Enough is Enough
A Sermon on Matthew 6:24-34
When my wife handed me a birthday present a month ago, I found that I was afraid to open it. For weeks I had not wanted anything . . . but an iPad. Confession is good for the soul, they say, and I must confess that, when Eyleen got an iPad for Christmas, I found myself thinking over and over again, I REALLY hope I get one! I REALLY hope I get one! But . . . what if I DON'T get one? THEN what will I do? I even found myself worrying: Tom, you're a priest. How will you explain this behavior? As you can see, [Fr. Tom holds up his iPad] my pseudo-prayer was answered. As you can also see, my functional atheism - you know, thinking you are praying to God, while you are acting like there is no God but What-You-Want - found in what we call "worry" is alive and well, at least some of the time.
What do YOU worry about? How can you and I stop worrying?
It happened twice a month. A few days before payday, we ran out of money. My dad did the best he could, providing for our family of seven, but there were just too many days and too few dollars. My dad and mom were the kind of parents who, when all they had were lemons, made lemonade. Actually, my mom made pancakes. Pancakes seemed to spread much farther than I ever thought was possible. Sometimes, those pancakes lasted so long, we had them for days. And yet, somehow, there was always enough to get us through.
In her book The Soul of Money, philanthropist Lynne Twist says that, when it comes to money, it's not about scarcity or abundance. It's about sufficiency. It's about what is enough. What do you think: do we have enough?
Maybe you're like me. Maybe you like to buy extra amounts of things, just in case. Maybe it's that giant package of toilet paper. I brought one of those home the other day, sure that I didn't have enough, wanting to be prepared for . . . exactly what, I don't know . . . only to find that there was already not just one giant package, but TWO in my garage!
Sometimes, it feels as if there just may not be enough. In light of recent developments overseas, will we have enough gasoline or enough money to pay for it? Do we have enough to live on today? Will we have enough to retire on? Do we have enough when special needs or appeals - all of them good causes, of course - come our way? When is "enough" enough?
You probably know that a very small percentage of people in this world have a very large percentage of the wealth. What is enough for them? Andrew Carnegie, perhaps the wealthiest man in 19th century America and a great philanthropist, answered the question, "How much is enough?" this way: "Just a little more." Today, there are at least 57 billionaires who have pledged to give at least half their wealth away (http://givingpledge.org). Now that's an admirable thing, giving all that money away, but I wonder: Is half a billion enough for a billionaire? Just how much is enough for you and for me?
Jesus tells his disciples several times in today's Gospel account not to worry. He's talking about having enough - money, that is. The first verse - with the words "You cannot serve God and wealth" - is the end of a six-verse teaching about "treasures in heaven," things we truly love. Jesus teaches his disciples, down through the ages, that if we love God, we cannot love money. People back then were just as human as people are today. Money is not the root of all evil - having money is not, by itself, a sin - but to make money into your God, to worship it, to think "enough is never enough" . . . THAT's wealth worship.
If we believe and try to live into the spiritual truth that everything is a gift from God - even iPads! even pancakes! - then we will not worship the gift. We will worship the Giver, of all our gifts. And if God really does give us what we need - if God's gifts are enough for us, if God's grace is sufficient for us - then we will not worry. "Therefore," Jesus says, having explained again how we must serve and worship only God, "I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" (Matthew 6:25).
Well, yes, Jesus, life IS more than food and clothing. But what if you have no food at all? What if you have no job, no money at all? What if you are homeless and have only the filthy clothes on your back? What is "enough" for the poorest of the poor? Those are good questions for us to ponder, and maybe the answer is found when we look at our own situations. Will the poor have enough when we share what we have with them? What, exactly, do we have to share with the poor? And what might they have to share with us?
When my parents lost more than half their savings in the stock market downturn after September 11, they were forced to downsize, moving from a two-bedroom apartment into a one-bedroom. That was a major shock for them in retirement. It was a time filled with both physical and emotional adjustments, not to mention what would have been for many an embarrassment. But my mom and dad came to see it as an opportunity. They gave some of their furniture to their children and grandchildren. And they received different kinds of help from their many friends in their retirement community. They did not worry, because they discovered that they still had more than enough. And the "more than enough" mostly had to do with their friends.
Jesus tells his friends, including you and me, "Do not worry." He echoes the prophet Isaiah, who assures his people that "God will not forget you" (49:15). Do not worry, for you are never alone. "Do not worry," Jesus says. God will give you everything you need (Matthew 6:33). You have - and you are - enough. "Do not worry," the Psalmist says, God will help you "grow up" your soul (131:2). You are God's child. You can always depend on God, and yet, God has set you free, to grow and to be yourself. Is that not enough for you, to live your life?
My friends, worrying is like praying for ONLY one thing: something you don't want. Like: I don't want be old and poor...or unemployed...or just like my parents (☺). But that's only "like" praying. True, authentic prayer is not about what we don't want. Real prayer is about what we do need, what we cannot make happen all by ourselves. Sometimes, we become functional atheists. When we act that way, we act as if WE are God. Or as if Money is our God.
Yes, money is what we human beings worry about, and Jesus knows it. Jesus, as you may know, says even more about how we should use our money than he does about how we should pray. But he says a whole lot about both. Now, I am NOT like my parents in many ways, but I did learn this from them: Faith is the "why." Faith is why we do not worry, about money or anything else in life. And prayer is the "how." Prayer is how we practice our faith.
Years ago I made a private confession - something all Episcopalians can, some may and none must do. My confessor listened intently to me and said, "Matthew 6:34. I want you to write it down on a piece of paper, tape it to your bathroom mirror and read it - PRAY it, every day. FOR A YEAR." That verse is, of course the last thing we heard Jesus say today: "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." Years later, when my mother became anxious about her grandchildren, I invited her to do the same thing: bathroom mirror, etc. She agreed that it helped her to pray for enough - including enough faith.
What is enough? Today's trouble. Today's gifts. Our daily bread. Enough is enough, even for sermons. In the name of the one, true God. AMEN.