how much is enough?

The psalm appointed for Morning Prayer today is verses 1-39 of Psalm 78. As Gina and I were praying these lines, I was struck by the contrast the Psalmist makes between the constancy and faithfulness of God and the fickleness of heart of the People of Israel. I mean, here they were, being led to freedom – God actually delivered them from lives of slavery – and they were complaining! In fact, after God gives them drink in an arid desert and rains down manna from heaven and sends quail… they still aren’t satisfied. Verse 30 reads, “But they did not stop their craving, though the food was still in their mouths.”

For some reason, that passage struck me. They are still chewing and swallowing the food God gave them, and it’s not enough. I found myself thinking, “Those ridiculous people! Look what God did for them and they’re still not satisfied!” Through the day today, I found that I could, after all, understand those “ridiculous” people, because they aren’t that different from me… or, more likely than not, you.

We find ourselves in a culture that extolls consuming as much as possible. The message, of course, is that there’s not enough, and that what we need is to have more, make more, buy more, and never stop. In fact, consumerism has been touted as the solution to many of our problems. Whether it’s the individual who needs to shop and buy in order to feel good about herself, the child who swears that they’ll never ask for anything again if they can just have this one last toy or video game, or the suggestion that following the attack on the twin towers we needed to go out and buy things to support “our way of life”, this idea of nothiing being enough is all around us.

And so maybe those Israelites, still eating their bread and quail and drinking fresh water, grumbling, complaining and wondering what God was going to provide for them next isn’t such a far stretch after all.

The disciplines of Lent are meant, in part, to help us think about that simple question – how much is enough? If we take more time for prayer, sacrificing/fasting, giving to those in need (which makes us face the reality of people with real scarcity), and meditating on God’s Word, we are bound to uncover the truth that Jesus proclaimed – where our heart is, that’s where our treasure will be.

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