I was just about to the exit my favorite everything-for-the-home store. This wasn’t a shopping expedition but—happily—a visit to the returns desk to request a refund for what turned out to be an unneeded purchase. That morning my iron had stopped working and no amount of jiggling the cord, turning the dial, or (gentle!) shaking could revive it. So I went to this self-described “store with a varied selection of home goods, bedding, kitchenware, towels & decor items” and somewhat grudgingly bought a new iron. (Grudgingly because aren’t appliances like irons supposed to last forever??) Before unpacking the new purchase at home, I plugged in the old iron for one last hopeful try. And it worked!
So there I was, money in hand, leaving the store that people are convinced contains everything to make a home happy, efficient and supplied with every gadget bored shoppers dream about. Just a few feet from the door was an eye catching array of products: snow removal spray, cleaning supplies, colorful dish towels…and these neatly stacked boxes: My Very Own Snowman Kit! These kits contain the following “durable, reusable snowman parts: black felt hat, realistic 10” long carrot for nose, 3 large buttons and a red felt scarf with fringe.” And then these informative, enticing words encircled in red: “All you need is snow!”
I do not wish to denigrate modern advances which make life a little easier. After fifteen years in Germany when all my recipes containing flour had to be revamped to accommodate differing wheat types, I was more than happy to indulge in a box of Duncan Hines© cake or brownie mix. But a snowman kit?? My superiority scorn was off the chart.
And then came yesterday’s sermon based on the story told by Jesus and recorded by Luke. A “certain rich man” had been blessed with abundant crops. (Make that an unexpected bonus, substantial raise in pay, inheritance…) So he tore down his now inadequate barns, built new, modern, guaranteed-against-vermin-tornados-and-thievery, stuffed them full with surplus grain and sat back to “take life easy, eat, drink and be merry.” Or as Eugene Peterson paraphrases it in The Message: “Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!”
Yesterday’s question and one ringing today in my ears is, “What—or how much—is enough?” How many of my purchases fall under “in case I need it” rather than “I need it”? And why am I tempted to store up extra towels, sheets, pens and….? What do I fear about the future? Or what do I doubt about God’s sufficient supply? Especially when just a few verses later in Luke 12, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom.” The kingdom!
My mother and her siblings grew up in a desperately poor family and then worked hard to earn a living during the Great Depression. We jokingly said my mother could stretch a dollar until you could read through it! Her delicious soup made from meat and vegetable “scraps” generously extended to however many people dropped in for a meal.
But after one of my aunts died we discovered a sad side to this emphasis on economy. Our pastor accurately called it living in the fear of scarcity: “I had better get more because there might not be enough.” When we cleaned out my aunt’s house, down in the basement were large tin containers each filled with at least twenty-five pounds of flour. I could hear her voice defending the purchase: “It was on sale!” The top layer of flour in each container was brown and rancid. Instead of being used for intended purposes, all these pounds of once nutritious food we poured onto a bonfire along with stacks of rags saved because “I might need them someday.”
I’ll not be tempted to buy my very own snowman kit, but I wonder how skewed is my view of what is actually enough? During this season of Lent, stopping to carefully consider “how much is enough?” may just impact every area of my life.