“There are two ways to get enough,” writes G.K. Chesterton. “One is to continue to accumulate more and more; the other is to desire less.”
If you look in my garage, you’ll quickly see that I flew past “enough” a good while back. It looks like a very poorly arranged department store. I’ve got sections for automotive, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and lawn care. I’ve got a special section for stained glass and art glass supplies, a section for sports and leisure, and a few shelves devoted to motorcycle repair and maintenance. Oh, and don’t forget the paint section filled with gallons of probably now-worthless paint.
I’ve got tool upon tool, but I’m still always willing to have a later, better, more efficient type of the type of tool that I already have. I even have a few tools that I’ll never use again and certainly should never plug in again.
I know that Chesterton wasn’t talking specifically about cluttered garages. I suspect he was talking more specifically about houses and lands, money and investments, and luxuries of myriad sorts.
Most of us are inundated in luxuries, even if we don’t think of them as such. Just let your water heater fritz its element. Cold showers are, in my estimation, incredibly unpleasant, but they will wash away dirt. Or what if my cell phone suddenly goes dead, its electronic fingers released from my neck, its call-making ability nixed, and I lose access to several hundred apps, 295 of which are nowhere near “essential”? Once I quit shaking and get out of phone-detox, I suppose it’s possible that I might learn to “desire less.” I might learn that the well-being of my soul is not connected at all with the remaining battery life of the cell phone which owns me and throttles my relationships with people in the same room.
But it’s not just my cell phone that owns me. It’s the mind-set of accumulation.
More and more. More stuff. That’s why the “storage industry” (buildings, containers, etc.) is growing so amazingly quickly. We have too much stuff! And we don’t know how to “desire less” in a way that really culls the stuff and doesn’t just stack it.
Jesus once told a parable to illustrate his previous statement: “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12). It is called, rather pointedly, “The Parable of the Rich Fool.”
The original parable features a great crop year, surplus grain, and the building of more and bigger barns to store it all up.
Today we might be more likely to say that “a certain guy made out like a bandit as his business and his investments all at once suddenly ballooned in value. Possessing more stuff than he could ever imagine and engaged in a world-class spending spree, this terminally superficial fellow with tons of stuff (but very little real substance) buys more and more stuff as his investments keep ginning. He ends up buying whole blocks of storage facilities in which to store stacks of expensive toys and so much stuff that he’s forgotten that he even owns much of it.
And then . . .
And then suddenly, a blood clot or a popped aneurysm drops him in his self-centered tracks. He “ends up.” Literally.
In the “eulogy” at his service, he’s hailed as quite a businessman. Truth be told, he wasn’t much of a husband or father—not really much of a man at all—but a number of the folks at his funeral (who grudgingly took time from their own “accumulating” to show up) consider him “successful.”
But, in the verdict that trumps all others, God calls him a “rich fool” and posts a question: How much of his stuff was his after he hit the ground and they carried his carcass toward the funeral?
The story sort of makes one wonder. Maybe we really would be wise to try to “have enough” by “desiring less.”
The Apostle Paul once made the same point (as paraphrased in The Message): “A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.”
What’s real contentment worth? Much more than all the stuff in the world.
Muleshoe Journal Correspondent