Ask These Questions to Find Out When Enough is Enough

How much stuff do you have with you right now? Count every article of clothing; maybe 8, 10, 12 items – don’t forget your glasses – 13. What’s in your pockets? Keys? How many? If you are like me there are 10 – 12 keys and maybe two key fobs. It doesn’t count for this survey, but don’t forget that each one of those keys connects to something. If you carry a bag or a purse for work, school or both – what all is in there? I carry a computer bag around with me most days that is filled with cords, books, papers, a laptop, an iPad, a few pens, and a lot of lost change. 

I surveyed my stuff last week and on the day I counted, I stopped at 47 things either on me or with me. That’s a lot to lug around. Perhaps it is time to lighten my load.

Truth is, Americans love stuff. We are a “gotta have it” gadget laden, fashion forward, constantly on the go culture. And even though we feel we have made great strides in efficiency, truth is, we are collecting more and more as we go.

Did you know that in 2017 the average person bought 66 articles of clothing – or 20% more than we did in 2012?

Did you know that there are twice as more storage unit facilities in American than there were just 10 years ago.

Did you know that in 2017 we spent $240 billion on material goods which is double the amount we spent in 2002.

We can’t get enough of stuff! This is not surprising given that American culture is bent on convincing us as consumers that happiness has a price tag. We measure success by wealth. The health of our economy is tied to an algorithm called the Gross Domestic Product which measures how much goods we produce as a nation. The Consumer Index measures our economic confidence and the DOW is a constant projection of what we “think” the value of a company will be in the not too distant future. 

But are we being consumed as consumers? We are wealthy, but are we happy? We have stuff, but have we found stability? Our society is highly commercialized but is it ever contented? 

When is enough, enough?

The Bible offers numerous warnings about the false hope of happiness tied to consumerism.

6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Tim. 6:6-10 ESV)

In 1 Tim. 6:6-10 we see true gains and losses. Godliness with contentment is a great gain. Consumerism in its pursuit of more only brings ruin, destruction, and piercing pain. The problem is, we never see it coming – which is the essence of the word “snare.” 

So how do we safeguard ourselves from being consumed as consumers? In Haggai 1 God sent the prophet to confront the people about their misplaced materialism. He counsels them to “consider your ways.” Consider your ways doesn’t mean to merit your ideas. It doesn’t even mean explain what you believe. It means, look at how you live. Say nothing with your mouth – just read through your accounts. Look at the numbers! 

From this passage I find three questions we can ask ourselves to keep us from being consumed as consumers.

1) What contents?

In verse 6 He says, “You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill.” I think we can all identify with the insatiable desire for what’s new and what’s next. If we are never satisfied, the lack of contentment begins to consume our peace

Did you know that numerous studies show that when a person has sufficient food, shelter, and clothing that material gains do little to improve a person’s sense of well-being (The High Price of Materialism, Tim Kasser). In fact, accumulation only adds to anxiety.

We know we have a problem; but the problem is that we never change.

I’ll sound 45 when I say this, but a lot of things about millennials confuse me. For the most part I don’t get them politically or socially. But I’m 45. I probably confuse you.

But there are some things about millennials that I find extremely interesting. They are not afraid to find another way. They think about things from odd angels and find ways to do things differently. 

One thing mills have realized about us 40+ is that we have too much and so they are finding ways to live on a lot less. One example is a website called LiveFeather.com. LiveFeather.com is a furniture subscription service. Now, I know that we 40’s call that rent – but the words “subscription service” sound better with lattes.  

At LiveFeather.com yo do a 5 minute survey. You agree to your subscription price and the people at LiveFeather send someone to deliver and setup your room. It’s a minimalist approach.

While I admire detachment, I realize that detachment merely for the sake of detachment is as pointless as materialism – both are a total waste of a life if they are not at some point attached to meaning. 

Paul explained contentment with attachment to Christ beautifully in Philippians 4:11-13.

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

What if we could have less for the sake of trusting Christ more?

What if we could have less for the sake of knowing Christ more?

What if we could have less for the sake of being satisfied in Christ even more?

What if we could have less so we could live for more!

If we don’t find what contents it will consume our peace.

2) What costs?

In Haggai 1:6 the prophet once again describes a situation with which we are well acquainted. He says, “You sow much, but harvest little.” He goes on to say, “And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”

In Haggai 1:6 the prophet once again describes a situation with which we are well acquainted. He says, “You sow much, but harvest little.” He goes on to say, “And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”

We all own at least one bag with holes – that thing that seems to erode your time, energy, and money. You thought you would enjoy it, but it has become a burden to you and it has become a drain on your resources. If we don’t figure out what things REALLY cost the will consume our resources

To have more, it costs more. We don’t need stats to bear this out – we know it. We live it. To have more it takes more money, more work, more upkeep, more insurance, more time . . . more takes . . . more.

The side effect of more is not just in the consuming of our own resources but in the neglect of leveraging those resources toward people and places where they are truly needed. 

The side effect of more is not just in the consuming of our own resources but in the neglect of leveraging those resources toward people and places where they are truly needed. 

Did you know that there are enough resources on the planet right now to adequately feed, clothe, and shelter every human being? So why are there such vast pockets of poverty? It is because 12% of the world’s population consumes 60% of the world’s resources. And you guessed it. American’s are the world’s worst. When it comes to food the average American consumes 3,700 calories a day. We are eating ourselves to death while others are starving to death.

There is a scathing indictment of consuming more to the neglect of others in James 5:1-6. It says:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

This passage is painful. It calls for us to be made uncomfortable. It should bother us, but the self-self-indulgence is not only fattening, it is also blinding. Our homes and storage sheds are filled with rotting goods that could be put to better use if our resources were not so concentrated on our consumer driven culture.

What if we could consume less for the sake of helping others more? Generosity if far more satisfying than simply having stuff.


So what brought the Haggai’s audience to such wasteful ends? The indictment comes in 1:2-4.

2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” 3 Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 

In God’s mind time for rebuilding the Temple was long overdue. In the people’s mind it was not a priority. And the problem was not simply that they were rebuilding their homes – they had to have a place to live, but notice the passage. He doesn’t just call them houses, but paneled houses. They were past rebuilding and now into remodeling. 

We are not dismissive of the things of God. We know we need the Lord. We know our families need the Lord. We would all say that it is good to go to church – but the problem is that in practice we have developed a THIS NOW – THAT NEXT approach when it comes to the things of God.

And this mentality will cost us because in the end we are missing what REALLY counts! 

Our mistaken priorities consuming our souls? You and your family may be having a great time – but do they know Christ? “But we are spending time as a family?” Great – but where are you headed eternally?

Jesus tells the story of a man who made a major miscalculation of what really counts.

15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

The man was successful, resourceful, and his life was enjoyable. No one would fault him for that. He did well. He planned ahead. He was living the dream. According to Jesus, HE WASTED HIS LIFE.

Notice two ideas from the story.

  1. The man was successful, resourceful, and his life was enjoyable. No one would fault him for that. He did well. He planned ahead. He was living the dream. According to Jesus, HE WASTED HIS LIFE.
  2. Notice how Jesus prefaces the story. “Be on guard against all covetousness.” The words “be on guard” suggest vulnerability and intentionality. Vulnerability – because we are all prone to covet. Intentionality with being on guard, because saying “no” to self does not come naturally.
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One Comment

  1. Wow Brian what a wake up call..I’m 52 and carry 12 keys 4 CR medallions and some keys I have no idea what they go to but I’m afraid to throw away lol..I roughly have 40 clothes on hangers in closet and at least another 40 or more in dressers and 4 pair of shoes.4 laptops etc..Thank you for this lesson..I have learned that not only do I need to clean house and get rid of lots of STUFF but I also need to clean out extra STUFF in my head so I can put more STUFF in my heart about God..

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