Enough is enough! Did you ever hear those words as a kid, maybe from a parent or authority figure? It usually meant “Knock it off” or “Stop your foolishness” and it typically brought you up short – at least it had that effect on me. I’m having a bit of a flashback to my youth even as I say those words aloud, “Enough is enough.”
In Jesus’ parable, which we just heard, God basically says, “Enough is enough” to the rich man who wants to build larger and larger barns to store up his material possessions and kick back to “eat, drink and be merry.” God calls him a fool and reminds him that his time on earth is up and the stuff he has so obsessively chased after will no longer be his. The old saying “you can’t take it with you” comes to mind. This man who has everything, at least in material terms, will not be able to take one bit of it with him.
“Enough is enough” is both a reprimand and a statement of fact in this Gospel lesson. This is a cautionary tale about greed, the kind of greed that Jesus warns his listeners to avoid. Listen to his words: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed,” he says, “for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
Let’s be clear about one thing however– this story isn’t about money per se. It’s not a judgment on people who work hard and are successful. It’s not a criticism of people wisely planning for retirement or a college education or even a much needed vacation. It’s not about people who use money to support their family, friends and community. It’s about greed– that anxious, insatiable feeling that enough is not enough, that we must feverishly and incessantly pursue any number of things in order to attain our fantasy of the good life.
The rich fool in our story believes the good life will be achieved through more stuff and bigger spaces in which to house it. He’s had a bumper crop, quite possibly for years, as the Scripture tells us his land has “produced abundantly.” The crops are now overflowing to such a degree that he has no place to store them so he plans to tear down his old barns and build larger ones where he will store “ample goods for many years.”
Yes, this story is about greed, and it’s also, by contrast, about how we live well. When you stop to think about it, the rich fool isn’t living so well. Did you notice that his problem solving and planning is done in a vacuum? He’s not talking this over with God or anyone else. He’s not thinking about the impact of his life or resources on the community. He’s extremely self-absorbed—talking only about “me, my, mine.” I see him as crippled by what AA refers to as “the bondage of self”—that hellish place where we get terribly stuck in self-centered thoughts and actions. He reminds me of that saying, “God gives us people to love and things to use, not things to love and people to use.” He doesn’t seem to have any sense of community, or of anyone or anything besides himself and his material possessions. He has totally missed God’s gift of abundant life–life that is lived in community with a sense of joy and purpose because we’re living for something bigger than ourselves.
Enough is enough. And now for some truth-telling: one of the issues I’ve done battle with through the years is the belief that I am not enough. I know I’m not alone in this struggle because friends, parishioners and counseling clients have all shared their stories about the way this insidious belief has hurt them. In so many ways we are bombarded from birth with the cultural message that we are not enough—not safe enough, good enough, successful enough, smart enough, rich enough, powerful enough, attractive enough, old enough, young enough, white enough, black enough, feminine enough, masculine enough…the list could go on and on and on.
These are critical, condemning messages that, like shrapnel, pierce and embed themselves in our very souls, leaving us deeply wounded and afraid. Of course, these messages are often inspired by the marketplace which is only too happy to provide any number of fixes for our supposed inadequacies—everything from guns to beauty treatments to get rich quick schemes. These messages entangle us in a web of fear that drives us ,compulsively, to medicate our pain by abusing mood-altering chemicals, sex, shopping, busyness, work, and food. We feel the deep void of shame—that sense of not being enough—and in another attempt to avoid pain we drive ourselves to be perfect, as if that ideal were ever truly possible, with little compassion for the fact that we are only human. Finally, our shame and fears cause great injury to our life in community as we set ourselves up over others in a desperate attempt to prove that we really do measure up.
This Gospel story strikes me as a case of mistaken identity. The rich fool believes he is in charge of his own life. Like the saying, “He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple,” he gives zero glory to God. He is neither curious about, nor grateful for, the way his fields have produced abundantly. It’s as if it all happened magically just for him. He’s the epitome of entitlement, but also the epitome of a tragic cut-off from who and whose he is. St. Augustine’s words come to mind, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Thee.” We are made for God. We are made to be in relationship with God and all creation. We cast about and thrash about for fulfillment in a lot of ways, but we were created to find ultimate fulfillment—peace, joy, and meaning—in the truth that we God loves us with a passion. I often think about those labels on the products we buy that tell us to read the manufacturer’s instructions. God has given us those instructions—You are mine! Rest in me! I will give you life in abundance as you stick very close to me! I love you more than you can possibly conceive and I want you to live like someone who is deeply loved! You are enough!
As I coach and counsel people I think a lot about the human brain and how it works and I particularly think about receptor sites. Scientifically speaking, receptor sites are cells that pick up, and then pass along, important messages to other cells so our bodies can function optimally. They are especially important in maintaining happy moods and sending commands to other body parts. I have come to realize as a pastor that we need, in a metaphorical sense, to maintain our receptor sites for God’s love. We need to take in the Good News that we are loved beyond our wildest imaginings and can find abundant life in that loving relationship.
I know that I need to be reminded of that message every day or I am easily done in by the evils that threaten us on all sides. I have a practice of prayer, meditation and journaling every morning that opens my spiritual receptor sites to God. I tell you this not to gain your approval or admiration, but to encourage you to find some kind of practice that grounds you in the truth that you are God’s beloved child and in God’s eyes, very much enough. How are you being filled up each day with God’s love? If you aren’t taking time to be filled up, let me ask you this: what practices of prayer, study, creativity, silence, bodily movement, and service would help you remember who you truly are?
Another one of my favorite metaphors is that of marinating. When you marinate food you alter its qualities for the better—it becomes more tender, more flavorful, more juicy. When, through whatever practices work for us, we marinate in God’s love we are changed. We become more loving, generous, courageous, wise and peaceful. Heaven knows we need those qualities as we move through this difficult world. We need them as we do battle with institutions that oppress people and keep them from having enough. We need them as we face our own misbegotten sense of shame or inadequacy. We need them as we face the fears that cause us to grasp things too tightly. We need them as we discern who we are as a church community and how we will continue to share the resources with which God has so richly blessed us. And finally, we need them as we live out the message that God alone offers truly abundant life and in God’s economy enough is always enough.
Thanks be to God.