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How Much Is Enough? Hungering for God in An Affluent Culture

Excerpts from How Much is Enough?

Urgently, incessantly, Jesus drew people to God. Seek first the kingdom and righteousness of God, he said. For this we were made. Nothing else satisfies the longing of the heart. Nothing but the source of joy can give us joy. So Jesus invites us to follow him, to hunger and thirst for God and to feast on the goodness that comes from God alone.

Chapter 1 ."That Seductive Urge"
None of us is immune to the seduction of trying to slake what is really a spiritual thirst with things that money can buy, though doing so is like drinking saltwater from the sea. It turns immediate gratification into a life-threatening condition.

Chapter 2 ."Fat Wallets, Empty lives"
Hope in the resurrection has been one of the great strengths of the Christian movement, as well as a great weak- ness. Its strength lies in the way it has motivated and empowered people to do great good. Its weakness -our weakness -is the way it can be detached from love and reduced to a pre-occupation with our own personal destiny.
People who were well-situated financially and socially in

Jesus' day usually resisted him, and we, the affluent of today, may also resist the idea of losing control of what we have. It is a loss that will occur in any case at the moment of death. Perhaps that is why we cling so desperately to it. The resurrection, however, gives us reason to aim much higher.
The apostle Paul expressed alarm about Christians in Corinth who, in celebrating the Lord's Supper, stuck to customary class distinctions and ate and drank beyond enough, while poorer brothers and sisters went hungry -a remark- able snapshot of our world today.

Chapter 3 ."Hope and Purpose"
We are human beings, not human havings. God loves us for who we are, not what we have.

Chapter 5 ."The Poverty of Riches"
God must be delighted when children can go to school, prepare themselves for jobs and careers, be well nourished and clothed, and live in homes that are warm in the winter. Surely God wants us to make the individual and social effort necessary to maintain or to achieve such economic well-being for ourselves, our families, and others within the nation and throughout the world. Just as surely, God does not want us to bask in affluence while others starve.

Chapter 8 ."Faces of Affluence"
If keeping up the Joneses is chasing the wind, staying behind them is hardly a transcendent goal, either. Infinitely better to put our lives at God's disposal.
Chapter 9 ."How Much Is Enough?"
The six-year-old boy taken to an emergency room fol- lowing an accident was given a glass of milk. "How deep shall I drink?" he asked. He came from a very poor family in which something as precious as milk had to be shared with six brothers and sisters. Drinking too much would cheat others. So he asked, "How deep shall I drink?" It is a question for us as well. How deep shall we drink from the glass of prosperity?

Chapter 10 ."Living So That Others May Simply live"
What use is it to live a simplified life, volunteer at a food bank, and contribute money to relieve hunger, while doing nothing about public policies that lock people deeply into hunger? Is it sinful to waste money, but okay to waste influence that could bring far greater benefit to poor people? In his description of the great judgment Jesus did not say, "You killed the hungry, you cheated the naked, you assaulted the poor." He said in effect, "When I was hungry, thirsty, naked, and imprisoned, you ignored me. You passed by on the other side. " Neglect.

Chapter 11 ."Love and justice"
The heart will be filled. That is why Jesus asks us to hunger and thirst for the goodness of God. Doing so does not come naturally to us. On the contrary it is natural for us to follow our own desires. So we begin always by inviting God to enter a heart that is instinctively unreceptive.

Chapter 13 ."Filling the Heart with Something Better Than Cash"
The call of Jesus and his invitation to the kingdom is good news for everyone, but it goes to everyone on the same terms. Both rich and poor, devout and derelict, are called to repent, trust God with all their heart and let go of anything that imprisons them -money, pride, worry, hopelessness, whatever it may be. The rich are asked to hum~le themselves before God, the poor to believe they are exalted in Christ. And all of us to do both.

Chapter 14."The Meek Inherit the Earth"


"This is one of the easiest books you will ever read-and one of the most difficult. Though there is not a word here that will be unintelligible to anyone, the challenge that Art Simon presents to every reader will leave you gasping for breath at times and at other times may prompt you to hurl the book across the room. Within the context of the United States of America at the beginning of the twenty-first century, this book may even strike some as a kind of obscenity-how dare he speak to us this way? It is, in fact, a sign of contradiction for our age, the very thing we don't want to know about, the only way that can bring us peace."

-Thomas Cahill, author of How the Irish Saved Civilization, The Gifts of the Jews, and Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus


Arthur Simon is the founder and president emeritus of Bread for the World.

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa ( via Flickr. Used by permission.

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