How much is enough?
Talking with a friend about the greatest commandments from Mark 12:28-31 and what it means to follow them, the question arose: how much is enough? How much volunteering, giving, serving, prayer, fellowship, solitude is enough?
Let’s think about that for a minute. “Enough” for what? Enough to get into heaven? No! We really don’t believe in the “minimum requirements” model (see “What is the Gospel?“, or “True (and False) Transformation” or this sermon [transcript here; see p.5]).
But simply by using the word “enough,” we’re showing that we still have a little of this “minimum requirement” mentality. We’ve really got to get rid of it somehow, because it’s poison for any relationship. I mean, imagine it:
She: (turning toward him) Yes?
He: I have a question, but I’m not sure how to ask it.
She: (looking into his eyes) Yes?
He: How much do I have to kiss you? I mean, how much is enough?
She: (turning away) (to herself: What kind of idiot am I involved with, and why?)
She is right, isn’t she, to think she’s involved with some kind of whack job? Here’s the thing: really the gospel is about a treasure — something so great that anyone would sell everything in order to get that treasure. Josh Hunt gives a great summary in the aforementioned article.
What we need here is real transformation. We need something inside us to change. Think about what the psalmist says in Psalm 40:8 (or see the King James), or look at Psalm 119 and see how many times the words “rejoice” and “delight” come up. He delights to do God’s will; he rejoices (Psalm 119:14, NIV) in following his law. That’s not just Old Testament times, either; think of Anna from Luke 1, who was worshiping at the temple all the time. I don’t think this was a poetic exaggeration. And it’s not just Biblical times either; Luther prayed two or three hours a day. Mother Theresa said, “The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it.”
How did these people get to be that way? You know they had to be transformed; they started out just like the rest of us — self-centered and full of all kinds of other folly. Well, I have a few ideas on how that transformation happened, and how it can happen for us:
- over a long period of time (as with overcoming anger or anxiety)
- totally under God’s power; we can’t do it ourselves. I read (or maybe wrote) somewhere that the command in Romans 12:2 is to “be transformed”; it’s passive–that is, it’s something that happens to us–and yet it’s a command.
- generally, the means of grace have something to do with it. The sun’s rays have a beneficial effect, but if we want to get that effect we’ve got to get out of the cave. So: solitude, Scripture, prayer, celebration, fellowship, service — this sort of thing.
When it works, then like Eric Liddell, we feel His pleasure in doing what he made us to do. Liddell was talking about running in particular as an act of worship, but I think it applies to everything we do that’s in our Father’s will.
Occasionally I get glimpses of this, when I find joy in serving or in giving. And I’ll tell you, when I think of “Good News for 12th Century [BC] Man” — i.e., Genesis 1 — of how much God loves us, to tell us this incredibly great news. I mean, have you ever heard that the Bible is “God’s love letter to us”? I used to think, “yeah, whatever” but what Genesis 1 meant to its hearers — it was revolutionary! It was paradigm-shattering! And even today I get a little choked up whenever I think about it.
Does this mean I have it all figured out? Nope! All I’ve got are occasional glimpses. Hopefully I’ll get a few more in the next 20-30 years. And maybe after another 20-30 years I’ll have a little less of the “minimum requirements” mentality.