Everyone knows that money cannot buy happiness, but few live as though they believe that. Therefore, they are unable to be satisfied with what money they do have, no matter how much it may be. In this, more than in any other area, we see the truth of what Samuel Johnson said when he pointed out that what we need is not so much to be instructed in morality as to be reminded. Here are a few ‘reminders.’ (The first meditation on this theme can be found at blog #147)
John Steinbeck (1902-1968): “We are poisoned with things. Having many things seems to create a desire for more things– more clothes, houses, automobiles. Think of the pure horror of our Christmases when our children tear open package after package and when the floor is heaped with wrappings and presents, say, “Is that all?” And two days after, the smashed and abandoned ‘things’ are added to our national trash pile, and the child, perhaps having got into trouble, explains, “I don’t have anything to do.” And he means exactly that– nothing to do, nowhere to go, no direction, no purpose, and worst of all no needs. ‘Wants’ he has, yes, but for more bright and breakable ‘things.’ We are trapped and entangled in things.” In a letter to Adlai Stevenson, Steinbeck wrote: “We can stand anything God and nature can throw at us save only plenty. If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and soon have it on its knees– miserable, greedy, and sick.”
Luxury is more ruthless than war. –Juvenal, approx. 100 A. D.
We are stripped bare by the curse of plenty. –Winston Churchill
Enough is more than much. –Dutch proverb
Our lives now revolve around the shopping center, the place where most people spend more of their leisure hours than anywhere else. –Jeremy Rifkin
Our possessions weigh life down. My house has a big front yard, and friends say I am fortunate to have it for the children to play in. I am not sure. The grass not being so green as I wanted it, I spent $52.34 on fertilizer. Now I have the best crop of weeds in the neighborhood and have to buy weed killer. Once the weeds are dead, I will harrow up the yard, rake, scatter grass seed, and cover everything with straw. Then watering begins. During the whole process, the children will not be allowed to play on the lawn. –Samuel Pickering, Jr., The Right Distance
Someone once asked Mother Teresa, “Why do you include the rich among the oppressed and enslaved?” She responded, “You in America live in greater poverty than these poorest of the poor in Calcutta because you suffer from poverty of the spirit.”
Proverbs 30:7-9 — Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
Revelation 2:8, 9 — To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty– yet you are rich!
Revelation 3:14a… 17 — To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: …You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.
Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
—Book of Common Prayer