How do we define enough?

We were sitting around a conference table at the parish. Glenn was speaking. “When I looked at my 401K and realized how much money I’d lost, I was angry.” When he retired from his previous job several years ago, Glenn was making more than enough money, but he wanted to work in an area that focused more on benefiting society than on increasing the company’s bottom line. Now he works with the elderly, creating programs to help senior citizens find appropriate medical care, housing and other necessary assistance.

Glenn’s wife is a school teacher. When he changed careers, Glenn knew he would be taking a drastic cut in pay, but he had made some good investments along the way and he and his wife were counting on that to carry them through their retirement years. Unfortunately, the recent economic downturn had taken a huge chunk out of his savings and, like so many others, Glenn and his wife had lost several thousand dollars.

“What is enough?” According to one old saying, “Enough is just a little bit more than I have.” The quote is attributed to the Dutch, but it could just as well have been said by Israelites. In Exodus 6:19-20 (which we do not have in today’s reading), Moses tells the people that they are not to keep any of the manna over for another day (they have been instructed by God to gather the manna each morning and they will have enough). “But they would not listen to him. When some kept a part of it over … it became wormy and rotten.” In other words, having a “little bit more” spoiled the lot.

Glenn continued his story, but after ranting and raving for a while he gradually found himself becoming less and less angry. True, his 401K had taken a beating, but he and his wife still have a roof over their heads and plenty to eat. In other words, they have enough.
It is said that anything we have that is more than we need is stolen from the poor. What do we really need? In these uncertain days, what is enough?

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.