No, no. Don’t. It’s enough.

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Those are Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s words when he was wished many more years of creative life.

How odd – for American ears. The thought of ever getting ENOUGH of a thing. Frankly, I think that the one word that describes us best is: MORE. It drives us on incessantly.

Do you ever think we are too filled with restless ambitions and unbridled desire for more, to the degree that we would ever spontaneously say something like that? Do we ever get enough? Of anything? Do you ponder the degree to which we have been affected by our culture’s consumerism, materialism, and ambition? Have you ever attempted to bridle it in your own life?

I’ve had this talk with my 4 kids, ages 7-12. I’m trying to model and intentionally instruct them on the concept of moderation. For one thing, I know that they aren’t going to pick up on it in our culture, and for another thing, I know it’s not our natural tendency to practice moderation, but it’s something Scripture clearly teaches as a sign of wise and obedient living.

I’ve told them, the Bible doesn’t say it’s wrong to drink, but that it’s a sin to get drunk. Just like it’s not wrong to eat, only to be a glutton. Clearly, it’s not wrong to sleep, but it is to be lazy. There’s a time to play, but there’s also a time to work.

All of these things are examples of the Scripture’s call to us to enjoy the good of the land, but to limit ourselves – to practice moderation. When you’ve had enough, stop. Don’t over-indulge. Teach yourself to enjoy God’s good gifts, but not abuse them, nor yourself in the use of them.

This is such an un-American concept. We have to have the biggest, latest cars, houses, clothes, toys, gadgets, whatever… We have to have the most, do the most, climb the highest, accomplish the most, etc. God has richly given us all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17), but I think we’re just plain greedy sometimes. Do we ever get enough of a thing?

Yesterday in my reading of Homer’s Iliad I ran across this notion. Menelaus says at one point in the battle against the Trojans (p. 316-362; Book 13, lines 733-38):

“One can achieve his full of all good things, even of sleep, even of making love…rapturous song and the beat and sway of dancing. A man will yearn for his fill of all these joys before his fill of war. But not these Trojans – no one can glut their lust for battle!”

Two phrases jump out at me: “achieve his full”; “glut their lust”. Outside of total abstinence, those are our two options. It’s a sign of maturity, wisdom, and grace to be able to know when you’ve “achieved your full” and then stop.

We can practice this with countless pleasures: food, drink, work, play, entertainment, possessions. When you’re full, quit eating. When it’s time to quit work, go home. When you’ve played enough, or watched enough, turn it off. When you have enough things to live comfortably, quit collecting more just because you can. And do it gladly, being thankful for having been enriched by that thing which you’ve just enjoyed!

What strikes me most about what Solzhenitsyn said is that he has actually stopped wanting more. He’s achieved his full, he’s satisfied with the life and work he’s been afforded. It is enough. Amen.

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2 Responses to No, no. Don’t. It’s enough.

  1. Derrick says:

    Scott, these are some well thought out writings you have here on this blog. In the past few weeks I have come to appreciate your insight, always coming away from reading these posts with a more reflective attitude regarding the topics under consideration. The post I am commenting on is especially worth pondering given our american inclination toward the over-use and abuse of ‘rugged individuality” as an excuse to consume at rates that are almost obscene by global standards. While americans (american christians especially) are tops in philanthropy and charity we are also by far the most agressively gluttonous society ever produced in the history of this planet. As believers of a gospel that speaks of moderation (not as a componant of our justification in Christ through faith) as an offshoot of our love in Christ, we american christians can do good by our testimony and our witness to faithfully discipline ourselves and eschew the more egregious aspects of individual “liberty” in favor of lives led in sober-minded spiritual reflection and carnal restraint. I write this as one engaged in this battle and give God praise for his strength to overcome gluttony and live in moderation.

  2. Scott W. Kay says:

    Derrick,

    Thanks for your comments. You are dead-on about our “rugged individuality” being a root cause of our excuses to consume at obscene rates. The American spirit is often at odds with the Spirit of Christ. As John Piper says, Jesus saves from the American Dream. The call to follow Christ is counter-cultural and radical. Moderation, contentment, self-restraint, self-denial, and even martyrdom – these are so opposite the human nature and Western culture.

    It is telling that those not known for their distinctive Christianity (eg. Solzhenitsyn) can see through and diagnose the problems of our culture better than most Christians, AND reorder their worldview to live differentl

    Scott

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