Such a thing as enough…

Inclusive and Sustainable Development
Inclusive and Sustainable Development (Photo credit: Oxfam International)

The average Brit is 3 stone heavier than 50 years ago. The average amount of debt (excluding mortgage debt) per person in the UK is currently at a record high at  £9,606.52 (Money Saving Expert). The legendary 9lb Kidz Size Fry-up may be a caricature of culinary excess but it nevertheless begs the question- in a very graphic and exaggerated way- “How much is enough?”. Does anyone know what enough might look like anymore?

Forty years after the “Theology of Enough” began to be articulated and discussed in the light of the post-War boom years in the USA, Rev. Giles Fraser reflects on radio 4’s Thought for the Day, how “(unlimited economic) growth has become an addiction”  and one which is seriously threatening a sustainable future.

In an interview at the Rio +20 conference on Sustainable Development which culminates today, Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey is adamant that unlimited economic growth is a bankrupt model and that living a more meaningful life within natural limits opens up new opportunities for sustainable growth.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations,  Ban Ki-moon puts forward his vision for the world he wants his grandchildren to grow up in, but is there ENOUGH WILL to make the changes necessary for that vision to become a reality and “change the world”? It’s easy to sit back and criticise the lack of will of the Big Players at the macro level but if we struggle to limit our consumption, our hoarding and our expectations of lifestyle day-to-day, then we are also complicit with their lack of will.

The biblical framework of shalom is one which locates the concept of “enough” firmly within the context of community. As such, “enough” is arbitrated within a community frame of reference. This being the case, inequalities and flagrant excesses are not to be tolerated where insufficiency persists within the same community. Clear guidance on sustainable food production was also an understood part of the biblical community’s reference grid.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul speaks of contentment as a helpful guide to “enough”:

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs… (1 Timothy 6:6-11)

He goes on to underline the importance of being generous and ready to share what we do have and in Ephesians warns the person of faith that no greedy person “has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God”. A fairly stark warning of when enough is enough!

Enough of the warnings. Here’s a proactive co-blogger who is always looking on the bright side for ways to make small steps in the right direction. Check this out for some practical suggestions!

4 thoughts on “Such a thing as enough…”

  1. Do any of us know what ‘enough’ is these days? I suppose ‘enough’ is all relative to the individual: ‘enough’ food to someone brought up on excessive portions is when they feel full. On the other hand ‘enough’ to a starving child is probably a small portion. I can remember as a child being told, “No, you’ve had enough” – a phrase we should tell ourselves more often!
    An interesting thought, David – I’ll listen to Thought for the Day later.

      1. Hi Arlene…thanks for your comment. I hear what you’re saying…there are many ways of measuring enough and as you say some of them are very relative. I suppose the point I was trying to make is that, in terms of sharing resources justly, the Christian (and indeed other religious) Way(s) takes some very key factors into account, such as those I mention in the post. I think that we often lose sight of these as we are swamped by cultural pressures to conform to ways and standards of living which, when looked at closely can become part of the problem of inequality, greed and excess.

  2. My view is that everyone in the church should do almost a ‘mandatory national service’ where they go visit missionaries or other Christian workers in developing nations – or even do work with homeless people in their own country. Anything to actually see just what ‘enough’ really is.

    We don’t live with that kind of mentality in the West nor do we appreciate community. Normally it is seen as a bit of a bind – meeting up with people, especially Church people – until we need help or we’re running something ourselves and want the support of the Church community. At the end of the day we are individualists and getting away from that is a tall order.

    But, oh if only we could, what a difference that could make if we did change these areas…?

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