Take hold of the life that really is life

There was a man who had worked all of his life and has saved all of his money.

He was a frugal man: he did his own oil changes, shoes were re-heeled instead of buying new ones, family vacations were to their backyard.  He was careful with his money because he loved it so.  He loved money more than just about anything, and just before he died, he said to his wife:

“Now listen, when I die I want you to take all my money and place it in the casket with me. I worked hard for that money, and with my insurance policies, I’m sure you’ll be fine without it.  I just want to take my money with me to the afterlife.”

So he got his wife to promise him with all her heart that when he died she would put all the money in the casket with him.

That fateful day came, when he died.  As the minister concluded the service, the casket was about to be lowered into the earth when the wife excitedly remembered, “Wait a minute!”

From out of her purse she produced a shoe-box, and after some commotion, they opened the casket and placed it inside.  After she was finished, the casket resumed lowering.  In amongst the sadness of the moment, her close friend whispered into her ear, “I hope you weren’t crazy enough to put all that money in there with that stingy old man.”

She said, “Yes, I promised. I’m a good Christian, I can’t lie. I promised him that I would put that money in that casket with him.”

“You mean to tell me you put every cent of his money in the casket with him?”

“I sure did,” said the wife. “I got it all together, put it into my account and I wrote him a cheque.”

for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it

That’s almost modern in our understanding of how we come into this world and how we leave it.  In fact much of this wisdom from this letter written in the early days of Christianity feels surprisingly fresh.  These words, attributed to Paul, were written to one of his early followers, one of his most trusted collaborators, Timothy.  Timothy, son of Eunice and grandson of Lois, continued a long heritage of faith passed from generation to generation.  Though like all of us, he needed to be reassured in his faith, and to be reminded how faithful living was meant to exist alongside the temptations of the world.  As we read this passage, the temptation of those in the early church is not unlike our temptations today.
Do I share my wealth or try to take it with me?
Am I content with what I have, even if all I have is food and clothing, is that enough?

This scripture could be used to malign those who find themselves with more than food and money.  It has harsh words for those who love money, that it’s the root of all kinds of evil, that it traps us with senseless and harmful desires…but I’m sure I’m no different than any of you, when I go to the convenience store and see the 649 is over, let’s say, 30 million, it’s really difficult to not buy a ticket.  I mean, I’ve got my list like you all do – I’d pay off the house, loans, maybe upgrade the car…I’d of course tithe my 10% to the church, I mean with 30 million, that’d go a long way.  And down the list I’d go, daydreaming in my own little world of everything I could do.  The problem is that those daydreams are dangerous – because it removes us from reality and convinces us that we don’t have enough.  Or aren’t enough.

For we, as people of God are to shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.  We are to learn what it means to live a contented life.  It doesn’t necessarily mean happy.  Too often we confuse the two.  That being content means that you’re always happy with your current state of being.  There’s a lot of this life that robs us of our happiness.  But there’s few things that can take away our contentedness, for if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.  We can be content with little.  The use of the word content here, in the Greek, brings a connotation of sufficiency…[1] of having enough…or as the prophet Mick Jagger once sang…You can’t always get want…but if you try sometime, you find, you get what you need.

I’d say this notion of sufficiency is much more difficult today than ever before.  It’s not enough to have food or clothing, we only have to drive home and pass any number of Tim Hortons or McDonalds or pizza places…and yet we likely have a fridge or pantry or freezer full of food at home, yet our stomachs growl defiantly within us.  We only have to walk through the mall and see a sale to be convinced we don’t have a closet worth of clothing.

Some temptations are easier to pass than others.
But these temptations pull at our notion of enough.
They cause us to doubt our sufficiency.  They play on our inadequacies.
It spreads, from food and clothing, to our finances, to our bodies, to our mental states,
enough becomes an unobtainable state of being.

But the blessing of baptism reminds us that we are enough.  In infant baptism, we say to Henry that he is enough.  There’s nothing he has to do, no right words to say, and he is enough, worthy enough for the love of God.  Worthy enough to be loved by his family, friends, aunts, uncles, church and community alike.  By merely being, he is enough.

Yet as we age, new criteria define what it means to be enough.
School work is graded, homework completed, friendships developed, relationships deepened, mess up one or any of those and you’re no longer enough.  There’s so much grace we afford infants that we withhold each other as we age.

If I could, I’d splash you all with a little bit of water to remind you that you are enough.
In your current state of being,
God’s love surrounds you and blesses you.
This love accepts you and cherishes you.
And it is enough, merely to be loved by God.
The measure of enough faith is to keep the commandment (and even though it isn’t specific about which commandment this might be).  I read it as Jesus’ commandment to “’love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength….’ and ‘[y]ou shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  (Matt 22)
That is enough.


If you find yourself to be rich, know what is enough and share the rest.
If you find yourself with food, clothing, know what is enough and share the rest.
If you find yourself to be blessed by love, know what is enough and share the rest.
If you find yourself blessed by faith, know what is enough and share the rest.

And when you come across those who do not have enough
(faith, love, food, clothing, money, sense of self worth or self identity)
find ways to enable their sufficiency.
Help them to discover their own “enough.”

For by doing so, we take hold of the life that really is life.
The life content not with what you have but who you are.
The life that grows in us and others.
The life that reminds this earth what is enough.
Take hold of this life in God, that really is life.

[1] “The Greek for contentment is translated “sufficiency” (2Co 9:8). But the adjective (Php 4:11) “content”; literally, “having a sufficiency in one’s self” independent of others. “The Lord always supplies His people with what is necessary for them. True happiness lies in piety, but this sufficiency [supplied by God, with which moreover His people are content] is thrown into the scale as a kind of overweight” http://www.ccel.org/ccel/jamieson/jfb.xi.xv.vii.html


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