If you've spent some time around my dad, chances are pretty good that you've heard the story of Henry Ford being interviewed at the height of his fame and wealth. A reporter astutely asked him about his growing auto empire, "Mr. Ford, how much is enough?" To which Ford replied wryly, "Just a little bit more."
Too true, and too easily backed up by statistics. I read a while back about a surprising survey that was taken, asking Americans what their ideal income would be. Regardless of class or income, Americans typically said that they wanted about 10% more than the salary they currently made. Not many people said they wanted to be instant millionares, the poorest didn't want a leg up into the upper class, and likewise, even the wealthy wanted more than what they had.
And I see the proof in my own life. We're making the transition from a below-poverty-line salary to a more "normal" salary, and already I'm starting to feel the tuggings on my heart. It's very easy to justify the things I want--they're not extreme, most of my friends have those things, and after all, I just want a little bit more. Right? Right?
For the last six years, I have felt a whole lot of grace on the "wanting more" front. Don't get me wrong--I've definitely had days where I wanted a washer & dryer, or a garage, or whatever the current issue was. That's been there. But overall, we have been very happy as we've lived on our little income, in our little house. We've watched God provide, and seen him turn not-quite-enough into an abundance. But now, with the possibility of expanding our lifestyle comes a bit of a sense of foreboding: will I be satisfied with a little more, or will I keep pushing the envelope?
In contrast, we have friends who have made a serious and very practical commitment to living out Jesus' and Paul's encouragement to give generously. Years ago, they decided what they needed to live on, and gave themselves a salary cap. Whatever they make over that predetermined figure, they give away. That sounds nice, doesn't it? But it starts to hit home a little deeper when you start crunching the numbers. I don't know exactly what their annual income is, but I know what they live on, and my guess is that they give 50% or more of their gross income away. They are living very simply--sacrificially--so that they can give to people in real need. I know they still struggle with some of the same "I want more" emotions that I do...but they are putting that greed to death in a way that I have seen few others do.
That doesn't mean that I must spend the rest of my life without a dishwasher, but it does mean that I am motivated to think more in terms of how I can be at work meeting the real needs of the world around me, and less in terms of that little upgrade that I think will make me happy. Because, in the end, the only lasting treasures are the ones you send ahead of you to heaven.
"Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have." - Hebrews 13:5