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How Much Is Enough?

Recently I taught a series on Financial Wisdom. Part of the series addressed what Jesus called “the deceitfulness of riches.” Clearly one of the ways money can deceive us is to believe “more is always better.”

The University of Michigan does a very important consumer confidence survey every month, it has become a key economic indicator in our country.

Several years ago, they asked, what one thing do you need, to make your life better and improve its quality? The number one answer—more money.

Not a better relationship with your wife or children, not a closer relationship with God. But money.

Ron Blue, a Christian financial consultant, supported a missionary organization in Africa. They worked with a group of people who lived in abject poverty. Blue went to observe this missionary work and asked the Christian missionary who was trying to reach these pagan people, “What is your greatest barrier in reaching these people with the Gospel?”

Without hesitating, he answered, “Materialism.”

Blue was dumbfounded—he looked around and all he could see was poverty. How could this be?

“It is really quite simple,” said the missionary.

“If a man has a manure hut, he wants a mud hut. If he has a mud hut, he wants a stone hut. If his hut has a thatched roof, he wants a tin roof. If he has one cow, he wants two cows. If he has one wife, he wants two wives, and so on and so on.”

From this encounter hopefully, we can see that materialism is not about possessions, it is about the heart and the insatiable desire for more. The deceit is that the more money we have, the better life will be.

I recently read a wonderful story that illustrates the futility of this belief that more is always better.

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.” The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from a bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet a fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions—then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.”

King Solomon was the richest man to ever live and most Bible scholars believe he wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes. He is very straightforward on his perspective of money. “He who loves money will not be satisfied with it, nor he who loves abundance with its income.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10)


Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.

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