“I wish you wouldn’t squeeze so,” said the Dormouse, who was sitting next to her.
“I can hardly breathe.”
“I can’t help it,” said Alice very meekly: “I’m growing.”
“You have no right to grow here,” said the Dormouse.
“Don’t talk nonsense,” said Alice more boldly: “You know you’re growing too.”
“Yes, but I grow at a reasonable pace,” said the Dormouse: “not in that ridiculous fashion.”
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Ridiculous growth can be unkind; reasonable growth is wiser. “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’” says the Proverb, “Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” (Prov. 30:8-9).
John V. Taylor calls this a “theology of enough,” a vision for life perhaps modeled by ancient Hebraic radical economics (it appears that much of the prosperity experienced in the Old Testament was tied to covenantal blessings in the Promised Land, but the material prosperity – even the rewards for industry in the Wisdom literature – were never ends in themselves but means toward human kindness). Their system of laws made certain that private ownership was built on the premise that everything belonged to God and unchecked accumulation would be difficult, if not impossible.
In his book Neither Poverty nor Riches, Craig Blomberg carefully chronicles from the Pentateuch several safeguards that relativized the ownership of property including: laws against interest, days and years of rest, taxes, tithes and offerings, and other laws concerned with justice for the poor.
The Law protected against ridiculous growth, relativizing ownership in the identification of God’s people as stewards of a land that was owed by God – “for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me (Lev. 25:23) and securing the hope that “there will be no poor among you” (Deut. 15:4). God’s original decree of dominion and delight would continue in a land flowing with milk and honey, but according to the Law, extravagance would not deter from true worship.
This begs the questions, “Can you be rich and not have the desire to be rich?” and “If you’ve acquired undesired wealth should you feel guilty?” Israel’s ability to atone for their guilt came by way of continual sacrifices, where Christ’s once-for-all atonement removed all condemnation for those of faith (Rom. 8:1).
His death covers guilt. Guilty feelings should, rather, look more like a grieving of the conscience, not the debilitating grief of those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13) but a godly grief that leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10).
The wealthy (we are all wealthy) may need to grieve and repent. A theology of enough makes room for remorseful awareness, grief and then action. The simple response to conscious-grief is to be kind. Kindness (love) can lead to reconciliation of broken relationships – the end of all poverty.