Our Excess

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I was recently intrigued by a thought passing through my brain: “The excess I have belongs to those in need.” It’s not the most comfortable thought to consider. I like a little excess. I appreciate the peace and comfort it affords. Yet how can I hold onto more than I need when there are those in the world suffering in abject poverty? One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Proverbs 30:8 which says, “Give me just enough for today.”

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The author states if he has too much, he will take it all for granted and forget God’s provision in his life. If he has too little, he may be tempted to steal to acquire what he needs. The sweet spot is having just enough for today. Any excess should be shared with others.

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He told them to ask only for the day’s provision (Matthew 6:9-12). He didn’t tell His disciples to store up treasures in barns to secure their retirement. In fact, He taught against it (Luke 12:16-21). Knowing how fleeting life is, He taught us to only ask for today’s bread and be content with what was given. These days we seem to have forgotten His teaching. How else does one explain our propensity towards hoarding or our obsession with retirement planning? We don’t want just enough for today, we want enough for the rest of our lives, and we won’t stop focusing on it until we get it.

Once we have our daily bread, what should we do with the rest? We get clues, if not outright instruction, from Scripture. In the early church, everyone brought what they had and donated it to the community of believers. People then took from this pool what they needed for the day. They shared with anyone who had a need (Acts 2:44-45). In the Old Testament, God instructed His followers to not harvest everything from their fields, but rather leave the edges for those who were poor (Leviticus 23:22).

Of course, we also have the example of the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23). Here was a man who had kept all his excess for himself. What did Jesus tell him to do? Sell it all and give the proceeds to the poor. Many have tried to explain this away as being a situational instruction, not an overriding principle. I’m not so sure. Regardless, we get a sense of the heart of Christ. It’s not about holding onto what you have, it’s about giving it away.

I come back to my thought: The excess I have belongs to those in need. It’s about our heart, mostly. Are we holding so tightly to our money, time, possessions, comforts, and security we can’t be bothered to provide any of it to those less fortunate than ourselves? But it’s also about our actual time, money, and possessions. Are we perhaps being asked to give away far more than that with which we are comfortable? Do we trust God enough to supply our daily provision, or is it too much to ask or expect? Are we afraid of giving away our excess because we might need it someday? Are we so enamored with our possessions our greatest possession has lost His luster? Do we believe our excess belongs to those in need? Are we willing to prove it?