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September 10, 2017

“Enough is Enough”

By Rev. Katrina Pekich-Bundy

Genesis 1.20-31

Proverbs 27.23-27

September 10, 2017

            I once heard a financial advisor suggest a different way of looking at personal finances. He proposed throwing out the idea of a budget and instead looking at life through the eyes of wants and needs. So, every time someone pulls out their wallet, they are challenged to consider whether their purchase falls under the category of a want or a need. Needs included things like food and gas and rent and electricity and hospital bills. Wants could range from games and going out to eat to trips or that daily morning latte. The idea was that rather than focusing and stressing out over a budget, someone would focus on needs and would gradually cut back on buying fewer wants.

            If you were to divide your purchases into wants and needs, what would that look like? I especially want us to think about the needs aspect – what are some things in life you cannot go without? Food is one – but how much? Three meals a day? Two? One? Transportation is also a need – but does that look like a bike? A car? A bus? Even if we look at needs across the board, everyone will answer that differently. We can agree on a roof over our heads and food, but the amount and quality of those items still varies.

            For example, I’ve been reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and her idea of wants and needs growing up in rural West Virginia are very different than many people’s concepts of wants and needs. She and her siblings grew up in poverty. I don’t just mean that they were struggling to make payments on a few bills, they dug for food from the garbage. They slept in junker cars and in the desert. They bathed in someone else’s house because they didn’t have running water or an indoor toilet. Their mother knew just how much water a person could drink in one day and not die. She learned that by eating one meal a day she could stay alive – and many days that is what she did because she could not find food or afford a meal otherwise. She didn’t have the resources. Her idea of enough was to keep her from death. I’m going to assume that our idea of enough is more than survival – but about thriving – an abundant life for everyone.

            The Proverbs passage tells us that God provides enough. What does this mean? What is enough? Who defines enough? Are we talking about Jeannette Walls’ enough? Your enough? A millionaire’s enough? If God provides enough, why do so many people go hungry?

            While I can’t answer these questions, I’ll pose some statistics for you to ponder. These statistics are taken from a recent article in USA Today as well as Feeding America, a hunger program. In the United States alone 72 billion pounds of food is wasted every year.[1] This food is wasted in farms, in restaurants, grocery stores, and homes. Sometimes it is because a fruit or vegetable doesn’t look “right.” People want to buy their red tomatoes looking round, not with a blemish on it. So, food with imperfections are often discarded before even hitting stores. Sometimes food is wasted because of a misunderstanding of food expiration labels. Many people do not understand that there is a difference between the “sell by date” and the “expiration date” and “best if used by date.” So, sometimes food is thrown out when it is still good. And, often restaurants will give heaping portions that often go uneaten, and end up in the trash.

            If people in the United States were to eat a 2000 calorie diet, which is what the EPA defines as being “enough,” then all of the food that goes to waste could feed 84% of the population.[2] That’s on top of those people already being fed. There is a government program to cut waste down by 50% by the year 2030.[3] This is by education and sharing food. For example, the House of Hope accepts foods that are labeled as expired, but those foods are actually still good long past their date. They also accept those misshapen strawberries and browned bananas. Many people who frequent the House of Hope gladly accept these because they know that the nutrition is more important than the appearance of the fruits and vegetables. At the same time, they should not just receive the “leftover” misshapen foods because the rest of the world doesn’t want to eat it. They have a right to healthy, fresh foods, as well.

            Over the past few weeks we have talked about the Heifer Project since we are preparing to “fill an ark” and send animals to people who use them to make a living. The people are trained to take care of the animals and sell the milk or wool or eggs to make a living. They use the animals for muscle power and so much more. Heifer doesn’t send misshapen cows – they don’t send chickens that are ill – they send quality animals, so that everyone has enough, and has an equal opportunity at making a living.

            So, maybe God does provide, but we have to be caring and generous and creative with how we share our food, and making sure we don’t waste what we have been given. We must know our resources. The Proverbs passage tells us that we should know what we are caring for – to be in tune with creation. If we know that tomatoes don’t always come out of the ground completely spherical, we know that we can eat that funny looking tomato and not waste it. If we know that food is good past the sell by date, we can make it stretch just a bit longer. God knows us inside and out, and cares for us, too. A caretaker should be knowledgeable about the one for whom he or she cares.

            The Genesis passage reminds us that we are to be stewards of creation. We are partnering with God in a way so that we can care for the birds and the trees and the soil. We are approaching stewardship season, and next month we will begin our stewardship campaign, but being a steward is more than money. We are good stewards when we take care of all the resources entrusted unto us – money, the earth, gifts, and each other. God has called us to care for the earth – and called for this from the very beginning. How are you taking care of the gifts given to you?

            At the end of each day God calls creation “good.” What does this mean? What is “good”? This seems to be another value judgment, like “enough.” What is good to me may not seem good to another. Except, here God is telling us what is good – God is defining it. Maybe God isn’t saying “the earth is good” or “humans are good,” but that “good is the earth,” and “good are humans,” and “good are animals.” This way, we can recognize something good when we come across it. We might ask ourselves – is it life-giving and full of creation? It’s good. Is it harmful to the earth and God’s creation? Then it isn’t good.

            So, will we ever know what is enough? Maybe we can find our answer in God’s definition of good. Does it hang in the balance of creation? Then it is good. Are people fed and well cared for? Then it is good – and they have enough. Are animals taken care of and thriving? Then it is good – and we have enough without taking from them. Are people hurting? Then it isn’t good.

            God has showed us what is good, and has given us enough. Let us partner together as God’s people and care for one another and share resources. Amen.