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Theology of Enough for Church Leaders

Table & Towel is a monthly publication of the Eula Mae and John Baugh Center for Baptist Leadership of Mercer University. This Theology of Enough reflection first appeared in the June 1, 2023 edition of Table & Towel. We appreciate the permission of the Center's Director, Rev. Dr. Daniel Vestal, to republish it here.



Intellectually, we know that God wants us to be content with what we have; yet in the world around us (and yes, even in the Church), we hear voices calling us to constantly want more. Every day, we find ourselves drowning in a river of ads for goods and services flowing from our TVs, computers, and mail, all of which declare they are needed for a fulfilling life.


If contentment is what we are to strive for, how do we resist the unending call to attain more? What does enough look like, and how is it implemented in our lives and businesses?


I’m so glad you asked! The following is an example of someone who learned contentment after a life of wanting more, and the amazing change that this lesson generated.



Millard Fuller is the attorney-entrepreneur turned co-founder and longtime president of Habitat for Humanity. Fuller has publicly shared that his focus on amassing wealth and possessions in his earlier years took an untenable toll on his marriage. On the brink of disaster, he and his wife agreed to try to rescue their relationship with a “burn the ships” strategy.


He sold his business interests, and the couple gave all their money away so that they could focus on each other and their faith. The Fullers soon found themselves at Koinonia Farm near Americus, Georgia, under the spiritual leadership of Clarence Jordan. During his time there, Fuller underwent both spiritual and theological reconditioning.


Fuller reports two scriptural references that were especially influential in rethinking his theology around wealth. Both were penned by the Apostle Paul:

“Instruct those who are rich in this present world…to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share….” (1 Timothy 6:17–18);


and


“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time, your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality….” (2 Corinthians 8:10–13).


Doesn’t that millennia-old vision for economic parity sound like a solution for most of the crises in this morning’s news feed?


These references, together with more like them, are part of Fuller’s “theology of the hammer.” In the book by the same title, theology of the hammer is Fuller’s understanding that “God has put all that is needed on the earth—in human, natural, and financial resources—to solve completely the problems of poverty housing and homelessness.”


So why is poverty housing and homelessness a problem still not yet solved? Because theology of the hammer, like countless other workable solutions, has a flip side, which, in this case, Fuller names the “theology of enough.”


“One of the big impediments to solving the problem [pick your problem],” Fuller writes, “is that too few talented and wealthy people have developed a ‘theology of enough.’ They keep striving, struggling, and scrambling for more and more things for themselves and are too short-sighted and immature spiritually to see the futility of that type of grasping lifestyle.”


Almost twenty years into his role as president of Habitat for Humanity, it was an enlightened Fuller who also wrote: “Simply put, the message is that we must have a well-developed ‘theology of enough.’ God’s order of things holds no place for hoarding and greed. There are sufficient resources in the world for the needs of everybody, but not enough for the greed of even a significant minority.”


For us to develop a theology of enough, Fuller acknowledges, “many hearts and minds must go through a radical transformation. With God, all things truly are possible!”


We at the Institute for Better Capitalism desire to be guided by the theology of enough, both in our own lives and also in what we teach and share with others. The example of Millard Fuller has hopefully given you pause for thought and will inspire you to consider not only how to gain contentment, but also how to assist others (yes, even in the Church) in attaining what they need, thus achieving the true economic mutuality that God desires.

Paul Knowlton and Aaron Hedges are the co-authors of Better Capitalism: Jesus, Adam Smith, Ayn Rand, and MLK Jr. on Moving from Plantation to Partnership Economics, as well as the founders of the Institute for Better Capitalism. For more information on their work, visit their website at www.partnershipeconomics.com.




What about you? Share your story, question, comment, idea, disagreement -- yes, we welcome disagreement for the sake of mutual benefit! -- with us at blog@PartnershipEconomics.com. We will give a thoughtful response.


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