How Much is Enough?

Our family took a spontaneous trip up to Jekyll and St. Simons Islands on Labor Day. It was refreshingly deserted on these quiet islands, where the canopies of live oak make you feel as if you’re in another world.

The home pictured here was advertised for sale. We were pretty tempted, but fell just a few mil short of the asking price.

What cracked me up, though, was the realtor’s description, “At 7,000 square feet, this home is the perfect size.”

The perfect size! For what, a village?

Now, before you think I’m passing judgment on folks with large houses, let me assure you that I’m just as guilty. In my mind, there is a “perfect”-sized house for my family. It’s not 7,000 sq. ft., but it’s always just a little bigger than the one I currently live in.

For fourteen years our family of six lived in an 1,100 sq. ft. home with one bathroom. A friend was encouraging me to look for a larger home, when another friend, who lived in the Philippines, asked, “How many families live in your home with you?” That, my friends, is perspective.

It’s so easy to look at the folks who have more than we do, and forget how much of the world lives on far less. Here’s an exercise that rocked my perspective recently: Go here and enter your annual family income. See how you compare to the rest of the world.

I saw an article in a magazine this week about a couple who find it “necessary” to visit the spa once a week to “relieve stress.” My first thought was, “If you can afford to spend one day a week at the spa, you don’t have anything to stress about!”

Then I thought about the rest of the world. How they would laugh at my perspective, and say that I have nothing to stress about.

It just seems this whole following-Jesus thing should impact how I spend my money, you know? Do you wrestle with this?

Let me put it this way. What if you won the lottery and became fabulously wealthy overnight? You now have $84 million in the bank. You can set your own salary. How much per year should you draw on that account, just to spend on yourself?

Oh, I know you’d give so much of it away. You’d be so generous. Yeah, me too. I’d buy new ski boats for all the guys that have been pulling me all these years, pro-bono.

Really? Is that what we would do? We’d use the money to give more stuff to our friends who are also in the wealthiest 1% of the world? Why? Just because we know them? What about the people who are in the second percentile, or the third? Or the 99th?

And what of the leftover in that $84Mil account? Would you draw $50,000/year? $250,000? $1,000,000? How much is enough to spend on ourselves?

Think about it this week. What does it really mean to be generous? And if we’re not generous, does that make us greedy? Is there an in-between?