If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? -- 1 John 3:17 (NIV)
There’s a 100-some-odd anecdote that goes a little something like this:
A reporter came to John D. Rockefeller one day and told him he was the richest man in the world; the reporter then asked him how much money was enough, and Rockefeller answered, “Just a little bit more.”
The story probably isn’t true—not in that context anyway, and possibly not in any context. But it’s a fun story that shows a very American value: Enough is never enough.
I’m blessed. Abundantly.
And yet I keep pushing forward. Perhaps it’s the American Dream I’m searching for—that invisible idea that can never be capture and never quite satisfied, but that is nonetheless pursued.
No one can deny my ambitious pursued isn’t downright American. But then there’s the Bible—that pesky little big book that tells us what we don’t want to hear: that God isn’t American, and, spoiler alert, Jesus never even stepped sandals in America (unless you are Mormon).
And so I have a conflict. I have America telling me to save my money for the rainy day that will most definitely never come, and the Bible saying to let my possessions flow from me like a river.
It’s hard not to feel just a little convicted when you read 1 John 3:17. I don’t care who you are, I’m certain there’s a moment—several of them—where you had the chance to give to a brother in need and you did not. Maybe it was something small; maybe it was something major—in God’s eyes, it’s all major.
We can sugar-coat this verse. Say it’s a reminder that we aren’t perfect—that we won’t always do as it says, but it’s okay: we’re forgiven. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We are forgiven. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s the Christian you want to be.
But the Bible isn’t a code of rituals. It isn’t a do this or go to hell series of rules. God gives us the Bible as a message to challenge us. So there’s a second way to look at this verse, and that way is to look at it and be challenged—to say, “I can do better. I can give more. I can make people see my actions and think, if that’s what being a Christian is, then maybe I want to know more.”
What if we took that “Just a little bit more” quote from Rockefeller and applied it to our spirituality? To answer “Just a little bit more,” when asked, “How much should you give to the needy?”
What if we applied the same foundations of the American Dream to our spiritual life? To always be seeking, always be doing, never being satisfied. God’s plan for us is that we never stop. That we’re never satisfied. That we’re always seeking him and we are always being challenged. Thinking bigger than our human spirit allows us—giving big—not change to the homeless, homes to the homeless. God is bigger than us, and when we let him, he pushes us to run faster, push harder, and do more than the human limits allow.