How Much is Enough?

An American businessman, emotionally stressed-out from too many years of performance and too little time to reflect, finally followed his doctor’s orders and vacationed in a quiet, coastal Mexican village. Finding it difficult to check out mentally and weary of his first-night insomnia, he walked out to the pier
for some air.  He saw a fisherman with a small boat and several large tuna.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.

“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied in English.

“Why not fish longer and catch more?”

“I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican replied.

“But … What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican smiled. “I sleep well, fish as I need to, play with my children, spend time with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening,  to see my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The American laughed and stuck his chest out. “I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, make more money, buy more boats until you have an entire fleet. You could eventually open your own cannery, controlling the product, processing, and distribution. Of course, you would have to leave this small village and move to Mexico City, and eventually New York City, where you could run your expanding enterprise with proper management.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “How long will all this take?”

The American replied, “15-20 years. 25 tops.”

“But what then, señor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions, señor? Then what?”

“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, spend time with your wife, and …”
(Adapted from Timothy Ferris, The Four-Hour Work Week, pp. 253-254)

How much is enough? When does our well-intentioned activity in ministry turn us from serving Christ to becoming silly consumers? Where is Sabbath in our theology of work?

Certainly there are plenty in ministry who are lazy, but from where I sit, too many of us confuse being busy doing just about anything with being strategic, thoughtful, and wise.

Take a few minutes this weekend and ask yourself if you could do any of the following:

-Remove a third of your clothes from your closet(s) without missing them

-Watch a little less TV without your life falling apart

-Add a significant time in the Word, in prayer, and still accomplish what really matters in your world

In every realm today: physical fitness, diet, time management, time at your business, time at a church building, everywhere you turn there is a movement to see that less done well is better than more done badly. Delegate. Contemplate. Stop the obsession to agitate.

Spring Sabbatical for me is officially over. But I have a very new appreciation for Sabbath, unlike ever in my life. I want to do enough for Christ—to live well, to fulfill my calling. But I do not want to confuse being busy, which leads to stress — with being godly, which calls for rest as surely as it calls for activity. I have often said in jest that I have the spiritual gift of hanging out, because I love spending time with people. But hanging out is neither a spiritual gift nor productive much of the time. We Christians spend way too much time with each other anyway, so much so that few of us can rightly be called friends of sinners, which begs the question whether we can call ourselves like our Lord we so busily seek to follow.

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.”  Gandhi (Ferris, 254)

“Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything.” Charles Kuralt, CBS news reporter (Ferriss, 255)

“ Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”  Jesus, Matthew 11:29

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Alvin L. Reid (born 1959) serves as Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he has been since 1995. He is also the founding Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism. Alvin and his wife Michelle have two children: Joshua, a senior at The College at Southeastern, and Hannah, a senior at Wake Forest Rolesville High School. Recently he became more focused at ministry in his local church by being named Young Professionals Director at Richland Creek Community Church. Alvin holds the M.Div and the Ph.D with a major in evangelism from Southwestern Seminary, and the B.A. from Samford University. He has spoken at a variety of conferences in almost every state and continent, and in over 2000 churches, colleges, conferences and events across the United States.