Several years ago, I was at my grandfather’s house and bored. The internet was not widespread at the time (The Horror!), and I had no way of cruising websites for things to read and watch. I had to, instead, go to his bookshelf and read words printed on paper. I decided that I would choose the most ridiculous title I could find, hoping that I would be amused (at the least) or infuriated (at best). I chose How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
In the section titled “Six Ways To Make People Like You” I (ironically) found a nugget of wisdom that has stuck with me and that I practice to this day. Carnegie reminds us
Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
Every time I go to a restaurant or other place of service, I make sure to ask the server’s name and I call them by their name for the entire time I’m there. I thank them for doing a good job, and I believe I tip each of them very well. Having been a server myself, I know what a chore it is to wait tables. I know, from my own life, that these good women and men are working their fingers to the bone because, in many cases, this is all they’ve got. This is how they make sure that their families have enough.
Enough. It’s a scary word. As income equality gets worse and worse, it is a word that is more and more on people’s minds.
“Will we have enough to pay the bills this month?”
“Will we have enough food for the baby?”
“Will I have enough time off to recoup, before going to my other job?”
“Will we have enough scholarship money to afford to send Nia to college?”
Will we have enough?
About 2 years ago, I sat down for BBQ (Kansas City style, of course) with Aric, Doug, and Nick (Two Friars and a Fool) and heard them tell me the plans for their new book Never Pray Again. The book is framed around different prayers that Christians pray, which the guys suggest often prevent us from actually being the hands and feet of Christ. For instance, instead of praying lengthy prayers of intercession (Chapter 6: Intercede!), shouldn’t we just get off our duff and go do some actual, tangible interceding on other’s behalf? Made sense to me.
But then I got my copy and found the chapter “Thank!” They hadn’t told me of this chapter over that plate of brisket. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Giving thanks to God is about giving thanks for having enough.
As they tease out the meanings of our sacrament of The Lord’s Supper, they remind us that the traditional name, “Eucharist,” means thanks-giving. This thing we do, which we often see as about us, just may not be.
God’s economy is different – it looks different, it feels different, and it calls us to different kinds of behavior. God’s economy doesn’t frighten with scarcity or promise unlimited growth, it rests on “enough.” Enough means that we have everything we need, and can make sure that everyone else has what they need, and the one who gives the most away wins the greater share of joy and goodwill. In a context of enough, having more than enough becomes questionable rather than laudable.
My favorite thing in a worship service is to show a congregation how much bread and wine is left over after we’ve all partaken of Communion. I like to show folks just how much we’ve been given, and remind them that there is always more Grace than we will ever know what to do with. The only sensible thing, then, is to give it away.
Aric, Doug, and Nick remind us that Christians have enough. “In God, there is enough for everyone.” When we receive, it is because someone gave. Ultimately, yes, it is God who gave, but (as they suggest in their book) I wonder what would happen if a group of Christians didn’t bow their heads in public places and loudly talk to God. I wonder what would happen if, instead, they loudly praised the server and kitchen staff.
Why don’t you try it sometime? Surely, you’ve already prayed enough.