Millard Fuller is the attorney-entrepreneur turned founder and president of Habitat for Humanity during its decades of stunning worldwide growth. In his book Theology of the Hammer, where Fuller relates his theology of enough, he relates the story of a very wealthy man who built for himself and his immediate family a palace in Atlanta. Explaining himself and his decision to build so opulently, the man said, “Because I’m a born-again Christian and I wanted to glorify God.”
Really? Fuller prods. “Is God really glorified? Or, is God glorified more when a wealthy family exercises restraint, builds more modestly for its needs, and uses the excess funds to build additional modest houses for less fortunate families?”
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Fuller has publicly shared the facts of his early financial successes as a lawyer and business owner. He has also shared that his focus on amassing wealth and possessions took an untenable toll on his marriage. Shaken awake by the prospect of losing his marriage, his wife agreed to try to recue their marriage with a “burn the ships” strategy. He sold his interests in his business, and they gave all their money away in order to force themselves to 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 with Jordan, and before he was equipped to found Habitat for Humanity, Fuller had to undergo spiritual and theological reconditioning. Those attentive to the spiritual journey will recognize this order-disorder-reorder pattern of growth.
Fuller reports two scriptural references were especially influential to reconditioning his theology around wealth. Both are 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.” 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. That flip side, Fuller names, 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 a developed ‘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.”
It was an enlightened Fuller, almost twenty years into his role as president of Habitat for Humanity, 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!”
As Fuller was founding and launching his future juggernaut Habitat for Humanity, John Bogle was founding and launching his future juggernaut The Vanguard Group. Like twins of different mothers but sons of the same Spirit, both men came to understand and write about a theology of enough. Fuller penned his book chapter titled Theology of Enough in 1994, while Bogle wrote his book Enough in 2009.
A story from Bogle’s Introduction to Enough shows the resonance between him and Fuller.
At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, “Yes, but I have something he will never have . . . enough.”
In this post we introduced the prospect of a theology of enough. But what does enough look like and how is it implemented in our lives and in our businesses? How do you shift your focus away from seeking more endlessly and meaninglessly? So glad you asked. In the next several “What’s a . . . to Do?” posts we will provide clear and specific action items by which you can develop your theology of enough. The devil – or God, depending on your perspective – is in the details, and so are we!
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