The world declares to you, young brothers and sisters, that you never have enough and that you always need more: “More! More! More! Of what God has not given you, of what God has not promised, and of what God has not willed for you to have, you need that and need more of that.” The world declares, “Set your hearts upon the earthly good gifts of this life. Covet after those things because you can never get enough. Get more!”
That is the spiritual message of the big Friday sale ads that you may read in the newspaper later this week.
In this world of covetousness and in the coming weeks of much materialism, what a refreshing and peaceful confession it is to hear, “I have enough!”
Nevertheless, be sure that you confess a contentment that is true to Christ. Do not confess as Esau and as many in the world and church world do: “I have enough.” Instead, confess as the repentant, humble Jacob did: “I have enough.”
Enough of What?
Both Esau and Jacob say, according to Genesis 33:9-11, “I have enough,” and it seemed true outwardly.
Esau was a very great man when he met Jacob. Esau was very wealthy, as Isaac had prophesied. He owned the whole region around Mt. Seir, southeast of Canaan. From Esau came the mighty nations of Edom and Amalek. (Gen. 36) Esau had many servants, soldiers, much cattle, and many children. From an earthly viewpoint, it seemed true that Esau had enough.
Though rich and powerful, this Esau was ungodly. Although he seems like a nice, honourable man, who reconciles outwardly with Jacob and who even professes to be content, he was ungodly. He lived away from Isaac and from the land of Canaan to serve his own gods. He married two daughters of pagan Heth and an ungodly wife from the line of Ishmael. He did not care about God’s covenant or the promise. His heart was set upon earthly wealth and power. This is the Esau whom God hated and had rejected (Mal. 1:3) and who confessed, “I have enough.”
Jacob also had many earthly gifts and earthly wealth. Like Esau, he had much cattle, many servants, and a large family.
However, Jacob actually had many things Esau did not have. Jacob had the birthright blessing. A few days before meeting Esau, Jacob was greeted by a host of the angels of God when he stepped into Canaan at Mahanaim. Jacob had seen God face to face the night before. Jacob had a new name: Israel. Jacob had the blessing of Jehovah .This is godly Jacob whom God loved according to election and who confessed, “I have enough!”
What did they mean when they each said, “I have enough”? They meant two entirely different things.
When Esau said, “I have enough,” a literal translation would read, “I have so very much.” In that he meant something like this: “I am strong, successful, wise, and powerful. I have so much that I do not have any needs. If I did have a need, then I could fulfil it myself. I have secured my wealth, kingdom, and glory. Enough I have, indeed.”
From that perspective, Esau refused Jacob’s presents. He had enough earthly things to satisfy his soul. Having all of that wealth and power, he could forgive Jacob, especially because Jacob’s past sin no longer stood in the way of his desire and ability to get the wealth and power that he coveted. He had enough, and in that enough he had a carnal contentment.
Listen carefully to the world in this week of Thanksgiving. You might hear on Thursday the wicked, with bellies full, confess, “I have enough,” but then the next day at the infamous Friday sales covet and pursue the things that the stores have to offer so that then they can exclaim with full shopping carts on the way out of the stores, “Now I have enough.”
Many in the world, who do not have Esau’s kind of wealth today, certainly covet the day when they can say, “I have enough.” There are sincere and faithful Buddhists, Hindu disciples, Muslims, or Roman Catholics who say on the basis of what they believe, what they have, and what they have done, “I have enough.” The Esaus of the church world claim the same confession. The Pope and his hierarchy in their heresy and man-centered religion say, “We have enough!” Such is the false, vain, foundation-less contentment of the ungodly.
In contrast, Jacob’s “I have enough” is a confession of substance. Jacob literally said, “I have all things.” He meant that because he did have all things, he needed no more. That is true. What more does one need, if he has all things?
Now, was this the old Jacob making a boastful, competing confession before Esau? His older brother had just said, “I have much.” Does Jacob, as competing brothers might do on occasion, now say in response, “I have all things?” Is Jacob trying to outdo his brother?
We understand that this is a true confession of the Jacob of faith. Jacob did have all things. When he fought with God the night before, he received the blessing of Jehovah. He had the host of God’s angels protecting him for the sake of the coming of the seed of Christ. He had the covenant promises of Jehovah. He had God as his God and friend-sovereign. He had everything because Jehovah had him from eternity. Indeed, he did have all things.
That is the kind of full and true thanksgiving and contentment that we must desire. You as children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must confess the same thing, not as Esau, but as Jacob. Do not merely say this week, “I have enough,” according to how much turkey and pumpkin pie with whipped cream you might eat. Let us not give thanks according to how much money and how many possessions we have been given. Rather, profess a true and satisfied confession of contentment. Say, “I have enough because Jehovah is my God and he has given me all these things as a blessing!”
Esau’s confession in his thanksgiving had a sinful reason. Esau based his confession on himself. Esau was proud. He thought that he had made himself powerful and wealthy. He concluded that he had enough because he was Esau. On that vain basis, Esau declared that he had many things.
What foolishness. He thought that he could satisfy his soul with his earthly wealth. Yet there was one obvious thing that he did not have: true wealth towards God. What would all of his money and possessions do for him in the day of judgment? It would amount to nothing before God, except to serve as many witnesses to his inexcusable unbelief and pride against Jehovah. Esau’s confession was a proud, self-centered boast in which he rejected the God of Jacob for his life and future. He believed that he had his “enough” without Jacob and the God of Jacob.
Very similar is the basis for what seems to be impressive thanksgiving among the unbelieving in the world and church world today. Man declares that he has enough because of himself or his gods. For many, the reason for their “enough” is their skill, power, or money. For the religious in the world, the reason for their “enough” might be Buddha, Vishnu, Shiva, Allah, an idol god, a spirit god, or the benevolent spirits of dead relatives. We can expect that in the day of antichrist, the man of sin himself will declare that the reason for his “enough” is himself. The antichrist will thank himself. In full pride, he will confess, “I have enough now, I have all things, and I have my kingdom on earth because I am god. Thanks and worship be to me.” That will be the climax of man’s boast of vain contentment throughout history.
Although wicked men may boast that they have all things, man lacks everything because he will never have God. The very same God that he refuses to thank will judge and destroy him. The thankful Esaus of the church world have nothing: they do not have God.
That is important for us to realize when we observe the thanksgiving of the world and the false church. The ungodly, both rich and poor, may with their allotment of goods appear outwardly content. In all their prosperity or lack thereof, they having nothing. They do not have God according to his sovereign good pleasure.
However, we learn to give thanks unto Jehovah in life for a beautiful reason. Jacob said, “because God hath dealt graciously with me.” (v. 10) Implied is his confession is a godly statement such as this: “I have dealt sinfully towards God. I have mistrusted him countless times. I have filled my days with sin against God for which I deserve to be punished by him. In spite of all I have done, God has dealt with me in his eternal grace. He has redeemed me from my sin, from idolatry, from false doctrine, and from a trust in myself. God is my God, and therefore I have become his son. God has blessed me and given me a new name, Israel. Because God has graciously dealt with me, I do have enough.”
That was a confession of the forgiveness of his sin and the eternal life with Jehovah that was his through the atonement of the substitutionary death of the coming Messiah. Jacob confessed that all of his possessions were not the evidence of his power or skill. Rather, the benefits of his earthly wealth and his children that he had received from Jehovah were solely evidence of the grace of God to him. He had left Canaan empty because of his sin. However, Jehovah brought Jacob home full because of his grace. For that reason alone, Jacob could say, “I have enough. I have all things.”
Indeed, Jacob did have all things. He had Jehovah. He had the Christ in the promise and in his generations through Judah. In Christ, Jacob did have all things: life with Jehovah, an inheritance in the new heavens and earth, the final resurrection, and everlasting riches, far surpassing the total earthly wealth of Jacob, Esau, and all the kingdoms of the earth to this day.
What is the basis of your confession of faith and true thanksgiving: “I have all things?” Is it a proud boast? Is it something in us? No, it must never be that.
Our thanksgiving must be based carefully upon the eternal grace of God in Christ Jesus, which motivates God to give us our stuff as a real and lasting benefit. Let us confess, “I have enough, not because of me. I am just like Jacob, sinner. I have enough today only because God has dealt graciously with me. In fact, because of his grace alone in Christ alone, I have all things.”
For Esau and man in general, the correct answer is that they never have enough. Unbelievers may boast that they have enough and forever. But the fact is that Esau, the world, and those like Esau throughout history always have nothing: nothing from eternity, nothing from birth, nothing in this life, and nothing in their death. In all his earthly prosperity, Esau had nothing, except for God’s curse, death, and destruction. In fact, the wicked in this life are judged by God in their false contentment by soon thereafter falling quickly back into the sin of covetousness. The thanksgiving and contentment of the unbeliever is fleeting, moveable, empty, and cursed.
But not so with the believing Jacobs. They have enough always.
Now let us be honest before the word of God. We do not always confess that we have enough always. As believers, we struggle with our old nature regarding God’s distribution of earthly things to us in our different circumstances in life. Often we fall into the sin of discontent and unthankfulness.
“God gives me only $100 today: I want $100 more. God gives me only one bowl of rice: I demand two more. God gives some long, straight hair; I want short, curly hair. God gave me a height of 5′ 10″: I want 5″ more. God gave me a clunker of a car for transportation or no car at all, so that I must take public transit: I demand a new car. God gave me sickness: I want the health he did not will. God took away my dear friend through death to glory afterward: I want my friend back here with me.” So we speak according to our old nature in selfishness and unbelief.
In our murmuring against God, our confession of unbelief is, “I never have enough. I never have all things. I never get what I really want and what I think that I need. Thus I don’t have any reason to be thankful and happy.”
From that you and I must repent. Every day.
Christ by his Spirit calls us to faith and trust in him, and unto the confession that we do have in him alone all things always. We always have the blessing of Jehovah for the sake of Christ. (Ps. 3:8). We have that blessing only because God graciously deals with us always for Christ’s sake alone (2 Tim. 1:9). We have at God’s right hand our advocate, our Lord, who was crucified and raised again, in whom God sees us as righteous. (1 John 2:1–2). In Christ we are always worthy of his blessing, which is what motivates God to give us all the earthly gifts that we need for our heavenly profit (Phil. 4:19). In Christ, we have his blessing and our new name (Rev. 3:12). There are so many benefits Jehovah gives unto us daily (Ps. 116:12). What more do we truly need?
Whether your wage is $8 an hour as a grocery store clerk in Grand Rapids or $8 a day as a grocery clerk in Manila, for Christ’s sake, you, young believers, have enough! Whether you have little or much, you do have enough of what really matters in this life in Christ alone. You have all things that you need in body and soul!
Truly, you and I do lack nothing. We do have enough.
May the Lord give us the eyes of faith to see that truth.
*Rev. Smit is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI. This article is the text of his speech for Western Michigan PRYP societies combined Thanksgiving meeting on November 22, 2015.