(This post is part of a Patheos Book Club roundtable review.)
Simplicity and frugality become all the rage in a recession. In the last year, the cultural landscape has exploded with magazine articles and blog posts boasting how-to articles on making (and keeping) a budget, the secret to grocery coupon shopping, and fifteen free activities to try next weekend. For a nation that has forgotten—or worse, never learned—how to save, these tips and tricks are much needed…even if they are for many people too little, too late. Enter Adam Hamilton’s book Enough, released in 2009 and now expanded and re-released this year. Hamilton’s book also includes common sense suggestions on how to spend, share and save, but they’re placed within a theological argument for simplicity and generosity. In his book, readers get not only the how, but also the why.
I hope I don’t sound too pessimistic when I say that without the why, without a true and clear look at how we structure our lives and how we approach what we do with what we have, this temporary fad of cutting out our cable subscription and eating in more often isn’t going to last. As soon as the economy picks back up, we’ll land up right where we were before, with problems Hamilton references such as affluenza and “credit-itis.” Because the truth of the matter is, at its heart this book shouldn’t be read because we’re in a recession. It should be read because as Christians, it is our responsibility and joy to be mindful about what we do with what we have.
If you have a friend who is beginning to think about his/her relationship to money and stuff and what that means for the practice of faith, this is a near perfect starting point. Hamilton describes the problem and addresses a number of practical (and feasible) solutions that portray what has been a consistent Christian ethic of simplicity and generosity. The feasibility aspect is important, too; Hamilton doesn’t demand readers to get rid of their cars or take up vows of poverty. He’s realistic about where most readers find themselves.
If you’ve been around the simplicity conversation for a while, take note this is definitely an introductory book. I’d also mention this does seem to be a book geared toward the middle class or upper-middle class. As the title inadvertently suggests, it’s for people who have enough. Those who struggle to pay the bills may find Hamilton’s anecdotes about convincing himself not to get an iPhone or learning a lesson after buying a PlayStation that doesn’t get used off-putting, to say the least. But for those who situate themselves where Hamilton resides- in a middle class America that is slowly weaning itself off one massive money binge- Enough may be just the remedy.