Reverend Murray speaks about how we have become consumed with materialism. We want too much and pursue only our own pleasure. We have to be careful to not become corrupted by greed. We must turn to God, and God will always provide enough.
During his 27 years as the pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME), Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray transformed a small congregation into a megachurch that brought jobs, housing and corporate investment into South Los Angeles neighborhoods. After the 1992 civil unrest, FAME Renaissance, the economic development arm of the church, brought more than $400 million in investments to L.A.’s minority and low-income neighborhoods. Rev. Murray remains a vibrant force in the Los Angeles faith community through his leadership of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement.
The Murray Archive preserves Rev. Murray‘s sermons and interviews in order to inspire the next generation of pastors, activists and scholars.
Following is a lightly edited transcript of the above sermon. To quote from the sermon, please provide credit to: Rev. Cecil L. Murray, Murray Archives, USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture.
“How Much Is Enough?”
April 25, 2004
Everybody, point up and say, “Taking the high ground.” That’s our theme for the year. Everybody say, “Taking the high ground.” And our theme for the month, as you take your seat, a special delivery for you. A special delivery for you. Right now, at this very moment, the chuck wagon is at your door. Children, it’s God’s chuck wagon. It’s overflowing, God’s chuck wagon is at your door. It may be the door to your house. It may be the door to your hurt. It may be the door to your horror. But God’s chuck wagon is there to fill you up when you are empty.
But is it not so fascinating that some people prefer the devil’s chuck wagon to God’s chuck wagon? God’s got everything that you need, and yet you walk away from God’s wagon and walk over to a wagon that’s full of evil, with sin, with negativism. God is there right now offering you a special delivery.
Everybody say, “I want a special delivery.” Our precious guests, five continents and 15 nations, perhaps you will see the Getty Museum while you are in Southern California. The story of Paul Getty is very interesting, how God can take us from one level to an even higher level. He is a billionaire, and a press person interviews him and says, “Well, if you were to retire at this very moment, wouldn’t you be worth, say, a billion dollars?” Paul Getty walks the room a little bit, thinking, thinking, thinking that, “Yes, I suppose you could say that. But keep in mind, a billion dollars does not go as far as it used to go.”
How many of you have a billion dollars? How many of you have a million dollars? How many of you ain’t got nothing? You got your Bibles. In your noon Bibles, page 988 and in your red noon Bibles, page 705. James 4, page 988 or 705. The brother of Jesus, James, chapter four. Would you rise in deference to the Word? First one, what is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it because there’s a whole army of evil desires within you? You want what you don’t have, so you kill to get it. You long for what others have, and can’t afford it, so you start a fight to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole aim is wrong. You want only what will give you pleasure. You are like an unfaithful wife who loves her husband’s enemies. Don’t you realize that making friends with God’s enemies, the evil pleasures of this world, makes you an enemy of God? I’ll say it again, that if you sin, your aim is to enjoy the evil pleasures of the unsaved world, you cannot also be a friend of God.
Our key verse, you want only what gives you pleasure. Ask your neighbor on your right and your left, our subject sermon, “How much is enough?”
How much is enough? How much is enough? James, now the leader of the Jerusalem church, James the brother of Jesus, who used to castigate his brother in sibling rivalry, James the brother of Jesus, who after the resurrection of Jesus, comes to believe in Jesus. James asks us three things this morning. He tells us three things. Number one, we want too much. Tell your neighbor on your left, “You want too much.” We want too much. We want too much, and it puts us in the cemetery. Out in the graveyard in England, one grave marker says she died from want of things. And next to it is a marker that says, he died trying to give them to her.
We want too much. There’s a continuing struggle within every single one of us here between conscience. Everybody say, “Conscience and corruption.” Everybody say, “Corruption.” Now conscience says, yes, I want some things, but there are some things I will do to get what I want. And there are some things I will not do to get what I want.
Now if you’re like that, you have a conscience, and God blessed you. God gave it to you. Don’t lose your conscience. Your conscience says there are some fences around here. Your conscience tells a young person, I won’t shoot another person to get their tennis shoes. I won’t steal to get something out of a store that I can’t afford. If you have conscience, you are still with God.
But if you have corruption, then this is addressed to you, and each of us here has a bit of corruption in us. Corruption says I will do anything, at any time, to anybody, anywhere, to get what I want. Corruption.
So, corruption has an inner struggle going on with you and me, and an outer struggle. Baby love, that inner struggle, corruption, takes conscience and throws it out the back door. To a lot of our houses, you can go to the back door and see conscience lying out there, knocking at the door, trying to get in. Oh, y’all don’t know what James is talking about when he says if you ain’t careful, conscience will go on a vacation, and corruption will go on a vocation. If you ain’t careful, corruption inside of you, with all those I want this, I want that, I want the other.
My dear parents, we have raised a generation, and we cannot blame the generation, that doesn’t know anything about anything but things. Their hairdos cost more than a whole year of education used to cost for you and me. Inside, corruption, I want this, I want that, I want that. Then the outer war that corruption raises is that if you get in my way, God help you. That’s something that afflicts all of our ages, that outer corruption. There is something I want, and God help you if you get in my way. Now, conscience tells you enough.
Everybody say, “I have enough.”
I have enough. I have enough. If you woke up above the ground this morning like the grass, raise your hand. Woo! Then everybody say, “I’ve had enough.”
That’s conscience, and corruption says, “I’ve had enough of you. If you get in my way one more time, I’m kind of tired of you. I’ve had enough of you, because you are separating me from the thing I want to get.”
We are a thingyfied generation. And you may get a little quiet, because it gets a little close to you. Thingyfied. And now we can order online. We really going crazy. We are a credit card generation. For every dollar you spend, you have to pay a quarter for that dollar. We are a thingyfied generation. Put $2 in the offering tray, and your hairdo costs $200. Thingyfied. Things, things, things, things. Especially when it comes to our relationships. It doesn’t mean a thing nowadays to tell somebody I love you. I love you for what you can do for me. I love maybe, Bill, because you can help me get to what I want. But to just say I love you because I love you, I love you with no strings attached. Do it right now. Tell your neighbor on your right, “I love you.”
Thingyfied. Thingyfied. Things, things, things, things. In our relationship, we don’t want ring, ring. We want bling, bling. She about to break her finger showing that ring her boyfriend gave her. And five years later, you can’t find her or the ring or the boyfriend. We want too much. Sunday School teacher trying to get his children to understand, watch materialism. Don’t let it take over spiritualism. So, he tells them the story of Lazarus, poor Lazarus, who took the crumbs off of the rich man’s table. And the rich man is Dives, and the custom is when you’re finished eating, you throw the bread out the window, and the poor people outside on the sidewalk can eat the crumbs from your table. Dives dies the poor rich man and he goes to hell. Lazarus dies, the poor man, and he goes to heaven. And call from hell, Lazarus, it’s so hot down here. Send some water down to cool my tongue. Go back and tell my brothers, Don’t live the life I lived. Lazarus, help me.
The teacher asks now, Which would you rather be, Dives or Lazarus? One of the little boys holds up his hands and said, I would rather be Dives while I lived and Lazarus when I die. Tell the neighbor on your right, You can’t have it both ways. How much is enough? How much is enough? James says we want too much. Second thing James tell us, we fight to get it. We fight. There’s an army of desires in each and every one of us here right now. There is not only an army of desires, there is an army of evil desires that’s going on in us right now. All somebody has to do is push our button, and my goodness, we’ll go off. And the closer we are to each other, the quicker we are to go to war. You ain’t seen no wars ’til you see a family that’s having a wedding or a funeral. The stewardesses here will tell you it’s hard to bury somebody without also having to be a referee for the family fighting. “Family Feud” sure is a good thing.
Scott Fitzgerald is a writer. F. Scott Fitzgerald, worldwide, and he dies. On his desk, they found what was going to be his next novel. It’s about a wealthy man who dies and he leaves everything to his heirs, sons, grandsons, granddaughters, so forth. In equal proportions, he leaves millions to his bloodline. And then at the bottom of the page, the writer has said, this is the very definition of hell. He’s right, because one of his specifications is all of you must come live under the roof of this palatial mansion. And can you imagine them folks getting together? Can you imagine them brothers and sisters getting together and agreeing on everything? And now it’s even worse, because they got a little money to go with it. If money don’t make you a fool, nothing will make you a fool.
There’s a commercial that puts the foot of a man out there, and then under the toenails is a fungus. They show how that fungus can get there and mess up that whole foot. We want you to see in our modern-day life, there’s a fungus among us. We just want what we want, what we want, and if you get in our way, we will beat you up to get it. You never thought that you’d see the day when the granddaughters and the grandsons of slaves would be shooting one another. You never thought you’d see the day when they joined gangs and instead of fighting against the enemy, instead of fighting against poverty, instead of fighting against ignorance, instead of fighting against ghettos, instead of fighting against having to catch the bus, they’re busy fighting one another. And what are they fighting over? Bling, bling. Bling, bling.
There’s fungus among us. There’s societal fungus. We don’t get along as we should get along. There is theological fungus. Some of us got God by one hand and a stick by another. If you don’t worship God the way that I worship God, then you are all wrong. There is economic fungus. You finally got a hill-top house and you down talking about those people at the foot of the hill of Compton and Watts like you ain’t Compton and Watts at the top of the hill. There’s fungus among us.
We’ve been taught for four centuries how to hate one another, and some of us have allowed that fungus to get up under that toenail, and it’s moving right on up through our body. Don’t you understand, oldest people on Earth, don’t you understand, greatest minds and thinkers on Earth, don’t you understand you’re a child of the King? You a child of the King. With Jesus, your savior, you a child of the King. Don’t you understand that this is your brother, this is your sister? And don’t you understand that when your brother doesn’t have, it’s up to you to give to your brother. It’s up to you to love your brother. In spite of everything, I love you, my brother, my sister.
We fight to get it. Mother gives her little son two oranges, two oranges, one a little larger than the other. And now son, if you give your sister an orange, and give her the bigger orange. Thanks, a little gift. Mamma, you take these two oranges, you give them to sister and tell her to give her brother the bigger orange. You see? How much is enough? Well, we said we want too much. Then we said we fight to get it. James concludes, please come on and say these words, God is enough. You may not have witnessed to that in your life. Tell your neighbor on your right. Tell your neighbor on your left. God is enough. Children, tell them, tell them, tell them. Great, God from glory! Ain’t you happy to be in God’s house?
God is enough. When we were trying to find ways to describe Yahweh, I am. Oh, we looked at every way, and one of the founding fathers of the early church says he is the God of enough. You and I serve a God of enough. I am so happy that I came from a generation that walked behind the plow. I am so happy that I came from a generation that had one pair of shoes, and that was Sunday go-to-meeting shoes. I am so happy that I was in a household where a father said there are some rules around here. I’m so happy that after school, everybody had a job. I’m so happy that teachers were willing to risk their lives to help you get along. I’m so happy we didn’t have everything to live with, but we had everything to live for. I’m so happy I learned to worship God, and we didn’t have hymn books, but I learned the blessed assurance. I learned, Give me that old-time religion. I learned, Must Jesus bear the Cross of Lord?
God is enough. You have not because you ask not. Here you are paying $1,200, $1,300, $1,500 in rent. Why aren’t you buying a home? Why aren’t you asking God to show you the way to own your own home? Here you are letting your lust lead you into a relationship, instead of letting your God lead you into a relationship. Lord, is this the right sister for me? Lord, is this the right brother for me? And if the Lord tells you no, then you act like no, because otherwise the Lord going to tell you hell no, and then you going through hell later.
But James, James, please be fair. You said God is enough, and I have not because I ask not. You tell me that I should bring it to God in prayer, but I’ve been asking God for this thing for months and months, and it still hasn’t come. You see, when you pray, you don’t pray for things for your own pleasure. You pray for things that will give God pleasure. You don’t pray, my will be done. You pray thy will be done. You see, your momma used to tell you something about what you see out there that you pray for. Your eyes bigger than your what? Your eyes bigger than your … that’s where we have wisdom. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach, and everything depends upon your eyes. Everybody, point to your eyes.
One of the early fathers of the church spelled it out. When I look up, I see heaven. Oh, thank you, Lord. Thank you that there’s a better life to come. And when I look down, I see how much of the Earth I will own one day. Six feet up, staying in a 48,000 square foot home now, but all I’ll own when I look down is six feet of hell. And then when I look around, I see people who are worse off than I am. I see people who are catching the bus, and they’re worse off than people who don’t have a bus to catch, and people who are worse to catch are worse off than those 70 million people worldwide who will die of starvation this year, 450 million people suffering malnutrition, and there I am on a diet and keeping that. When I look around and I see my closet full of clothes, I just … when I look around, and I see my cupboard is full. When I look around and see that my cup runneth over. When I look around and think things over, I won’t complain. I won’t complain. Everybody say, God is enough. Everybody rise to your feet, say, God is enough!
Dear God is enough. Thank you. You woke us up this morning. Didn’t have to do it, but you did. Gave us food or will give us food. You didn’t have to do it, but you did. When we were so depressed, we considered not being here any longer, you gave us the joy that comes in the morning. You didn’t have to do it, but you did. The children who are singing your praise this morning, you’re going to open up doors for them to go to college. You’re going to open up doors to them to come out of an impoverished situation and nevertheless to go on and further their lives. You didn’t have to do it, but you did. You took those who have come across from other countries, and they flew here safely. They landed on the ground of God. They’re having a good time, a God time. You didn’t have to do it, but you did.
You took every single one of us and told us there’s a bright side somewhere, don’t you rest until you find it. You didn’t have to do it, but you did. And I’m responsible that some of your children are praying for loved ones. Come down the aisle. Lead the prayer, warriors.