“Never Enough!” The singer echoes and re-echoes this refrain throughout the song. My daughter’s friend loves this song from The Greatest Showman, and the pair of them often listen to it. It even reverberates down from the bath from time to time. I found this refrain so utterly annoying, making me think of the modern consumerist culture where more is never enough, and everywhere we look advertisers are constantly showing us how to be dissatisfied with the enormous choices and resources we already have. The more we have, the more we want, and the less satisfied we become.
In my frustration, I looked up the lyrics on Google. What I saw was quite different. Context really is everything. In my mind, the song went from “anthem of greed” to “poignant invitation and realisation people matter most”. The transformative words, at the very start (and interestingly NOT repeated) were
“Will you share this with me?
‘Cause darling, without you…”
I still dislike the song! But it made me reflect on several things.
Firstly: Context is everything. Without it, everything risks being misunderstood, misrepresented, or even deliberately twisted to destroy the very thing it is supposed to create.
Secondly: Human greed can be insatiable – if our viewpoint is scarcity and selfishness. If we begin from a perspective of “my survival at any cost” then we’re on a race to the bottom, and the route will be littered with the bodies of the dead and destroyed.
Thirdly: Love matters most. Without love, without the important “others” in our lives, life actually becomes pretty bleak and depressing, and all the “stuff” in the world can’t make up for that achingly hollow emptiness and absence. We can pretend, but we’re just lying to ourselves.
The problem is that our circles of love are very rarely neat and confined. Friendships and relationships overlap and spread an ever-widening net, like ripples in a pond. It’s been said that there’s no more than six degrees of separation between any two people on this entire planet! Six is a very small number. Through that tiny number, eight billion people are all interconnected. And yet we so often act as if people outside of our tiny personal circle don’t exist, don’t impact us, and as if our consumer insatiability doesn’t impact them.
Jesus makes a very valid point about the “never enough” mentality of humans. Criticised yet again by the religious elite (honestly, you have to love the fact that God himself wasn’t good enough for the religious people in charge!), Jesus says (Matthew 11.16-19):
16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”
Religion, in Jesus’ day, had become a burden, and whatever you did, something was guaranteed to be wrong in some respect. It was indeed “never enough.” And it’s true that if we’re trying to please God – or even other people – in our own strength and capabilities, we will always fail, and our best efforts will never be enough. And if we are trying to find satisfaction for our eternal souls in consumerism and material items, we will always be dissatisfied, and more will never be enough.
There is, thank God, a remedy for this. At the same time as exposing the cruel wound of the echoing emptiness and insatiability of human nature, Jesus offers the healing salve (Matthew 11.28-30):
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
If you want your soul to feel satisfied, for your true yearning to be met, then Jesus is the answer. Nothing else, and no one else, will ever fill the restless, searching, yawning chasm that is at the centre of the human heart. St Augustine famously, and rightly, said, “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”
Once we have found the true answer to that restless yearning within us, “stuff” takes its proper place again, adverts for the latest “must have” product can elicit a laugh or curiosity instead of burning desire. And shopping and material goods become fun or functional, but not therapy or an addiction.
In Jesus, the refrain of “never enough” is countered by those words from the Cross (John 19.30): “It is finished.”