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Scarcity, Abundance and Faith

The stock market is in free fall. The economy is a mess. The only certainty that public officials are able to muster is the insistence that it all is someone else's fault -- which are hollow accusations at best, and display verbal violence at worst. And what has been stirred up is a cauldron of fear -- with scarcity as its main ingredient. And the scarcity is real. Unemployment is up, a credit rating is down. Assets are shrinking, along with collective confidence. With the growing fear, there is a tendency to hoard -- or to hide. The scarcity is real. But so is the abundance. You just have to dig down a bit harder to find it; and a bit further to trust it. Jesus was no stranger to scarcity. In the economic system of his day, Jesus and his fellow Jews were no more than sharecroppers to Roman overlords. They had few rights, and fewer freedoms. Talk about scarcity. And yet Jesus preached abundance. Over and over again. About mustard seeds, pearls of great price and demonstrating how a few table scraps can feed 5,000 people. He was not a first century Pollyanna, nor was he offering some sort of economic panacea. He was pointing people to another, more abundant reality than the scarce circumstances that surrounded them. It required -- and requires, faith to see the abundance. Faith requires our participation. Belief refers to something that we think. Faith takes us beyond belief; faith is something we live into. Faith leads us to hope -- and hope can trump fear. It is often said that we need to think our way into a new manner of living. From a faith perspective, we live into a new way of thinking. I have a friend who tells me that whenever she feels the strains of scarcity she gives some money away. The more the fear, the more she gives. Hers is an act of faith. And she says it works. It may not move mountains, nor solve her economic problems. But it does point her back into the direction of God's freeing and life-giving abundance. And away from the culture's menacing mantra of scarcity.


My mother was my teacher and role model on this idea of abundance. She gave generously everywhere, and her own situation would easily be judged as not having enough for herself in the first place. In fact, it sometimes seems inversely proportional to me: the more one has, the more one seeks to protect what one has. Like pulling a door towards you to open it rather than pushing to get through.

Isn't perceived scarcity a reflection of fear? Fear that we will lose something we have or fear we won't get what we think we deserve? The Master taught us many ways but the lesson was frequently (always?) 'fear not'. We can run out of stuff we think we need to go on, only to find that abundance and scarcity are imposters. God's grace is sufficient -- never too much, never too little. No need to hoard, even if it could be done, and never a need to beg for grace. Our only need is faith to accept what is freely given.

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