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Although I should be writing my sermon for this upcoming Sunday, I wanted to share a theme from Dr. Daniel's sermon that got me thinking. I think we might all agree that God is a "bounteous God" as Dr. Daniel said, but I don't think we'd all agree that we live like that's true. I know I'm as guilty as anyone else, but why? Why do we feel like we need to hoard our money, our, time, our talents? If you've seen the TV show Hoarders, you know how destructive that can be. But a lot of times it's our gut reaction, it's what comes most natural.
I have to admit that when I first started working with The Night Ministry in Chicago (an organization that works with homeless individuals among other things), I was annoyed with some of the visitors' behaviors. They would ask for more food, more health kits, make a fuss when I couldn't give them what they wanted, fight with each other over preferred items and generally try to manipulate whatever system we thought we had set up. I feel bad now, but I couldn't understand why they were so "ungrateful," "greedy" and "manipulative." Thankfully God opened up my eyes to another perspective that changed my attitude towards the visitors at The Night Ministry and gave me greater insight into these "annoying" behaviors.
Unfortunately these visitors had been living in a culture of scarcity. A culture where there is never enough, where you have to fight hard to have your basic needs met, where being polite and generous leaves you starving, cold and taken advantage of, where you take as much as you can because you have no idea when you're going to have another chance. This culture taught them that these behaviors, that I so quickly judged, are the only way to survive. There is no room for giving to others without being sure exactly what it'll get you in a culture of scarcity. There is no trust or guarantee that you will be cared for if you don't look out for yourself first in a culture of scarcity. Vulnerability is dangerous. Generosity is dangerous. Sharing is dangerous.
What Dr. Daniel was talking about is the opposite of a culture of scarcity, it's a culture of abundance. A culture where there is always MORE than enough, where you don't worry about your basic needs being met, where giving and sharing and loving only enhances your life, where you take what you need and freely give the rest away, knowing that there is always more where that came from. This culture teaches us that generosity and selflessness are the only ways to truly live. There is always room for giving without any expectations of reciprocity in a culture of abundance. You can trust that you will always be cared for in a culture of abundance. Vulnerability is a joy. Generosity is a joy. Sharing is a joy. Sounds great huh? Kind of like the KINGDOM OF GOD.
And while I would bet that most of us do not live the lives that my friends at The Night Ministry do, I would venture to guess that we live much more out a culture of scarcity rather than abundance. We think, with the best of intentions, that "If I give this extra money to the church, or to a charity or to my neighbor who's really struggling, and something happens to my car/house/dog/manicure, I'd be in so much trouble. It's really more responsible for me to
I don't know where you're living on the scarcity/abundance spectrum today, but I'd imagine there are days when living in a culture of scarcity is much more appealing because we have more control, or because it's just too risky to trust God this time. This is where we have to examine our hearts, where we have to ask God to teach us how to live out of abundance. Because we can give our 10% and we can volunteer every night of the week, but if we're still living in a culture of scarcity, those things don't bring you joy, they don't bring you peace and it teaches you that everything you've learned about living in a culture of scarcity just might be right. I hesitate to put words in God's mouth, but I'm guessing God would say "that's not the point my child." (when I guess what God would say it often ends with "my child")
So what do we do about this? How do we consciously reject our tendency to live in scarcity? Try it out, trust God, give generously, intentionally stop the voice of scarcity in you head and listen for God (remember is usually ends with "my child"). I'm not saying that it's easy and I'm not saying that it comes naturally for us all, but I am saying that it's worth it. I am saying that this is how God wants us to live and I am saying that God will be there with you.
I'm happy to continue this conversation with you via email, but I pray that God's true words speak to your heart and lead you to a life of abundance.
Jen Hibben, Associate Pastor