Is your life based on an assumption of abundance? If so, you are unique. Most Americans think their lives are more about scarcity than abundance: Not enough time. Not enough money. Not enough fulfillment. Not enough personal satisfaction. The list goes on.Is your life defined by scarcity or abundance? How you answer reveals a lot about you. Click To Tweet
1. A Transformed Worldview
It had been an extremely hard winter. The snow piled deeper, the rivers froze over, and the backwoods people were cut of for weeks from civilization. The Red Cross was using helicopters to fly in emergency food and medicine to these isolated people, landing wherever they could in clearings and then backpacking it in.
At the end of a particularly exhausting day, the rescue crew spotted a chimney with a thin wisp of smoke emanating from a cabin almost completely buried in snow. Panting and sweating as they waded through the waist-deep snow, they finally dug their way forward to pound on the front door. When a thin, emaciated mountain woman answered, the panting man could only gasp out, “We’re from the Red Cross.” She was silent a moment as she looked them over. Then she said, “It’s been a hard winter, Sonny; we just can’t give anything this year!”
Do we perceive Jesus as that mountain woman viewed the Red Cross worker? As we hear Jesus’ words in the gospels, is he always wanting something FROM us…or wanting to give something TO us?
Is the God of the universe we read about in the Bible a God of scarcity or a God of abundance?
People who come to Jesus often get more than they expected. People come needing hope and in addition are given faith. People come needing healing and are in addition given forgiveness. People come needing safety and in addition get a crystal-smooth storm-free lake.
Jesus is always giving more than people ask for or say that they need. As he promises in John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
In his book Playing God, Andy Crouch writes that Jesus himself understood an abundance mentality:
Jesus had no need to stockpile power or impulsively grasp at what he wants or needs; he nows as deeply as a human being can know that “The Father has given all things into his hands.” (John 13:3) Living in the security of infinite abundance, he can steer his course ever more directly toward the abyss of powerlesness from which no one has ever returned…”
Crouch concludes is that seeing the world as Jesus sees it does has practical consequences for our lives:
“There is nothing good that we have to grasp and wrest out of a hostile world’s clenched fist. Everything good has been and will be given to us.”
A scarcity mentality says, “I’ve got to hang on to what I have.” An abundance mentality says, “I can give beyond what seems possible because God will provide for me.”
2. Finding Freedom
Jesus told a parable about a self-made man whose barns were filled to overflowing. As this man stretches out in his new leather recliner in front of his new 60” TV he gets disquieting news:
Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops? Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)
Why was this man a fool? He was a fool because he believed what I call “the Big Lie.” The Big Lie is that WE are in control of our lives. WE can take care of ourselves by hoarding up whatever it is that we most need.
- If I keep helping others achieve, will I eventually be even more successful myself?
- If I step out into something new or risky, will I actually be more secure in the future than I am today?
- If I give away my love generously, will I eventually get even more love coming back to me?
- If I give my money sacrificially back to God, will God really take care of all my needs?
An abundance mentality answers “yes” to all these questions. We don’t need to hoard. We can be free to invest and give away. We are not in control and cannot “store up treasures for ourselves.” Better to be rich toward God.
The Big Lie that we are in control is like a rainy drizzle on a hissing campfire—it slowly extinguishes our freedom. The more we think what we have is ours to do with as we wish, the more our freedom to give ourselves away is eventually snuffed out until there is nothing left but ashes—no trust, no joy, no generosity of spirit.
Only grimly building bigger and bigger barns with state-of-the-art security systems . Only Ebenezer Scrooge—jingling our coins in our pockets.
3. Finding Peace
The abundant life rejects the notion of life as a zero sum game. It is a life that believes at its core that there is more than enough for me.
Like many churches, my congregation often struggles to offer warm hospitality to our worship guests. We have lovely people, but they enjoy talking to one another so much it’s easy to overlook new faces. But it is not zero sum—if we prioritize talking to a new person, we will therefore miss the enjoyment of seeing our friends. An abundance mentality recognizes that our friends will be there and we’ll see them later in the morning or next week. Our sense of belonging will not be damaged if we divide our time between new friends and long-time friends; in fact, inviting someone new to share my sense of belonging with me actually helps sustain it in an even deeper way.
God has more than enough grace and mercy for me. Therefore, I can be totally vulnerable with God about the ways I have fallen short and trust that I will be forgiven rather than think I’ve always got to be proving myself worthy of forgiveness. And because I’ve experienced God’s generosity in my forgiveness, it’s far easier to forgive others.
God has more than enough love for me. Therefore, I can focus my love and attention on others, trusting that my reservoir of love will always be replenished.
God has given me more than enough talents and abilities to have a satisfying, significant life. Therefore, I can focus those talents and gifts on others as well as enjoying them for myself.
God has more than enough resources for me to keep body and soul together—therefore, I can be generous in sharing all I have.
This abundance mentality I’m talking about is one of the most basic faith decisions of our lives.
Can I let what I am given pass through my hands, trusting that there is more where that came from? Or must I hold it tightly, always anxious that I will not have enough love, forgiveness, money, time or talents?
The abundant life Jesus offers us is a life free of anxious cares, because we trust he will always provide more than we need. This abundant life is full of joy because joy grows as we give ourselves away.
It’s easy to have a scarcity mentality about ourselves: I have little time, little ability, little gifts, little faith to offer anyone else. Sometimes we don’t realize that we have the kind of gifts that, if we gave them away, could make a tremendous difference in others’ lives. This too is part of a mentality of either scarcity or abundance.
One of the most freeing lessons in life is that we can never out give God. If we think we can take care of ourselves, God will let us try. But that is the way of the fool—the fool who believes the Big Lie that we are in control of our lives.
Friends, Jesus is our true source of self-worth, of security, of love, of material well-being. Jesus is the source of everything.
Can we exchange our scarcity mentalities for an abundance mentality? Can we live every day more and more amazed by God’s generosity to us? Whether its our time, or talents or treasure, can we learn that not holding back is the key to a life of gratitude, fulfillment, faith, and truly experiencing God?
Question: What is one area where you see this abundance mentality at work (or not at work) in your life?