As Thanksgiving approaches, I can only reflect on how many blessings I’ve experienced this past year, and I am filled with gratitude, not just for those blessings, but for the pure joy of being able to feel thankful without effort. And yes, this is a new situation for me. But then, I am coming from a place of new blessings–a job promotion, a wonderful boyfriend I met last winter, a new and thriving small group, the opportunity to go to California for vacation as well as Tanzania for a mission trip, and countless other things. Not every year has been as full as this one. Sometimes I wonder if there is a way I can store up my feelings of gratitude to last me when times are tougher. But even more than that, I want my whole attitude to change. I want to give up my tight-gripped feelings of so-called scarcity and open my heart to all the abundance God has to offer us in this life and the life to come.
I know people often say that you learn and grow a lot when times are hard, and that’s true, but this year I have found myself wanting to learn and grow during the good times as well. And one of the things I have discovered recently is that we really do serve a generous God who wants to bless us abundantly. Sometimes the blessings seem few and far between, but I have realized that when you have the mindset that God wants to bless you and certainly will bless you, and when you recognize that there is no such thing as scarcity in God’s economy, then you can become mindful of all the abundance that God has to offer and is offering.
In her thought-provoking book Daring Greatly, shame and vulnerability researcher Brene Brown talks about our culture of “never enough.” She writes, “Worry about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when we’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability) we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.” With this attitude, we approach our entire day as though we didn’t get enough sleep, there’s not enough time to do what we need to do, not enough money to buy what we need, and we feel as though we aren’t enough to measure up to all the demands put upon us.
Think about it. How often do these thoughts run through your mind on a typical day? I know for me, this is my usual way of operating, and frankly, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of never feeling like I’m enough or I have enough. I’m ready to feel grateful, alive, fully present, and as though God has filled my cup to overflowing, not just every once in a while, but every day of my life. Because it’s true. It’s so true. The Bible says we were meant to experience God’s love in Christ as wider, longer, higher, and deeper than our own understanding, and that we can “be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God” (Ephesians 3:18-19). In light of these things, there’s no way we can continue to live with our culture’s attitude of “not enough.”
Paul tells us in Ephesians that it is the Spirit of God who gives us strength from his unlimited resources to trust in Christ and grow in God’s love in this way (3:16-17). So when I feel like I don’t have “enough” faith or “enough” gratitude, I remind myself that the Spirit can provide me with those things. And I believe he starts by renewing our minds, by changing how we think about God. In order to reject scarcity and embrace abundance, we have to recognize God’s incredibly generous heart. In the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30, a man going on a journey entrusts his property to three servants, and as I’m sure you remember, the first two servants doubled the investments their master gave them. But the third servant made an excuse for not investing: “I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground” (vv. 24-25).
Is this true? Is God really like a shrewd and greedy man who expects us to gather what isn’t his? For example, does he expect us to create more hours in the day? Should we give more money than we have? Are we supposed to be superhuman? No, of course not. Those things are impossible for us, and we should not live in fear that God expects the impossible from us. However, and here’s the point, God does expect us to fully invest all he has given us, not because we have control over the results, but because he is in control, and he wants to create abundance out of our participation in his generosity. We have got to let go of our little, stingy, small-minded views of God and open our hearts to envision God in all of his awesome, abundant, loving, and generous glory. All the world is his, “the cattle on a thousand hills,” and in God’s universe, scarcity is a non-issue. May we always thank you, Jesus, for enabling us to share in all your wealth and glory, and may we reject our culture’s unfounded fear of scarcity. Amen!