Archives for the month of: October, 2017

I was talking to a friend about my question about how to resist scarcity, and she commented that people in the early church probably didn’t have that mindset. She hit on something. One concrete answer to scarcity is community.

Here’s one often quoted set of verses from Acts about the early church (2:42-47):

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

I think one root of the scarcity mindset is individualism. Things feel more scarce when we think we are in it alone, that no one will share with us if we have need. So then we’re less likely to share with others what we have, when they have need. What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours. The delineations are clear from when we are very young. There’s more of a collective sense of ownership in structures like marriages and families. But as families begin to fragment (with the nuclear family becoming the focus while distance grows between extended family members), and fewer people are getting married, there’s an increase in the number of individual households and a deeper sense of isolation and self-reliance. Blood ties are not as strong or helpful as before.

So how do we build a community where everyone voluntarily shares resources and we’re all truly in it together? How do we cultivate the mutual trust needed, so that I don’t feel like a fool giving sacrificially to help another, but when I’m in trouble, no one will bail me out? It sounds like someone has to make the first step, take the first risk. I know that the Sunday School answer is that Jesus took that first step for us already, but somehow it doesn’t quite feel enough to make me want to entrust what I have to others.



Does anyone know the answer to this question?

I think the scarcity mindset is the root of sin. If you think about why Adam sinned in Genesis, the serpent had tricked him into thinking that God was holding out on him and Eve. The perception of lack and limited resources is what drives us to sin. It’s what causes countries to war. More subtly, it causes us to gossip against and undercut each other.  We feel threatened by our new younger colleague at work. We attend our college reunions feeling inadequate, but at the same time silently gloating when we realize that we either make more money, have a better title, a better-looking, more successful spouse, or more well-behaved children, than our peers. We endure happy hours and see people competing for the most desirable individuals as potential romantic interests. We compare, rank, and tear each other down because it’s a zero sum game: one person’s gain is another’s loss. And so trust is a rare currency — we coin terms like “frenemy” because we don’t trust our friends since we’re all gunning for the same finite prizes.

The perception of scarcity also is one main root of anxiety, that bookends our day. We wake up in the morning, worried that we have too much to do and not enough time to do it in, and feeling like we didn’t sleep enough. We go to sleep thinking about how we didn’t accomplish enough, and then lose sleep over this anxiety. The cycle continues.

How do we rise above this pettiness? It just seems logical to believe that the world is a closed system with fixed resources. I know that on occasion we have records of God  intervening and injecting additional resources from thin air into our system: Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fish is a prime example. And then there is the story of Elisha and the widow with her small jar of oil that miraculously replenished to fill many empty jars. And of course in Exodus, all the manna and quail. The problem is that these supernatural occurrences are occasional and unpredictable.

On a normal daily basis, we seem to live in a closed system, and so we operate in that manner. Optimists seem to want to encourage us to think otherwise, and live by faith that actually it’s an open system full of abundance. It’s hard not to think that is idiotic. I watch the news and see people dying for lack. Clean drinking water, food, and shelter did not miraculously appear for them, and the tangible consequence was that they died.

I can believe abundance exists in Heaven and beyond this life, and that any miracles we see here are merely glimpses of Heaven, a foretaste of abundance. But when we are here firmly planted on this Earth, in this now, how do we live with an abundance mindset, trusting in an afterlife of abundance, when faced with so much scarcity in our daily living? Are we called to sacrifice what scarce resources we have now in faith because of the abundance we will receive in Eternity? How does eternal abundance serve as an incentive to embrace our present scarcity?