Can the good news of God’s abundance be trusted in the face of the story of scarcity?
In this odd season where our culture simultaneously tells us to produce dispositions of gratitude while also obsessing over shopping for (and posturing at) holiday gatherings where we feel the opposite…this question whispers a haunting undertone.
The question comes from theologian Walter Brueggemann in an essay entitled "The Liturgy of Abundance, The Myth of Scarcity." [[Later published (2000) in Brueggemann’s Deep Memory, Exuberant Hope: Contested Truth in a Post-Christian World.]] Every year for the past handful of years I make myself re-read this powerful reminder of God’s shocking alternative story to the myth of scarcity. I remember it right about now, leaning into Thanksgiving, with Advent knocking at the door. Take a moment to read it yourself right now.
This year I’m reading these words on the heels of a powerful trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International. Together with my daughter Anna, I witnessed the work of God proclaiming enough in places of true scarcity.
Scarcity of clean water.
Scarcity of livable income.
Scarcity of decent housing.
Scarcity of power to change circumstances.
We saw so many reasons to scream “Not enough!” And yet, God’s work through local churches and the partnership of folks like Compassion speak a different narrative to a hopeful people. And remind us of the beauty of those promises.
Brueggemann prophetically reminds us, “We have a love affair with ‘more’—and we will never have enough.” At the root of it, we don’t trust the story of generous abundance laid out for us in scripture. Rather, we buy the shadow-story of scarcity, the line that there’s not enough. It doesn’t matter what “it” is—money, time, prestige, people who care about what we think, kids who show up at youth group—our tendency is to say, “Not enough!”
The story of God speaks in opposition to this narrative. Brueggemann writes, “The Bible starts out with a liturgy of abundance. Genesis 1 is a song of praise for God’s generosity… [it] affirms generosity and denies scarcity.”
From manna in the wilderness to a small lunch feeding thousands, the story goes on and on proclaiming that “the gifts of life are indeed given by a generous God. It’s a wonder, it’s a miracle, it’s an embarrassment, it’s irrational, but God’s abundance transcends the market economy.”
In a season when we often wonder if we’ll have enough to pay the bills, enough to buy the gifts our kids “really want,” and enough energy to make it to year’s-end, we’re invited to embrace these truths from scripture. Our God is outrageously generous.
That’s my hope for my family, my ministry, and yours this season.
Let’s live as if this story is true!
Portions of this post were repurposed from this 2009 post.
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