Photo by Daniel Jensen
If there’s one thing my friends and family around the country know about California these days, it’s that we are in a severe drought. Some outside folks seem even more aware than most Californians of the extent of the situation. Closer to home, more and more people are waking up to the reality that our water is running short.
It’s tempting in the midst of that narrative to buy into the story of scarcity about everything. After all, our world feeds on this narrative. There’s not enough! is the cry we hear all around us, whether it’s about water, money, education, Christians in America, or a hundred other things.
A question presents itself in the midst of all this "not-enough" talk: Can the good news of God’s abundance be trusted in the face of the story of scarcity?
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.]] I make myself re-read this powerful reminder every now and then. Brueggemann presses us to consider God’s shocking alternative to the myth of scarcity. Take a moment to read it yourself right now.
Bruegemann was recently at Fuller for a fantastic conference on justice, grace, and law, and I was reminded that this message influences the way we think about the world’s problems and our responses to injustice, poverty, and lack of resources. If there’s enough to go around, what can we do about the obvious scarcity we see?
Last year I was able to travel to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International as part of a project we’ve recently released called Step Into My Shoes. 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 speaks a different narrative to a hopeful people.
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.”
Here’s the one line we have to remember in the face of all of this:
There is enough.
In the midst of our temptation to give in to fear or to the security of comfort, we’re invited to embrace these truths from scripture. Our God is outrageously generous.
There is enough.
Sometimes we need a story that reminds us that the opposite of poverty is not wealth, it’s discovering God’s idea of “enough.” That’s my hope for my family, my ministry, and yours. Let’s live as if this story is true!
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