Most of the time I operate through the lens of scarcity. I’m afraid of not having enough time or resources. Will I have enough time to do what I desire? Will I have enough money to provide for my family?
Walking alongside families managing their wealth, I frequently see this scarcity mentality.
Recently, I was sitting in the kitchen of a couple in their eighties. They have a net worth of over $20 million. We had spent hours together getting clarity on many questions: How much was enough for them? How much is enough for their heirs? What should they do for others?
We made some concrete plans and I felt satisfied with the help I was able to give. We’d eliminated their estate and capital gains taxes. Now they were in a position to give away more money to charitable causes than they ever dreamed of. It was just a matter of implementing the plan.
Suddenly the wife blurted out, “What if I get a chronic illness?”
Hours after being confident in having enough money for the rest of her life, fear took over. She was worried about running out of money.
Paradoxically, this scarcity mindset often increases as wealth increases. Families with massive resources start placing their trust in the provision, not the provider.
An Incomplete View of Scarcity and God’s Capacity to Act
In his book The Critique of Dialectical Reason, the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre observes that scarcity is the overriding rule of life. Reflecting on the philosophy of Marx, Aristotle, Plato and Kant, he concludes that the fundamental issue of human existence is scarcity when you examine it from a purely physical realm.
But as followers of Jesus, we’re not looking at life from a purely physical realm.
In the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, (Matthew 14:13-21), the disciples view life through the lens of scarcity: “We only have five loaves and two fish” (emphasis added).
And it’s understandable why this was their primary focus!
Most likely the site of this miracle was the Plain of Bethsaida, a flat piece of land in the Jordan Valley at the north end of the Sea of Galilee. There were two main cities proximate to this plain, Bethsaida itself and Capernaum.
Bethsaida was a Hellenistic city, which made it off limits as a place to buy bread for observant Jews. That left Capernaum, about four miles away, as the nearest option for buying bread. Capernaum had a population of around 7,500 at the time of Jesus and did not have enough extra bread to feed 10,000 or more people. Plus, we are told it was also late in the day. The disciples’ resources appear scarce compared to the needs before them.
A similar story is told in I Kings 17:7-16 where Elijah encounters the widow of Zarephath. She is about to run out of food, but because she submitted to Elijah’s request to feed him, her small amount of flour and olive oil never ran out.
The disciples surely would have known of this story. Observant Jewish boys started their education at age five memorizing the Hebrew Scriptures. By the time of their bar mitzvah at fourteen, they would have memorized much, if not all of the Scriptures.
The disciples failed to remember what God had done in the past and therefore failed to see why Jesus was capable of dealing with this situation in the here and now.
Moving from Scarcity to Abundance
If we view life through the lens of scarcity we will always be fearful and anxious. So, how do we move into living the abundant life Jesus promises?
1. Have a Stewardship Mentality
The Father invites us to a share in the abundance of his kingdom. A scarcity mentality is not for a disciple of Jesus. He wants us to have a stewardship mentality, where we faithfully steward all that the Father has generously put into our hands. If we are able to lift our eyes above the physical realm, then we’re able to look at a world beyond.
2. Remember What God Has Done in the Past
We are human. We often fail to remember what God has done and therefore what he is capable of doing presently. It is important to remind ourselves over and over how God has provided in the past. One of the repeated themes in Scripture is the encouragement to “remember”. (Occurring some 269 times!) God repeats this so often because he knows how easily we forget.
Our definition and understanding of whatever “scarcity” and “abundance” means is shaped by remembering who God is, what God cares about, and how God does things. And that shapes our trust and confidence.
Jesus says: “Put the resources in my hand and see what I can do with it.” This is when scarcity becomes abundance. The disciples transitioned to this insight. So should we!
3. Know The True Meaning of Abundance
We are serving a king who has abundance at his disposal. After the feeding of the 5,000, there are twelve baskets full of food. The leftovers of the abundance of the kingdom are far greater than the scarcity the world offers.
However, often times we confuse abundance with having all our material desires met. Scripture seems to indicate that this is not true abundance.
The true meaning of abundance comes when we are close to Jesus, giving him what we have, and trusting him to provide for what we need. It is placing our trust in not in the provision, but in the provider. Abundance is not getting everything we want, but resting in him as our provider and in his sufficiency. It is believing that He is enough.
A New Mentality and Perspective
If we set our minds on things that are above, if “May your kingdom come here in our experience, right now” is the prayer on our lips, the attitude of our hearts, and the perspective of our gaze, then we will live in abundance. We will enjoy our lives differently than other people. We will be fearless. How does that sound?
This truth of abundance is difficult to apply to daily life. However, I am starting to think more about my daily bread and not worry whether I will have enough money for a nursing home. I am starting to think about being a spiritual being that will always exist, rather than thinking about dying. I am focusing on staying close to Jesus, listening to him, and obeying what he tells me to do.
Jesus, I want to believe more in abundance! Help me with my unbelief.
*This is adapted from a blog post originally on Gisle’s. Gisle Sorli lives in Alexandria, Virginia and is a designated Certified Financial Planner, CFP® and a Certified Kingdom Advisor®.