There once was a powerful, loving, generous King, yet his children lived lives of scarcity. How did this come to be?
Scarcity in a land of abundance
Entering the year of 2017, I had the impression that the theme God wanted me to experience this year was abundance. This sounds very nice and all, and I was quick to embrace this promise. I have big hopes for this year – for partnership and provision as I pursue the dream of starting a new servant partners site in Saskatoon. I love the idea that God would meet my needs abundantly in this endeavour! I really don’t have much evidence to indicate that God won’t. I am privileged and wealthy by most standards – I have never experienced real lack and I have lots going for me as far as education, health and support networks. Yet in the face of recent discouragement, I’ve realized that my habits and beliefs more readily follow a well-worn mindset of scarcity rather than this new route of abundance.
Time and time again I’m faced with stories in the scriptures of our God of abundance that challenge my scarcity mindset. Can you think of any? I was struck by 1 King 19. This is the story people often use to suggest that God speaks to everyone in different ways and it’s not always in dramatic miracles, often he is nudging us along with his “still small voice”. Yet when I read this story recently I was really impressed with the promises that still small voice of God had to share with a weary, distressed Elijah.
Elijah is literally fleeing for his life. Tired, lonely and afraid in the wilderness, he just gives up and begs for death to come. Instead, God shows up and provides sustenance for his journey. An angel brings him food and drink, not once, but twice! That miracle bread must have been laced with superfoods like kale and chia seeds because he now has enough energy to walk for 40 days to the mountain of God. He has an unfiltered conversation with God there that reveals his discouragement – “I’ve been working for you zealously Lord, but all of my friends are dead and the bad guys are trying to kill me too. What’s the point?!” This is where that famous mountaintop experience happens where Elijah experiences the powerful works of God and his gentle presence. Then he has the same conversation verbatim and the Lord answers him with ABUNDANCE.
The good Lord lets Elijah in on his behind the scene work – he tells Elijah: “I’ve appointed a new King, he’s ready for you to anoint. I have a replacement for you who’s ripe for the role of prophet, so go on and retire already. And your friends are not all dead, there are 7000 believers who are holding out with you. That’s enough for a rocking retirement party.” I’m impressed with God’s care for Elijah that in all of his legitimately felt lack, God orchestrated abundant provision.
I have so much in common with Elijah…except for the death threats, dessert walks and cave-dwelling bits… actually, only one small but critical point. When discouraged, I easily assume a spirit of scarcity. As I plan for building a team for Saskatoon, I wonder who my partners in this work will be. God gave Elijah 7000, and I still have a hard time believing he’ll give me 5. I wonder how I’ll pay the rent when my hours are spent building relationships in the neighbourhood rather than at a conventional workplace. God gave Elijah miraculous food in the wilderness and has provided for me through others’ generosity for almost 3 years. Still, I refuse a much needed raise for fear there won’t be enough in the pot for next month. When I settle into this scarcity mentality, I tend to want to control and manipulate my resources to provide for myself. This reveals my disbelief that God is a generous King who provides richly for his children. Brother Andrew accounts a similar mindset in this way: ”wasn’t I claiming to depend on God, but living as if my needs would be met by my own scrimping?”
I’m not the only one who lives a contradictory life of scarcity in a land of abundance. As I look around our nation, I relate to Elijah’s weariness. People of Canada, we are not finding our hope in God. We are living fearful and protective lives that claim there is not enough to go around. We build personal, impenetrable kingdoms of security and saving for the future that are soundproofed from the cries of the vulnerable, the oppressed, the foreigner, the stranger. We are fearful there is not enough to go around. Not enough jobs, not enough homes, not enough time. “We settle into an attitude of poverty – a dark, brooding, pinched, pattern that hardly goes with the open heart of Christ that we are preaching” (Brother Andrew). And I wonder, where will I find partners in this land to live in prophetic opposition to our idol of money, savings, security by living an open, generous, dependent life? Most days, I scarcely believe that I’m cut out for this!
Please appreciate that while I write this, I am savouring a FREE piece of “Vancouver’s best cheesecake”. God loves me so much and provides richly for me!