Scarcity or Generosity?

Scarcity or Generosity?

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As the Coronavirus and its effects on people’s livelihoods has become more severe, I have been struggling with the question of how we can talk about giving to the One Great Hour of Sharing Special Offering, the RIP Medical Debt Initiative, and the local and the wider church generally.
 
Along with the understandable fear is a powerful pull for people and churches to go down the path of scarcity thinking, to adopt a “batten down the hatches” mentality, to focus on what they are losing, and look inward. This is the reality that many of us now live in. I feel this pull too.  
 
But is this all there is? While it may be natural to react this way, is this how it has to be? Deep down in my soul there is a voice yearning to be heard shouting:  No.
 
No.
 
This is not all there is. This is not how it has to be. This is not how we have to be. There is more to reality than the scarcity demon wants us to see.
 
I know this to be true. And so, like Jacob, I wrestle. Like Paul, I experience two desires. And like the Cherokee legend, I feel the two wolves fighting within.
 
And maybe that is at least one remedy – in these challenging, anxious times when there is so much talk and focus on what we are losing, we need to feed the good wolf of serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. Or as Paul says, the Spirit whose fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, and self-control.
 
In the UCC resource, Inspiring Generosity, the authors write that stewardship "… is not about overcoming scarcity, or guarding against it, or getting something we don’t have – or being prudent… It is about recognizing all that we already have, helping both ourselves and others know and enjoy the abundance in which we can share in right now."
 
The authors go on to suggest that one main task we have is learning to discern “the abundance that is already ours, whoever we are, wherever we live, whatever the odds we face.”
 
So, can we recognize the abundance we already have? Not in the quantity of our material life, but in the quality of our relationships and spiritual life? In these difficult, anxious times, can we remember and re-experience the love of God, of being cradled in God’s arms, and held safely and securely?  Can we tap into our experience of Jesus, not only directly, but also indirectly through our families, friends, and faith communities?
 
By doing so, the lenses of scarcity through which we may be seeing the world, and which may be gripping our lives, can be removed, revealing the abundance we have and the richness of our life.
 
The authors also write, “Abundance is a fact of life, not just an article of faith. But it must be discerned to be learned, seen to be believed, experienced to be credible. Conditioned as most of us are by some sense of scarcity and not having enough, it is not immediately natural to shift our point of view.”
 

Grounded in the abundance that we know and have experienced in Christ, in our relationships, and in our faith communities, can we avoid falling into, or move from, having a scarcity mentality to having an abundance one?
 
Yes, we can! By trusting in and drawing upon the power of the God of the Resurrection, who brings life out of death, and by pulling together, working together, helping, supporting, and encouraging one another, we can resist the very powerful and relentless scarcity demon, embrace the abundance we already have, and move to generosity.
 
Along this line, I invite you to click on this link, fast forward to 19:16, and watch the moving story by Kevin Tibbles:  NBC News story 

I also know everyone and every church is different, has a different history, is at a different place in their spiritual journey, and is being affected differently. So, I struggle with how to appropriately approach people and churches about giving to OGHS, RIP Medical Debt, both the local and wider church, and to others.
 
As Jesus’ disciples, it's essential we continually ask ourselves, “What would Jesus have us do at this time and in this particular context?” I strongly urge us to keep this question at the forefront, especially during these challenging times.

Author

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David Cleaver-Bartholomew

Rev. Dr. David Cleaver-Bartholomew is the Transitional Associate Conference Minister for Stewardship and Financial Development for the SNEUCC.

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