Are you living from a theology of scarcity or a theology of abundance?
A priest and friend of mine recently posed this question, and it struck me to the core. It’s an apt question for this particular week. We all know about the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock and the “First Thanksgiving” and all that, but do we really know about it? So much of the story merits consideration.
For instance, there is the fact of the harvest. In a vast new territory that took months to reach across a tumultuous ocean, people were able to till the land. They found the soil to be rich and the harvests plentiful. Theology of abundance.
Then there is the fact that Native Americans were present at that First Thanksgiving and that they actually outnumbered the folks from the Mayflower nearly two to one. People who looked, dressed, and spoke vastly different were nevertheless not that vastly different. All people, all called to celebrate together. There was enough food, enough land, enough joy to go around. Theology of abundance.
This is the season when we celebrate—or claim to celebrate—this very theology of abundance. For our own Thanksgiving celebrations, we buy copious amounts of food, preparing dish after dish, gathering with friends and family in high spirits. And that’s just the beginning: the stores are already overflowing with the spoils of Christmas: decorations and gift-wrapping, candies and cards.
Here is where we move precipitously from a theology of abundance to a culture of abundance.
A theology of abundance tells us: we have life when we could have death, we have harvest when we could have hunger, we have togetherness when we could have fear and hatred. When we operate from a theology of abundance, we need not be greedy or afraid, and because we need not be greedy or afraid, we can give and share freely. There is enough. Of the fruits of the spirit, there is enough. A culture of abundance is a different thing altogether. It is driven by consumerism and characterized by gluttony and greed. Therein lies an irony. Our culture of abundance is in some ways driven by a theology of scarcity, that powerful force inside us and outside us telling us that we need to get it while we can.
What if we resisted that force? What if we operated instead from a theology of abundance, which assures us that we have everything we need and everything to give, whether that be kindness or money, shared stories or shared food, or just a whole lot of honest-to-God thanks.
**This post by Varina Willse is also published in the November issue of the Nashville-based magazine nFocus.