January 31, 2009 in Features

Time of scarcity or abundance a matter of faith

Paul Graves Staff writer
 

What if you invited 20 people to your house for pumpkin pie, then discovered you only had enough ingredients for one pie?

How would you decide who gets pie and who doesn’t? Or will everyone get a sliver of pie?

These would be a few of the questions in a “Time of Scarcity” (not enough pumpkin pie).

But what if you lived in a “Time of Abundance” (enough pumpkin pie for everyone)? The questions would change.

How much pie is enough for each person at the party? Who determines how much is enough?

Does one guest deserve more pie than another? Who gets the leftovers, assuming there are leftovers?

Hardly a day goes by in recent months that we don’t think about “getting a piece of the pie,” or we see a government-related “pie chart” showing what group is getting what percentage.

These days, the idea of an incredible shrinking pie (or our piece of that pie) makes us understandably nervous. Many of us feel we live in a time of scarcity.

But what if we’ve lived in a time of abundance all along, but our fears of having enough blinded us to the abundance? What if distribution of the pie is really the biggest challenge – not the amount of pie, or the amount of ingredients available, but how the pie is passed out?

Let’s take a brief look at the issues of scarcity and abundance from a biblical viewpoint.

I turn for some wisdom to an Old Testament professor, Walter Brueggemann, formerly of Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia.

He wrote a stimulating article for the February issue of Sojourners magazine, titled “From Anxiety and Greed to Milk and Honey.”

Brueggemann diagnosed America’s outrageous economic conditions in light of the Bible’s descriptions of the unholy trinity of “individualism”: autonomy, anxiety and greed.

Then he affirmed that “the Bible is powerfully generative in imagining an alternative economic way in the world.”

God’s radically imaginative plan has to do with the distribution of wealth. It is an approach to wealth distribution virtually abhorred in our country today (see Deuteronomy 15: 1-8 for one example).

This radical plan is based on the abundance of God. God the creator showers the world with abundance (Genesis 1:22-25). While human beings mess with that order, their foolishness doesn’t diminish the willingness of God to give and give and give.

Brueggemann says plainly: “Whereas (current day) economics begins with a premise of scarcity, biblical faith is grounded in the generosity of God who wills and provides abundance.”

That abundance is visible when neighbors share with neighbors, when bread multiplies and pies are left over for others.

Biblical faith is really an invitation to move away from individual and corporate greed to the practice of generosity. Brueggeman again: “… (O)thers are seen to be brothers and sisters whose life is in a community of solidarity that shares the God-given resources for the well-being of all.”

“For the well-being of all” is the clarion call of biblical justice as well as faith. In an attitude of abundance, money matters – but only in a secondary way. The first consideration has to do with the well-being of the community.

Are the children well? What about the other most vulnerable persons among us?

It’s radical stuff, folks, believing the truths discovered in the Bible. I’ve cautioned you about this in the past.

This day, we have to decide if we have the makings for all the pies that are needed for nourishing the community. When we say “yes,” we will find those ingredients somewhere.

God’s generosity lives among us.

The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident and retired United Methodist minister, is founder of Elder Advocates, an elder care consulting ministry. He can be contacted via e-mail at welhouse@nctv.com.

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