There’s always enough

So a few years ago I read a book for a grad class on the differences between the Mexican and American worldview. It was a fascinating book that has had a lot of influence on how I think about the world, and specifically our neighbors to the south. But one of the most interesting parts of the book was where the author talked about how both the American and Mexican cultures tend to view their stuff.

We see it as limited.

The term the author actually used was “a Limited Good.” The fundamental concept is that there there is only so much to go around.  And while the way each culture reacted to this perception was different, they both agreed on the assumption.

I heard Walter Brueggemann say once that the book of Exodus is about defusing the “Lie of Scarcity”. And I think he’s on to something. The book of Exodus starts off by introducing us to Pharaoh’s economy, one that operates off of anxiety. Think about it. If you meet your brick quota in Egypt, you get rewarded by a larger quota. The treadmill just keeps going.

But then the people of Israel meet the LORD. And God knows that they have this slave mentality in their DNA. And so what He does next is the last thing they would expect. He provides food from Heaven for them. They don’t have to do anything to earn it, it’s God’s free and good gift…and it’s weird.

We’re so used to this story because we grew up reading it in Bible school. But think about it, this is a really weird story. When was the last time you were walking to work and got hit in the head with a piece of bacon?

But God knows exactly what He’s doing.

Because the only antidote for anxiety is trust. They have to get rid of this hoarding mentality and learn to trust that God is good and is capable of providing. So God restricts them from getting tomorrow’s provision today.

So this last week I was living in John 2.  At first glance it seems like a very strange story of Jesus at a wedding in Cana. They run out of wine, and Jesus makes more of it.

Now at first glance this seems like Jesus is just preventing a small catering disaster. But John has let us know that this is important, that this is Jesus’ first sign (and he’s only going to tell us about seven) so something larger has got to be going on here.

Now there are a lot of levels to this story. But at least part of the point I think John is trying to make, has to do with this. He’s writing to a culture where to be a Jewish Christian means you are living under the threat of being kicked out of the synagogue. Which was the place where all life and culture happened in the Jewish world. Your family, your friends, your livelihood could be taken away for following Jesus.

And John opens his gospel with this story to those people.

It doesn’t take a cultural genius to realize the myth of scarcity is going strong. Listen to language we use in our political discourse, in our talk shows and sitcoms, our lunch conversations and even our prayers. But, and here’s where things get dicey, It’s a lie. At least if you believe the story that Scripture is telling. Think about these words from Jesus:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Chances are, we’ve heard this before. Maybe even so many times that we’ve forgotten how much dissonance there is between these words and the reality we’re presented with everyday. But the truth that Jesus is getting at is so backward, so upside down, that we’d be well served to read it just a few more times. A lot of times in life, I fail to be generous to people who have less because I am concerned about what will happen tomorrow. This is “common sense,” nobody wants to be unprepared for retirement, or the unexpected disaster. And while there is nothing wrong with being prudent and saving. The Scriptures have a lot to say about hoarding.

Not because God wants you to have a miserable life. But because he knows the mentality that is behind this behavior. It’s not prudence, it’s anxiety. And it’s unnecessary.

Because what Jesus is saying here, is summing up a huge part of the story both the Old and New Testaments are telling. It’s the story God told implicitly at the Cana Wedding, and explicitly to the Israelites in the desert. It’s a story that every part of our culture will be at odd’s with. One that will inform how we give and how we live.

It’s just this.

That with God, there’s always enough.

About jonathanstorment

My family and I love reading, traveling, daddy/daughter dates, playing hide and seek, good music, and long meals with friends. We still miss LOST, and all four of us have Superman uniforms. We are passionate about bringing Heaven to Earth and want to follow Jesus while repainting discipleship for those around us. We are followers of Jesus and I preach at the Highland Church of Christ. We participate in something called A Restoration Movement, and we've come to realize that might be larger than we thought.

17 thoughts on “There’s always enough

  1. Brilliant! If we could get this through our thick heads and our thick wallets we would really walk in freedom! I’m all about freedom. I believe God is too. Only my idea or freedom probably looks a lot like captivity compared to His idea of freedom. I know I’ll never figure God out – Thank goodness! – but I would really love to grasp His economy as ours looks like it’s headed down the proverbial toilet. Great post. Thank you.

  2. I just listened to an episode of Dave Ramsey a while back when he was talking about stuff way above my head called the Laffer curve. Which basically was a formula illustrating that in the tax world that their reaches a point when tax rate gets so high the government loses money because there is less money in the economy. I think your post hits at the same idea. Saving is prudent, but their reaches a point when you start to lose because God doesn’t bless as much. Difficult balance to find. Maybe that’s why Jesus taught so much on money.

  3. Well, you started this out on the difference between the American and the Mexican worldview, but you didn’t tell us any of those differences. Boo!

    God’s economy is based in the blessings he provides. We have removed ourselves from that and we’ve decided that we create wealth. It reminds me a bit of the part in Douglas Adams’s books (sorry, can’t remember which one) where everyone decides leaves are money, and they stuff their clothes with them.

  4. With God, He is more than enough. He defines abundance and provision.
    But one thing you are describing is a “performance penalty”, and we have all seen it… maybe even experienced it.
    To the teacher – “Let’s assign the disruptive kids to her class. She knows how to handle high-maintanence kids.”
    To the Salesman – “That territory has always been below projections. Let’s give it to James. He can turn it around.”
    The better we perform, the more responsibilities we inherit. Being the “go-to guy” strokes the ego and is exciting. But it also can create the burnout of those who can’t say “no” or “not now”. Many times they find it easier to move their church membership than it is to realign their activities with their giftedness. May we all work within God’s leading rather than asking Him to bless our mess.

  5. Candy, that’s an interesting way to say it. “Only my idea or freedom probably looks a lot like captivity compared to His idea of freedom.” I like that sentence a lot. Hopefully our concepts of freedom will line up with what God’s dream is. Thanks for sharing!

    Jeffrey, it is a difficult balance, at least in my own life. I want to be a good steward without being a hoarder. Richard Foster describes hoarding as not sharing your goods with the community when a greater need arises, he says then they become stolen goods. I like that description a lot. Thanks for commenting!

    Bro. Danny, you read a lot don’t you? That’s right. It’s a different kind of economy, based on a standard that is limitless.

    Bro. Bill, the treadmill can start off subtle, but it’s addictive and it just keeps going faster. I think this is why God gives people who were just coming out of slavery, the command for Sabbath. It was not just a suggestion, because he knew how much they (and we) need it. Thanks Bro. Bill!

  6. First, Congrat’s on your new ministry challenge/opportunity. I’m sure God will continue to use you to bless many.
    2nd, Good post, but are you going to share the name of the book?
    3rd, Anecdotely, in April this year we conducted a capital campaign to raise money for a new building addition. Our church which averages about 95 each Sunday donated and pledged over $80,000. That’s a great amount, but we were concerned that people would shift their regular giving to the building campaign and then our budget and ministries would suffer. Praise God that in May, even with 5 Sundays, our average weekly giving was the highest in the past 3 years! We certainly didn’t see that coming!!

  7. Thanks Pete! I knew someone was going to ask me that. The truth is that the book is packed up now because we are starting to try to sell our house. A lot of books are now in storage, and I think the name was Mexican and American but I can’t say for sure and I don’t know the name of the author. That’s great news about your church, there is something to be said about challenging our people to be generous, especially if they see the way that their generosity is going to bless others. Thanks for sharing that!

  8. Truth: There’s always enough in God’s economy.
    But as His child I need to discern between need and want. As someone who has lived a large percentage of my life very near what is labeled in our economy ‘the poverty line’, I have learned truly that ‘all these things will be added’ if I ‘seek first His kingdom and His righteousness’. Often I need to remind myself what is need and what is want. I don’t think the WANT is part of His promise. And if I forget that, I lose my desire to declare His praise and thanksgiving for His provision.
    God is good; He is always good. Praise Your name, Jehovah Jireh, my provider!

  9. Bro. Danny, Ha!

    Carla, that’s a good word. Do you remember Ghandhi’s great line about how there is enough in the world for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed? You comment reminded me of that. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Josh: “Some have too much (me) some have too little. Together we have enough”

    Our journey is to learn how to make one aware of the other so we’re sure everyone has enough.

    Jonathan – this passage of Matthew 6 came late into my life. When I realized I was actually sinning when doubting my LORD’s promise that “…all these things will be added…” Our society has taught us to always hold fast to “ours” in a tightly closed fist and to puncture the air with that same fist if we feel our “needs” are not being fulfilled as we’d wish. It is difficult in this society to remember we serve God, not ourselves and full, complete, nothing held back faith and trust in God is our ultimate worship of Him. When I find myself starting to wring my hands in worry, I find a great reminder to trust Him in 1 Samuel 3:9 and will often verbally repeat the truth I try to live by,”Speak, LORD! Your servant is listening.” I can’t listen to Him and worry at the same time. ~grin~ PTL! /
    Can’t wait for August and am so looking forward to meeting you and your beautiful family in just 4 days from now. Finally, we will be able to give words to our hearts thoughts, “WELCOME!!!”

    btw- a warning. I’m always too wordy. HELP! 😉

  11. Josh, great line.

    Kathy, I love this sentence: “I can’t listen to Him and worry at the same time.” There’s a real sense that what we believe about God/life/world can be discerned by what we worry about. Thanks for sharing Kathy, and don’t worry, I’m wordy too.

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