Sunday, 25 February 2018

Scarcity vs Abundance - Luke 12:22 - 34

You are invited! You are invited by Jesus! It's mind-blowing, and down to you to accept. With the invitation comes the call to not worry and not be afraid. Others in the past have lived it, seeing incredible provision of God across the whole of their lives.

To map it out Jesus says look around you in creation. Take the ravens - they are not hoarders! They don't even have a food shelf, yet God is pleased to feed them! Or wild flowers - they don't have clever costume making departments, no fashion designers, not even a mirror. Yet they have an incredible natural God-filled beauty. So don't worry, do not be afraid. If God is concerned for these, how much more for you!

Last time we started talking about false and true narratives. Today's false narratives include the phrase "God helps those who help themselves". Apart from the fact that this phrase is not in scripture, it can make us feel self-righteous and look on others as undeserving. It combines with 'If I give away, I have less". Well of course you do, but the false narrative is to assume that this is a problem, when in fact you and others may actually be richer for it. Finally the false narrative of 'mine is mine', i.e. a narrative of entitlement which reduces down to me, what I've earned, and more me.

Contrast these with the true narratives that God helps those who cannot help themselves (His bias to the poor seen throughout scripture), that when we share we can all have enough, and that what we have is from God for us to use for His glory. These truths are about us properly being in God's image: other-centred, giving and going beyond ourselves.

The combination of the false narratives leads to a justification of accumulation and hoarding for ourselves. We can call it the economy of scarcity - take what you can get just in case .... This naturally allies with fear and anxiety, and easily builds fear into a system that self-justifies its bad behaviours.

Whereas the true narratives are about God, His provision and generosity that we can participate in. This is the economy of abundance. Note that here abundance does not mean lots or excess. No! It is the simple principle that somehow when we need it we will have it, time and time again. Like the manna given in the desert which didn't need to be hoarded, it comes as we have need. It parallels our breathing - we have to breath out in order to be able to take the next breath!

The world is locked into a scarcity mindset whose currency is fear. We need to glimpse the Kingdom mindset: not of God somehow rewarding 'good guys' but confident that there will be enough provision to live fruitful lives with a natural beauty that He has created in us. Note that this is neither a 'prosperity gospel' nor a poverty gospel that requires us to live with nothing. God's abundance is more subtle than either of these extremes.

It is an invitation to receive the Kingdom - Jesus in v32 tells us not to be afraid because the Father has given us the Kingdom. So go on, think differently. Sell your stuff and start sharing (v33)! This verse is actually a command, but once we accept the invite and live differently it won't ever feel like one to grudgingly obey. In the past we have talked about 'Margin for Jesus', deliberately making room in our lives for Jesus to fill. Normally we apply this to time, but it inter-connects with wealth & possessions too. If we max out on mortgage/wealth/possessions we will have no margin and easily succumb to feeling anxious about keeping them. Yet Jesus invites us to so much more, by living with less! Yes in one sense this is a call to more frugal living - but that acts as a lever that releases generosity. A frugality of living opens for extravagant blessing of others!

More importantly it creates a climate in which you depend on God, and discover that He provides for your need, somehow every time. By living with less you start to see His abundance. In receiving His Kingdom we find the logic that less is more, margin opens opportunity, and space to be in need allows for growth to perceive riches that otherwise were simply unimaginable.

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