The claim of creation faith is that there is more than enough to share, and where there is sharing there is generativity of more, because as the fruitful instruments of creation notice the shalom of God enacted as sharing, they do in fact produce more. Those of us who care about the lyric of abundance must reflect on whether we embrace this claim, and whether it is possible to break free from the claim of scarcity that is all around us…
…if you stay with the generous God, there is enough, there is more than enough, there is surplus, everybody can eat. All have enough…
-Walter Brueggemann The Covenanted Self
I got to hear Dr. Brueggemann speak at the beginning of the month and was blown away by the power of his words, and specifically the power of God’s abundance. Bruegemann is an Old Testament scholar and tells the story of the exodus – the Israelites leaving Egypt and the covenants they make with God in their new home land – and what this means for how we live today.
Pharaoh’s Egypt lived under the myth of scarcity — creating systems of oppression, anxiety, fear, and greed. The Israelites suffered greatly, and God sent Moses to lead them out. Once the Israelites had left Egypt, they were called to the truth of abundance, of living under God’s hand of provision – relying on manna every day, being commanded to rest, creating economic and social systems where care for the widow, orphan, and immigrant were prioritized. Many of the ten commandments were enacted to help the Israelites not fall into the trap of scarcity, to not return to the systems of oppression which are our default because of our own fear.
The Israelites had a hard time doing this — as hard as it was to live under the myth of scarcity and Pharaoh’s brutality, living under God’s abundance is a daily challenge of trust and submission. Trusting God to provide when there is no water, trusting he will provide protection, trusting that food will come, trusting that God will not abandon in the midst of dire circumstances.
Brugeggemann’s work aims to influence how we think about our social and economic structures. Are we a people who trust in God to care for his people – and do we participate in that care by not giving into the greed and quest for “more more more!” and instead focus our attention on helping the least of these and considering how the widow, orphan, immigrant, and oppressed are being looked after? Brueggemann has given me a new lens to read the story of the exodus and the story of God’s relationship with the Israelites.
But Bruegemann’s work is also asking me the question: do I truly believe in a God of abundance? Not just in thinking about social and political institutions — but what about my own life? Do I trust in his provision, trust that he is enough, that I am enough, that he created me in his image and is looking after me? Do I give in too often to my own myth of scarcity, afraid that I am not enough and need to prove my worth to God? Do I worry that he will not provide the manna, that he hasn’t given me or someone else enough courage, enough strength, enough ….?
The myth of scarcity trapped the Israelites; it kept them from living in the land of God’s abundance. And I confess here that I fall into that same trap all too often.
I’m praying that I’ll believe in the God of abundance, that I’ll trust more readily, await the gifts that he promises even when I worry they won’t come. I’m praying that if I believe more in God’s abundance, I can spread the gifts he’s given me, and the gifts he’s given others that in turn bless me.
I’m praying that the Hebrew word “dayenu” would change the way I live:
“[Dayenu] means, there is enough in God’s goodness. Dayenu is like “loves abound”. God overwhelms in generosity” – Bruegemann