The Liturgy of Abundance and The Myth of Scarcity

The Liturgy of Abundance and The Myth of Scarcity

Our fundamental beliefs about how the world is structured and the principles which underpin it inform how we interact in it. Walter Brueggermann, scholar and theologian, posits that our interactions with resources, need, consumption and stewardship are determined by our belief in one of two key positions: the liturgy of abundance or the myth of scarcity. Either we believe that what God has created is good, that He has set in motion principles of abundance which He sustains with his hand, and that the bountiful creation he placed into being has enough for all of us. Or we believe that there is a insidious famine in resources, that there is not enough to go around, and that we must hold on to as much as we can against that day when it all runs out. The choices that face us are no different than those facing the Israelites as the Manna fell each day. Those who believed in a God who had created and sustained an economy of enough, took only as much as they needed each day and those who had little did not have too little and those who had much did not have too much. But those who believed in an economy of scarcity took more than they needed and hoarded it till the next day, when maggots and rot spoilt it. They, like Pharaoh before them, said,  “There’s not enough; let’s get everything.”

Can we, like Jesus, imagine a new reality, an economy of enough, a liturgy of abundance? “When the disciples, charged with feeding the hungry crowd [as told in Mark’s gospel] found a child with five loaves and two fishes, Jesus took, blessed ,broke and gave the bread. These are the four decisive verbs of our sacramental existence. ” But our taking, blessing, breaking and giving – our sacramental expression of our fundamental belief in “creation infused with the Creator’s generosity” and our call to express this same open-handedness to our neighbors – cannot exist if we continue to believe in the myth of scarcity. With that all we can do is  hoard, profane, accumulate and keep to ourselves the richness of God’s abundance.

[For some more thoughts on this, take a read of this post by Shane Claiborne titled  ‘The Theology of Enough’]

Valerie Anderson

Valerie Anderson coordinates Operations at Common Change. She received her MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cape Town and has spent the last 6 years establishing and maintaining a range of community development projects both in her home country, South Africa, and in low-income urban areas in the United States. She is a writer, problem-solver and strategist and loves to create environments in which others can thrive. Valerie and her husband, Brett Fish, have recently returned to their beautiful home city, Cape Town. You can find more of Val’s writing at valanderson.wordpress.com

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  • John Toler

    This post is a great challenge for Christians to exercise their faith in God’s provision and live a life of having their needs meet daily, not worrying about tomorrow. We should not be motivated by collecting and making sure we have enough for down the road but we should be motivated to get what we need for the moment and give the excess and trust God for the future. Easier said than done but rewarding both in heaven and on earth when you get to that point.

  • http://www.jcalexander.org Jeff

    Enjoyed this post…Reminds of Jesus teaching his disciples to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” He never taught us to pray give us our weekly bread, our monthly bread, or our yearly bread but “our daily bread”. Pray that we are provided enough for today…

    • Brett Anderson

      Jeff, that is true, but then a follow-up question would be is “enough” a standard amount or is it relative so “enough” for a big city lawyer might look a bit different from “enough” for me and my wife which might look very much different to the “enough” of a township/shanty town dweller back home in South Africa. Or is the question of the relativity of that “enough” simply because those with more are not doing “enough” with what they have to address the crazy level of haves and have-nots that exists around the world? I imagine there will be strong answers on both sides of this question. Who gets to define “enough”? Food, water and clothes. Food, water, clothes and one iPhone?

  • http://www.jcalexander.org Jeff

    Well put Brett!…I will think about this…