The mentality of scarcity—maybe a spirit of scarcity—prowls like a lion seeking to devour us. The God of communal abundance, the God of shalom, is calling us out of its clutches.
The foundation of holistic poverty equates to broken relationships. At my work, we often reference a figure of the four broken relationships that can be found in Walking With the Poor by Bryant Myers. Those relationships include with God, Self, Others, and Creation. “Poverty is a result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings,” Myers says. (Walking With the Poor, p. 86)
With this in mind, I believe that discipleship at its core is a process for us to become more whole — that is, for our relationships to be reconciled. Therefore, this mentality of scarcity that seems to keep bobbing its head in many of the discussions I have with others is not new news. If poverty is unreconciled relationships that cause us to not be whole human beings, then the enemy that prowls around like a lion seeking whom he can devour will constantly want us to perceive that someone else is trying to take that wholeness away from us. He must pit us against our neighbor, the very neighbor God calls us to love.
You see, if the enemy can convince me that my neighbor is going to take away that which I’ve worked hard to obtain in my process of becoming whole, then in my attempt to seek wholeness, I will also hoard the stepping stones toward it. And if I hoard what I perceive as a means to the end of wholeness, then I will never actually arrive at my destination of becoming whole.
In their book Becoming Whole, Brian Fikkert & Kelly M. Kapic argue that we, dominant-culture American Christians, have been leaning into a theology that is essentially Evangelical Gnosticism that idolizes the American Dream. They say, “the goal isn’t to live the American Dream now and get our souls to heaven later. The goal is to become whole.”
We have become an easy target for the prowling enemy. As we continue to seek what we think is wholeness through stepping stones that are made quite slippery by the American Dream, we easily fall prey to the ideas that the tangible & intangible things—titles, certificates, retirement money, discounts on products that require cheap labor, citizenship, power, privilege—will lead us to wholeness, but we must protect them at all costs. And so we see this mentality of scarcity affect each of us: whether it’s in the power dynamic between genders and races both inside and outside of the Church, the argument against immigration, the movement out of public schools, the silencing of sexual abuse victims (or even highlighting of them when we want to on our terms). When we take a step back, we can clearly see this mentality of scarcity influences all of us.
None of us is immune to scarcity.
Some because of trauma. Some because of power. Some because of privilege. Some because of oppression. All because we are human.
But the God of shalom, the God of communal abundance calls us out of the clutches of this lie. He, through gleaning and jubilee and downward mobility and community reconciliation calls us to a place where we see first and foremost that He is enough. Yes, God is enough. Jesus is enough. No Christ didn’t come riding on a white horse slashing oppression by being oppressive like we all wanted him to. But Christ, who deeply knew what it was to be human and fully understood suffering is enough.
And once we see that Christ is enough, we also see that we are enough. Not only in our limited humanity, but also in our communities. We don’t need more stuff—tangible or intangible. We don’t need more human, greedy power. We are enough. Our humanity is enough. We are allowed to honestly confess the ways we hurt each other. We make space for difficult truths to be told because we see each other as human beings first. We don’t judge, we confess. And in our confession we find God-ordained empathy for our neighbors we thought were our enemies.
Finally, we see that the American Dream is NOT enough. We don’t need it. It’s not enough because it doesn’t make us whole. It’s individualized and doesn’t take into consideration the systems of oppression we have built our country upon. We’ve proven that becoming richer makes us less happy (Becoming Whole, Introduction).
The mentality of scarcity is combatted by a mentality of community. “We’ve lost the sense that we are all in this together, that my flourishing is bound up with yours, and that we’re called to love our neighbors as ourselves.” (Becoming Whole, Ch. 3). So wherever you live, whatever you do ... find your community and press in, lean in, and bind yourself up with your neighbors. I'll work on doing the same.