“We live in a culture dominated by expectations
The meaning we make in our lives through religious understanding and the practice of our faith is distorted by the mindset of scarcity. Religious traditions and the scriptures underlying them are full of invitations out of lack and into abundance. In the Hebrew bible, Proverbs 3, for example, aligns faithfulness with provision of abundance, and the commitment of God to God’s people. It says that obedience to the commandments of God will provide an “abundant welfare,” and instructs believers: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” This is, truly, a counter-cultural corrective to the prevailing expectation of scarcity; instead, this theological expectation is of sufficient provision for every need, reliant upon God’s abundance.
One way to shift away from scarcity and into an imagination of sufficiency is by really changing our expectation about what assets look like. Last week I was privileged to hear the Rev. Dr. Starksy Wilson tell a story about his organization, the Deaconess Foundation, whose faith-grounded mission is the improved health of the Metropolitan St. Louis community and its people. The Deaconess Foundation was created as a health conversion foundation in 1998, and carries forward the mission of the Deaconess Sisters, who began their work in the late 1800s. Dr. Wilson told a story about the way in which those sisters, serving the immigrant community, established an orphanage. Being told that they did not have what they needed, in terms of money, buildings, or infrastructure, Wilson described the leaders replying, as a plea and also a charge, “We have orphans.” I love this anecdote, because it reflects the shift in mindset that transforms a perceived need into a realized asset.
“When people who are seen as the object of charity become instead agents and drivers of transformation, a shift takes place in the balance of power.”
Questions for Reflection
- How do you practice the shift from a mindset of scarcity to an expectation of sufficiency in light of the promise that God would wish for us to “have life, and have it abundantly”?
- What once appeared to be a liability or need in your community or organization might now be seen and understood as an asset?