Avoiding becoming a Cautionary Tale

Rev Jeremy SmithMy Sunday School class (The Gathering) this past Sunday was watching a 2011 series of lectures given by Dr. Walter Brueggemann about Scarcity and Abundance. After drawing out a theme from the lecture, one participant had a great question and commentary that I thought I would share.

The theme I drew out was that in the lecture, Brueggemann was tracing a “theology of scarcity” through Scripture, from the Old Testament to the New Testament. He had three main examples:

  1. In Genesis, Pharaoh had a vision in a dream of scarcity and that lead him to enlist Joseph as his Food Czar. 
  2. In Daniel, the King saw handwriting on the wall (written by God) of the monopoly the King had that still resulted in the King’s death at the end of Daniel.
  3. In Luke 12, the parable Jesus tells of a landowner who had so much land, but God came to him in a dream and told him that he was going to die that night, and, well, you can’t take it with you.

The theme I commented on was to pay attention to the interventions that come your way to see if you also have a theology of scarcity–of that there’s not enough. In each story, God intervenes and shifts the course of the story in dramatic ways, and we should pay attention!

But then one participant asked “Why didn’t God tell these people earlier so their lives could have been redeemed?”

It was a great question. After some conversation back and forth, we collectively came up with that these were told as morality tales–don’t act like Pharaoh, the King, or the Landowner when it comes to being generous and sharing–else you might die. So whether the stories are historically accurate or not (and scholars don’t think Daniel is particularly historical), the point of the stories is to not end up like them...to pay attention to this cautionary tale.

My hope for you is to not become this cautionary tale, but to pay attention to how you view the world and see if you view it through the eyes of scarcity or through the prism of abundance–and regardless, you are able to turn your life into a story of sharing rather than a cautionary tale for others.

Our closing wisdom this week was this:

The first prevailing myth of scarcity is that there’s not enough. There’s not enough to go around. Everyone can’t make it. Somebody’s going to be left out. There are way too many people. There’s not enough food. There’s not enough water. There’s not enough air. There’s not enough time. There’s not enough money.

There’s not enough becomes the reason we do work that brings us down or the reason we do things to each other that we’re not proud of. There’s not enough generates a fear that drives us to make sure that we’re not the person, or our loved ones aren’t the people, who get crushed, marginalized, or left out. [Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money, p. 49]

May it be with us that we make sure that no one is that person and that all find redemption.

See you Sunday5. ~Jeremy

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