2 Kings 4:42-44 4:42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, "Give it to the people and let them eat." 4:43 But his servant said, "How can I set this before a hundred people?" So he repeated, "Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the LORD, 'They shall eat and have some left.'" 4:44 He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the LORD.
Scarcity. A “scar-y” word, especially in this economic and political environment! Better hurry! Better circle the wagons and protect what you’ve got! Look out for number one. Take care of your own first. Be frugal, lest you run out! Austerity measures always, and sometimes appropriately so, follow from a perspective of scarcity.
On the other hand, whether it’s money, insurance, security, leisure time, exercise—you name the desirable thing—when is there ever enough? The more we have, the more we want. The more we get, the more we desire. The more we desire, the less we share. Even in great abundance, the monster of scarcity needs only a slight nudging to rear its ugly head to direct our decisions and actions.
Wendy and I understand that more profoundly in these past couple of months. The plan was for her to retire (check!), move down here (check!), get a job (check!), and live off of my income while saving all of hers for retirement…uh oh (no check!). Instead, Isaac came home from South America with a vocational passion and plan. He studied 2 solid months for the MCAT, got into medical school at Wake Forest, and just this past weekend we were the proud parents at his “white coat” ceremony, the initiation for medical students. So proud, so pleased, for his having both direction and opportunity. Thanks be to God!
. . . BUT . . . This venture assumes and requires, even from the university itself, parental financial support. Wake Forest estimates the total annual cost to be in the $67,500 range for tuition, books, room, and board. Looks like it could be at least 4 years before we begin checking off the last item on “the plan.” It’s our own little personal priorities discernment and “how much is enough?” struggle. You have your own ongoing version of that same story and struggle. We all do. It’s life.
Wendy and I decided that we’re like Isaac. So pleased that we have both direction and opportunity not just to save, but to help. We’ve tithed all our lives, and we will most certainly continue that. We’ve saved all our lives, and we’ll definitely do that, too. But we’re going to help Isaac, and Matthew, and Ruth to launch into this world in the best possible way by sharing sacrificially with them not just when we die, but now, when they need it. We’re going to help build the retreat center at Lutheranch. There will be plenty left over for abundant living. We might not buy a house in Atlanta. If we do, it’ll be a small one. Okay, so there are consequences! But if you can’t share, then what’s the joy of having?
This week’s assigned biblical texts are about “how much is enough?” and about sharing. In 2 Kings above, Elisha insists against conventional wisdom that a little bit of sharing can go a long way. The same thing happens in the “feeding of the 5,000” in our gospel lesson this Sunday. It’s no coincidence that miracles happen when people are willing to share their little bit, believing that God takes our generosity and gifts and multiplies them.
I, like you, am fearful sometimes of running out; yet I’m even more fearful of growing old with a fat 401K and bank account, my loved ones scattered hither and yon and burdened by debt and my church on the verge of extinction because I was too careful, because “enough” back then was actually too much.
PRAYER: Help us to be careful, gracious God, but not too careful. Help us to save, but not too much. Help us ultimately and always to trust your generous and multiplying love. Help us, like Jesus, to risk a little bit more and to fear a little bit less. Help us to see and to work through your lens of abundance instead of our lens of scarcity. Amen.