Oct
22

Scarcity vs Abundance – sermon

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The following sermon was written and contributed by Diane Harrington who resides in South Carolina. It is obvious that the Lord has blessed Diane with a writing and teaching gift. Thanks to her for this message.

 

 

THE ECONOMY OF SCARCITY

VS
THE ECONOMY OF ABUNDANCE
 
 
 

Introduction:

 
Fred Craddock, author of Preaching Through the Christian Year, tells about a Benedictine monk who was spending the weekend at the Trappist Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. At mealtime they were served the most delicious bread…..and there was plenty of it. All were enjoying it, and no one was saying a word. Everyone was caught up in the moment of eating this delicious bread, and the Monk said to the brother seated next to him, ‘Did we make this or did someone give it to us?’ And the brother answered, ‘Yes.’” (repeat question/answer) The brother was saying “Yes, we made it!” and “Yes, God gave it to us.” [1]
“YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT.” We’re not sure just how Jesus said those words. It could have been in a still, quiet, voice: “You give them something to eat.” Or a pleading, urging voice: “You give them something to eat.” Or a commanding voice: “You give them something to eat.” While, it may have been all of the above, the word “YOU” in Greek is emphatic, [2] giving the sense of a command.  The food did not come as manna from heaven, from a flock of quail, from water changed into wine, or oil and meal that mysteriously replenished itself. The bread and fish not only came from God, but was also administered through the work and kindness of human hands. Christ takes our contribution, no matter how modest, and makes it enough. [3] “YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT.”
 
 

Economy of Scarcity:

Our world economy operates under the principle of scarcity or supply and demand. Markets are supposed to regulate scarcity by gathering information about our wants and needs, and harmonizing supply and demand through the price mechanism. Money is a unit of information, a conveyer of price signals, a store of the world’s value, and a means of exchange. When supply is plentiful, prices are low. When supply is scarce, prices are high.
Man has seemingly infinite wants but finite resources. Mismatches in supply and demand occur when we fail to efficiently allocate these resources to their optimum level. Economics is the study of how societies use scarce resources to produce valuable commodities and distribute them among different people. This classical concept of scarcity – unlimited wants vs limited resources – is flawed because of man’s fear of not having enough. [4]  We fear scarcity for many reasons. It’s the “What if” dilemma – what if we lose our job, what if natural disasters like Tsunamis, famine, hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes, etc. destroy our homes and take the lives of our loved ones, especially the breadwinners. What if terrorists attack us, dictators control us, or thieves steal our identities. This fear leads to hoarding, gathering more and more, trying to fill the void that fear leaves in us. How many times have we heard the comment, “You have to take care of yourself, because no one else is going to.” We forget that God sent manna each day, and instructed the Israelites to eat their fill, but not to save what was left over. God faithfully provided what they needed.
I am reminded of the story of a minister who had just begun to preach his sermon when a mighty thunderstorm struck. The congregation was obviously distracted by the loud thunder and sheets of rain hitting the windows. The minister stopped for a moment, and then said “Isn’t the Lord wonderful? Here we are, comfortable and dry, and the Lord has arranged for the storm to wash our cars while we worship.” [5]
Another negative offshoot of the world’s economy of scarcity is the tendency to look for weaknesses in others. While intellectual capacity, knowledge, and technology have become valuable resources in our society, the tendency has grown to not only look for weaknesses in others, but to use them to our advantage – either you win or I do. Though God does call us to use our gifts and talents to fullest advantage for his glory, we often use them for our own glory. We strive to be the best, to make more money, to buy more things because deep down, we’re scared to death of losing it all. We buy into the world’s “economy of scarcity” principles instead of God’s “economy of abundance” principles. As Paul Harvey would have said after hearing today’s sermon title, and now let’s hear the rest of the story, the story about God’s Economy of Abundance. Our needs are met in direct proportion to our level of trust in God. A man by the name of Henry Ward Beecher said that “Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.” Jesus chose the handle of faith, giving God’s principle of multiplication room to not only feed the masses, but to give glory to God. Jesus also taught, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all the rest will be added unto you.” 
Today’s scripture lesson starts with Jesus withdrawing after hearing of John’s death. Most commentaries speculate that Jesus was tired and terribly grieved, but that when he saw the hoards of people that were waiting on the seashore, he had compassion for them. They looked like sheep without a shepherd. The Greek word for compassion comes from the common word for the spleen or intestines. We might say “he felt it in his gut.”  [6]
At the end of the day, the Disciples suggested to Jesus that they should send the people to nearby towns to buy food. They were thinking practically. We only have 5 loaves and 2 fish and that’s not enough. What if the crowd gets unruly? Of course, the Disciples were feeling compassion for the people and probably wanted to give Jesus some time to rest. Just like the Disciples, we add 2 + 5 to get 7, instead of doing math God’s way: 2 + 5+ Jesus = 8. When faced with overwhelming need, we should learn to count to 8. [7] In God’s math, one person plus God is a majority.
Jesus’s command “You give them something to eat” challenges Christians today. We live in a world where people are hungry for food, clothes, love, a safe place to live, escape from many different life conditions. We pray that Jesus will do something, but he responds “You give them something to eat.” The church has risen to the occasion many times with food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, but we often see problems instead of possibilities. There is a guy in my company that when a problem crops up, always says “Ladies and gentlemen, we have an opportunity.” We are tempted to believe that we have nothing to offer, or even if we do, we feel that our effort is insignificant – not enough to solve the problem so what’s the use in trying. Do we really believe that God can and will intervene in our world? What are the impossibilities in your life? What crowds or battles do you have to face? We can face them hand in hand with the one who makes things possible. We can read the Word, kneel before God in prayer, and then work in God’s strength. You, plus God, adds up to whatever God wants. 
Dr. Jerry Fuller in his sermon “Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes” tells the story of Rob and Jackay, who opened their own restaurant. As opening day neared, all that needed to be done was the health inspection and the issuing of their business permit. Both were to be done early morning and then “Our Place,” as they called it, would be in business. But that morning, Hurricane Hugo hit unexpectedly, making its way 200 miles inland to their North Carolina town. Sound familiar? Trees were uprooted, power lines were down, homes and stores destroyed. Rob and Jackay hurried to the restaurant, but everything was intact. A deputy sheriff pulled up and told them that their restaurant, the fire station next door, and a service station down the road were the only businesses with electricity. Rob and Jackay called the health inspector to come immediately, so they could open, but he couldn’t get to his office to issue the permit. No permit, no business opening. With a refrigerator stocked with 300 pounds of bacon and beef, plus bushels of tomatoes, lettuce, and bread, there was only thing they could do – give the food away. So, they told the deputy to call his coworkers and other emergency personnel that the Restaurant would have free BLT’s and coffee for anyone who came by. Soon, firemen, policemen, linemen, and other workers filled “Our Place.” When Rob and Jackay heard that another restaurant was scalping people by charging $10 for 2 eggs, toast, and bacon, they put a sign in their window: “Free BLT’s – FREE COFFEE. Families, travelers, and street people were welcomed. Then, something began to happen. People started to clean counters and sweep floors. Volunteers took over the dish washing from Jackay and helped Rob at the grill. Hearing about what was happening at Our Place from the local radio station, people from a neighboring town that didn’t have much damage from the storm, brought food from their freezers. Stores and dairies sent chicken, milk, and foodstuffs of all kinds. Those first cups of coffee and BLT’s somehow stretched to 16,000 meals. The restaurant’s small stock increased by 500 loaves of bread, cases of mayonnaise, 350 pots of coffee, and bushels of produce. [8]
Five loaves and two fish, which Pastor David DeWitt calls “One Little Lunch” – fed the masses of people in body and spirit. What should we draw from God’s economy of abundance? 
(1) Never underestimate God;
(2) Never doubt God’s ability to provide in BIG ways; and
(3) Jesus can turn the broken pieces of your life into blessings for yourself and for others. 

One little lunch satisfied many; one little lunch made a difference. It revealed the power of God, changed lives, and strengthened people’s faith. [9]  Jesus commands us, “YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT.”

Amen.
 


[1] Craddock, Fred B; Hayes, John H.; Holladay, Carl R.; Tucker, Gene M.; Preaching Through the Christian Year, A (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1992)
[2] Johnson, Sherman E., and Buttrick, George A., The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1951), page 431.
[3] Ibid. Johnson, Sherman, and Buttrick
[4] Vaknim, Dr. Sam, The Misconception of Scarcity, United Press International, http://samvak.tripod.com/scarcity.html
 
[5] Donovan, Richard Niell www.sermonwriter.com, Copyright, 2005, page 5 of 16.
[6] Fuller, Dr. Jerry, “Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes,” http://www.rockies.net/~spirit/sermons/a-or18-js.php
[7] Ibid, Donovan, Richard Niell, page 13 of 16
[8] Ibid, Fuller, Dr. Jerry, pages 1-2 (ref. “A Grand Opening,” Connections, 18th Sunday of the Year, August 1, 1999.

 

 

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