“The Most Wonderful Chapter in the Bible: Abundance”
The Reverend Phillip Blackburn
June 12, 2016
You don’t have enough, you know. You don’t have enough money. You don’t have enough love. You don’t have enough time. You don’t have enough to eat. You don’t have enough to wear. You don’t have enough. You know it, and I know it. You and I, we live in a world of scarcity. There just isn’t enough to go around. It has always been this way. We humans have never had enough. In the old times we didn’t have enough food or enough land or enough gold. Today the labels have changed but the feelings of scarcity have never gone away. We don’t feel like we have enough.
Scarcity is the number 1 motivating factor in the human mind. If we feel we don’t have enough, we will do almost anything to make certain that we do. It’s the first law of economics, limit supply and you will increase demand. We are hard wired to respond to scarcity, and we project scarcity into all aspects of our lives. Even in our lives of faith, our instinct is to believe there is just not enough God to go around. Nowhere is this more reflected than in our desire as spiritual beings to try to follow the law. The law, as Paul knew it is in his day, was king. If you followed the law, then you could be sure there was enough of God’s love for you to get you through, whatever through might look like. For the Jews, this meant that God’s favor would see you through your life without any major catastrophes. Failure to follow the law would mean there would not be enough favor, and bad things could and would happen. Follow the law, they believe, or else. There just wasn’t enough love to carry us through life.
This theology has ebbed and flowed throughout the history of Christianity and it is rooted in the idea of scarcity. We had better do all we can to secure God’s love, because there is just not enough of it for everyone. The way to do this is through the Law. We call this, today, legalism, and we are living in one of those times when this belief is prevalent. Many of our brothers and sisters believe that the rules need to be followed, or else. But this time the stakes are higher. Rather than believe our lives will be affected by our sin, it is our eternal lives which are at stake. God has a lot of grace, and Jesus really loves us, but it is not enough. We need to do more to get what we need. There is a deep seeded mindset of scarcity amongst Christians these days and in that condition we do what we have always done, we elevate the law.
Paul, however, spends the first 7 chapters of Romans debunking the idea that the Law is something we should revere. It will not save us, he writes. Rather it makes us slaves, not to Christ, but to the flesh. What is the flesh? It is our whims, our minds, our lives. More than anything the flesh is scarcity; he flesh is the belief that I’d best get everything I can while the getting is good. The Law, Paul writes, tells us that the more our minds are attuned to the Law, the more we focus on this mind of the flesh. The idea that the Law will save us, that rule following is the way to God’s heart is, according to Paul, a lie.
You know, back in the old days, it was a dicey thing being someone’s kid. There just wasn’t enough, usually, to support a bunch of adults. So daughters would be sold off to their husbands, and if they were from a wealthy family, a dowry would accompany them. And the boys, well, the oldest son would inherit whatever wealth the family had. The other sons, well sometimes they would eke out a living under the thumb of the older son, or they would get a smaller inheritance, or they would simply leave. You never know. But this problem of scarcity was most obvious in the way a family handled succession. So this is why it was important to be the heir. The heir was the one who was secure. The heir was taken care of for sure. The wealthy Romans would appoint all sorts of people as heirs. They would adopt somebody, and make them heir. Sometimes Roman men would adopt somebody older than them even and name them heir. It didn’t really matter, but this was the way things worked in those days. If you were going to be somebody’s kid, you’d better be the heir.
So this is why Paul’s words here in Chapter 8 mean so much. They are absolutely vital to fixing our minds as we consider God. What does Paul say? He says we have received a spirit of adoption that makes us children of God. And here is the money line. Are you ready for it? You may never have truly heard it in your whole life. If children then heirs. Heirs of God and joint heirs of Christ. Heirs. There isn’t just one heir. Do you get it? Do you see? There is enough. We are all heirs. God’s love, God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s salvation, these things are all given to us in equal measure, not because of what we do, but because of who God is.
If you are still having a hard time getting your head around this idea, then I can give you further help. There is a reason I paired this passage with the parable of the prodigal son in Luke. We didn’t read the whole thing, but you know the story. Again we are faced with inheritance and again we are faced with scarcity. The son takes his money, goes off into the world, and squanders it. He fails in every possible way to follow the law. There is a reason the parable says he is feeding pigs. And so he goes home. There, he believes, at least there will be enough food. But there is more waiting for him. Much more. Before he can offer his rehearsed speech his father sees him and runs to him. He gives the boy his cloak and puts a ring on his finger, that ring would probably be the family signet which goes to the heir, and he celebrates. Even after the failure. Even after the sin. Even after the scarcity, there is enough love. Even the older brother is not immune. The older brother, the legalists, the rule follower, thinks there isn’t going to be enough. But what does the father say to him? Everything I have is yours. Do you see now? Do you see? There is enough. God’s love is enough for you. No matter what you’ve done, no matter how you feel. No matter how hard you’ve tried and failed, God’s love is enough for you.
When we get this idea through our thick heads, that’s when life really changes. When we realize that God’s Spirit dwells within us, the same Spirit Christ left the Church, when we realize that Spirit dwells in us, we realize that there is enough. You have enough. God has enough love for all of us, and for all people who have that Spirit. All of them. And when we learn this, then we will start to see abundance in other areas of our lives. Will there be sufferings? Of course. Paul acknowledges this, but there will always, no matter what sufferings, be enough. You have enough money. You have enough food. You have enough love. You have enough, and I know this because you have God. This is not a world of scarcity, this is a world of abundance. Of course it is, because the God of abundant love created it, and that same God created you, and that same God placed His Spirit in your life, a Spirit of adoption which makes you God’s heir. All that he has is yours. And for the love of God know…it is enough. Amen.