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Scarcity and Abundance

July 28, 2018

I often hear about Scarcity when it comes to caring for others. We don’t have enough, we have to take care of ourselves. In both the Gospel reading and the reading from 2 Kings, we see how God responds to the fears of the people (we don’t have enough for ourselves). Even though it seemed like this female Elk was enjoying quite the lunch next door to our Condo, the tree didn’t become bare. There was enough for her to graze and for others as they move along.

I have really been wrestling this week… not so much with the passages themselves but more-so with what I have experienced through the years as first-world greed at the expense of not only people in developing countries but in our own nation as well. I can’t tell you how often I have heard people say, but I don’t have enough for me, so I surely can’t share with others.

In the reading from 2 Kings, Elisha receives the tithe offering from the man from Baal-shalisha. It was the gift of the first fruits of the harvest. The gifts were to be given to the religious leaders. How those gifts were used by the religious leaders is something to wonder about. Were they the “pay” for their religious services? Or were they gifts to be distributed by the leaders to the poor? Regardless, when Elisha tells the man to give the food offering to the poor he balks. There isn’t enough to go around! How can we possibly do that?

Part of me hopes that this was a genuine concern on his part. Sadly when I look at it in today’s environment, my cynicism takes over. Oh there isn’t possibly enough to go around so it is better not to give at all. Instead of allaying the man’s fears, Elisha tells him to take a leap of faith! The result of that leap of faith is a “wahoo” where not only was there enough to go around, there were leftovers to boot… talk about extravagant generosity! Elisha helped the man to overcome his fear of scarcity and God’s abundance was revealed.

The same goes for the story in John’s Gospel which is one of the tellings of the feeding of the 5000. Hey Philip, go buy some food for these people! What, Lord? If I had six months wages I couldn’t feed them all! Then Andrew steps up and says, hey, there is this kid here who has five barley loaves and two fish… what about that? I wonder how much of that was serious and how much of it was sarcasm. Well, we don’t have six months wages, so it would be about as ludicrous to share five loaves and two fish!

Again, as in the story of Elisha, the point was that anything is possible if you let go of your so-called logic and instead trust God. And as it was in the story of Elisha, there not only was enough for the needs of the people, there were leftovers! In both stories we see how folks worry so much about scarcity that they would rather leave others to fend for themselves than to take the chance that there just might be enough for all.

If you remember in the story of the Exodus, when God provided mana for the people, they worried that there wouldn’t be enough and as a result they hoarded the mana. What happened? The hoarded mana rotted! They had enough, but they got greedy. As a result the excess rotted.

Another story comes from the teachings of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 12:16-21). The rich man was so concerned that he had enough storage space for all of his stuff that he tore down his barns and built bigger barns to store his huge crop. What happened? Well, he died and all of the excess and the huge barns were for nothing. What if he had shared from his stores with his neighbors in need… so many could have been fed but for his greed.

What is the point of this? Well, if our priorities are selfish, we miss the point all together. If we truly see everyone as sister and brother, we can provide for all and still have leftovers!

One story which continues to haunt me is that of Fr Maximilian Kolbe. He was a Franciscan priest in Germany. Following his arrest by the Nazi’s, he was taken to Auschwitz.

Prisoners at Auschwitz were slowly and systematically starved, and their pitiful rations were barely enough to sustain a child: one cup of imitation coffee in the morning, and weak soup and half a loaf of bread after work. When food was brought, everyone struggled to get his place and be sure of a portion. Father Maximilian Kolbe however, stood aside in spite of the ravages of starvation, and frequently there would be none left for him. At other times he shared his meager ration of soup or bread with others… A Protestant doctor who treated the patients in Block 12 later recalled how Father Kolbe waited until all the others had been treated before asking for help… (

Fr Kolbe eventually died after taking the place of a Jewish man in the starvation bunker following the escape of a man from their “quarters” in the Concentration Camp. Fr Kolbe has touched my heart deeply since hearing his story years ago. He exemplified looking to the needs of others before his own needs. He, in my heart, lived out the lessons of this Sunday’s Readings.

My Lord, dear reader, are we to hoard all that we have at the expense of others? Are we really that callous that we don’t give a damn about the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the prisoner? Jesus calls us in Matthew 25 to share not only our love but our resources with those in need. I believe that God in Christ calls us to take risks! Be generous with our love, our lives, our treasure. After all, what we have is a gift and a trust from God… to be used in God’s work in this world. The last thing we should do is hoard that treasure… if we do, we miss the point of Jesus’ call to serve in the spirit of Matthew 25!

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