Abundance Is the True Law of Life

Stewardship, part 2

Abundance is the true law of life. The Jewish scriptures say it over and over. God is good, God provides, God is faithful. God loves us extravagantly and wants to provide for us, richly and abundantly.

The Buddhist tradition teaches loosening the grip of desire. Not eliminating desire, but just minding less whether a given desire happens to be satisfied. When desires take over our lives, all we’re focused on is how to meet them, and how they aren’t met yet. It’s the scarcity mentality: I don’t have enough, I have to get more and better and more and better. Loosening the grip of desire lets the recognition come forward of what abundant bounty is already provided to us. Wanting things to be different obscures from us awareness of the ample riches that are present to us right here, inalienable from us, we have but to notice them.

We have these abundant resources – and they become manifest when we share them.
“In the human world, abundance does not happen automatically. It is created when we have the sense to choose community, to come together to celebrate and share our common store. Whether the scarce resource is money or love or power or words, the true law of life is that we generate more of whatever seems scarce by trusting its supply and passing it around. Authentic abundance does not lie in secured stockpiles of food or cash or influence or affection but in belonging to a community where we can give those goods to others who need them -- and receive them from others when we are in need. Abundance is a communal act, the joint creation of an incredibly complex ecology in which each part functions on behalf of the whole, and in return, is sustained by the whole. Community doesn't just create abundance -- community IS abundance.” (Parker Palmer)
Trust its supply and pass it around – that’s how what seems scarce is revealed as abundant. What we pass around, what we share to create the abundance that is our congregation, is our time, our talent, and our treasure. By “treasure,” I mean – and I hesitate to say this – money. I hesitate because studies say that just saying the word causes an unconscious reaction, a resistance, a closing.

It’s funny. When some monopoly money is present in a room – not talked about or alluded to, but just there, not even looking like real money – just the presence of monopoly money makes people less kind. This has been measured with the pencil-pickup test: as the subject is leaving the room, they bump into an assistant carrying in some supplies, and box of pencils spills. Everyone will bend down to help pick up the mess. But if monopoly money was in the room, the subject picks up 15 percent fewer pencils than if there’s no hint of money around. If you seat people near a screen saver showing currency floating like fish in a tank, or you have them descramble sentences, some of which include the words, “bill,” “check” or “cash” they become just a little more anti-social, just a little less oriented toward sensitivity to others. They give less time to a colleague in need of assistance and less money to a hypothetical charity. When asked to pull up a chair so a stranger might join a meeting, they place the chair at a greater average distance from themselves. When asked how they’d prefer to spend their leisure time, they are more likely to chose a personal cooking lesson over a catered group dinner. Given a choice between working collaboratively or alone, they are more likely to opt to go solo.

This is not always a bad thing. I do not see this as a manifestation of humanity’s sinful nature. Rather, it’s just that we have a part of us that focuses on efficiency and productivity and self-sufficiency. We also have a part of us that cares about other people, that finds joy in company, that wants to be compassionate, that delights in our interdependence, that feels enriched by helping others and being helped, that is happier working collaboratively, that loves and wants to love and be loved.

In other words, we have a scarcity-oriented part and an abundance-oriented part. And just mentioning money – budgets and expenses – tends to activate the scarcity-minded part of a human psyche. It tends to. It does not have to. So I mention these findings about psychology of money in the hope that by bringing these unconscious effects into the light of consciousness, we can choose not to be governed by self-protective scarcity-mindedness.

What our hearts truly yearn for is community and connection and caring: the abundance that is community. In our togetherness, caring about and for each other, we enjoy more, not less, efficiency and productivity than we do in pursuing the self-sufficiency strategy.

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This is part 2 of 3 of "Stewardship"
See also
Part 1: The True Loaves and Fishes Miracle
Part 3: Never a Greater Need

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