“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; “I came that they [the sheep] may have life, and have it abundantly” John 10: 10 (NRSV).
Were you raised in an atmosphere of abundance or scarcity? In my family, while finances were usually tight, the feeling of financial abundance was present. My parents gave their tithes and offerings and taught their five children to do the same. My mother, particularly, was always very generous, giving to organizations, friends and even strangers in need. However, by the time I entered first grade, I was well aware that there was a scarcity of time, approval, love, hugs, trust, safety, and emotional stability in my home.
Most of us live out the legacy of those who raised us – our parents, our teachers, and our church. As an adult I unwittingly passed on some of the “not enough” attitude I had learned to my young sons. Later in life, as I painfully began rooting out several false narratives, I chose instead my inheritance of abundant life from Jesus.
The terms abundance and scarcity were popularized in the secular world in the 1990’s by Stephen R. Covey in his classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey said that “abundance flows out of a deep sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision-making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives and creativity.”
This is a useful definition. However, the Bible is our first teacher about abundance. The Old Testament is replete with verses that detail the abundance of God. It begins with the creation story where the abundant love of God overflows. The covenant itself (I will be your God and you will be my people) is a statement of lavish caring of God for his people. The Psalmists and prophets call us to worship and serve a God of abundant power and availability.
In the New Testament, Jesus and then Paul speak movingly about a life of abundance and the abundance of God’s blessings. What do they mean by abundant life? Both Jesus and Paul found that respect, understanding, love, and approval were scarce during their lifetimes. Both suffered pain and martyrdom. But Scripture makes it clear that both Jesus and Paul were intimately connected to the abundant love and power of God. Both were called to a life of possibility, vision, and achievement. Both practiced what they preached; the abundant life was theirs despite their sometimes desperate situations. As David Lose, at the Working Preacher Blog says,
“The heart of the gospel that each preached was the resurrection power. [Jesus, and then Paul] taught that we are not only saved from something but also for something, for life in all its abundance here and now.”
Saved from Scarcity
We too are saved from scarcity and freed to live an abundant life. In commenting on the on John 1:10 where Jesus offers the disciples a life of abundance, Dr. Lose points out that these words follow the story of Jesus giving sight to a blind man. Dr. Lose suggests that because the statement of abundant life comes after the story of blindness, the abundant life may be “highly contextual:”
For the blind man it [abundant life] is sight. For the single parent it might be companionship and help.For the bullied teen it might be acceptance and an advocate. For the impoverished neighborhood it might be dignity and a chance of self-determination. For the retiree it might be involvement in a worthy cause. . . . Abundant life looks different in different places and to different people, but it always manifests itself as a response to whatever seeks to rob the children of God of their inheritance of life, purpose and joy.”
In contrast to the thieves and robbers he mentions in John 10:1, Jesus, the “gate” for his sheep, offers us not just life but life in abundance. Our inheritance from Jesus is everything we need. We are entitled to not only survival, but flourishing; not only getting by, but thriving; not only existence, but joy. Jesus offers more life than most of us imagine possible. Whatever our context in life, Jesus offers abundant life in the kingdom – now and still to come.