Daniel M. Bell Jr.: Share the divine abundance
Care should be taken, however not to mistake the character of God’s abundance. The opposite of scarcity is not “unlimited” in the sense that God will satisfy our avarice, gluttony, and all the cravings of our disordered or fallen desire. Rather, the abundance that God gives is a matter of enough. God graciously gives all we need for flourishing. Therefore, God’s abundant provision should not be confused with a “prosperity gospel.” God’s abundance is not about meeting our wildest consumer dreams. Rather, God’s abundance takes form in the disciplines that heal our desire so that it moves in accord with its true end, so that we desire what and how we should desire.”
Daniel M. Bell Jr. in The Economy of Desire: Christianity and Capitalism in a Postmodern World (The Church and Postmodern Culture; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012) 179-180. Special thanks this morning to my friend Philip Eubanks, who is working on his PhD in the UK, for reminding me of the richness of Bell’s research this week.
In today’s Scripture, the Apostle Paul outlines the biblical definition of saving. It’s living on less than we make, so we can share from that which we have received from God. Search for yourself, you won’t find any biblical support for stockpiling treasures on earth. That’s the world’s definition of saving. In God’s economy, saving helps us avoid debt, make purchases with cash, and live intentionally with margin so we can give when we gather to worship.
Pastors often ask me when the “liturgical act of offering” should take place in a worship gathering. I echo Bell’s answer: invite people share in response to receiving the Word, after feeding them spiritually. And then send the gathered church forth as the scattered church to generously share more than just finances. Send everyone forth to live, give, serve, and love wherever God takes them each week as workers for Him.
Why do this? We get to help those we serve have their desires rightly ordered, their role in God’s economy properly understood, and their relationship to resources biblically oriented, so that they are not slaves to money, but rather, slaves to God. When we have done that, then they will be generous, regardless of their “acquisitive power or capital holdings” as Bell so keenly puts it. God help us to this end!
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