The concept of sharing has mostly been a given for my kids. It has to be that way when there are six kids in a family. But we occasionally had some growing pains as my children learned how to share.
When Rachel (my younger daughter) first became mobile, she discovered she could make her way to the pile of Little People that Lauren, her slightly older sister, was playing with. Two-year-old Lauren would be surrounded by 20 Little People and all their houses and cars, their barnyard animals and zoo animals – far more than any toddler could possibly hold in her chubby hands at once. But when one-year-old Rachel crawled her way over and grabbed one chunky elephant, Lauren, in true toddler fashion, would scream, “MINE!” and snatch it from her little sister.
Obviously, there were plenty of round-faced plastic people and creatures to go around — for years my house looked like it had been decorated by Fisher-Price Design! But toddlers seem to operate from a scarcity mindset, fearful that if they share one toy, there won’t be enough fun left in the toybox.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to outgrow that mindset. Some of us are well into adulthood, grasping hold of all we can grab — all the stuff, all the freedom, all the power — fearful that if someone else gets one tiny bit, there won’t be enough left for us. Even though we’re surrounded by piles of plenty.
A scarcity mindset is the belief that there’s not enough to go around. When we think all the resources are limited and there won’t be enough, we’re stressed and stingy, unwilling to share. We look at everyone as competition. We’re suspicious and afraid, resentful and judgmental. We end up being isolated – either truly alone or walled off in our silo with only those we consider “our people.”
A scarcity mindset makes us terrible neighbors. We can’t love our neighbors if we’re afraid they might take a chunk from our piece of the limited pie. We can’t love our neighbors if we see them as competition for the scant resources. If we think that their having enough means we don’t, we won’t welcome them or advocate for them.
My faith calls me to forsake the scarcity mindset. As I learn more about God and grow in my understanding of God, my perspective transforms. I see that my God is a God of abundance. My God is able to do abundantly more than I could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). My God supplies all my needs according to all the riches of glory (Philippians 4:19). God’s house is filled with abundance and God’s delights flow like a river; in God is an abundant fountain of life (Psalm 36). God wants to fill us with an abundance of joy and peace and hope (Romans 15:13). Any little pile of stuff or power that we clutch in our tight-fisted hands or think we volunteer as charity is so meager compared to the abundant wealth of our God. All the animals of the forest are God’s. God knows every bird on the mountains and owns the cattle on a thousand hillsides (Psalm 50).
There is vast abundance.
An abundant mindset frees us to love generously, to feel optimistic, to collaborate and share, to trust. An abundant mindset compels us to seek justice – wanting for others all that we enjoy for ourselves. Because there is plenty to go around. There is enough.
We can’t act justly if we have a scarcity perspective. We can be charitable – we can behave warmly and give with a form of generosity. But we cannot desire real justice for everyone if we’re fiercely guarding what’s ours — afraid that if everyone gets what we have, there won’t be any left for ourselves.
I cannot love my neighbor as myself if I side-eye my neighbor’s desire to have the same freedom and opportunity and joy and wealth that I have. I cannot love my neighbor as myself if I hoard power and privilege and possessions, if I amass for myself and want to control what bits and scraps and pieces I offer to those I deem less-than.
There is abundance. There is enough. Enough freedom for me and for everyone who is different than me. Enough opportunity for me and for everyone who is different than me. Enough money and resources and success for all of us. My neighbors are not my competition. They are fellow image-bearers of God, just as loved by God as I am.
I don’t have to snatch and grasp and stash and stockpile. I don’t have to be afraid and defensive. I don’t have to clench my tight fists and shout, “MINE!” Because my faith tells me there is an abundance of all I could ask or imagine.
My challenge to myself and to anyone who would join me: Tear down the walls. Stop with the scorecards. Be a good neighbor. Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with our God of endless supply, remembering there is plenty for everyone.