April 9, 2020

A Theology of Enough

In the sixteenth chapter of Exodus, the story of manna is told. What was manna? It is referred to as "bread from heaven" and was a miraculous provision from God to nourish the Israelites as they traveled through wilderness. In verse 4 the Lord says to Moses, "I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day."

There are two important aspects of this story. First, God provides. Throughout Scripture we are reminded that God provides for us and that this ought to evoke a spirit of gratitude in us. This can bring about a number of debates such as, What does it mean when God does not provide, etc. I'm not going to get into that here but I do think that the second important aspect of this story may address it. And that is this: God provides enough.

In theological conversation, there are two poles when discussing capacities. It applies to everything from Christian soteriology to economics and those poles are a theology of scarcity and a theology of abundance.

Scarcity theology presumes that God provides only sparse resource. Not everyone will get some (whatever that "some" is). Traditions built around this tend to rely heavily on fear tactics. You don't want to be one of those that gets nothing. Scarcity thinking can drive us to hoarding. Sometimes this can result in an exclusivism and sometimes this can result in a shortage of toilet paper.

On the other end of the spectrum is a theology of abundance. Abundance theology presumes that God provides plenty of whatever resource we are discussing, whether that be salvation or "bread from heaven." You don't need to do anything but there is more than enough for everyone. Abundance thinking can drive us to opulence. Sometimes this can result in a blase, apathetic spirituality.

The truth is that many Christian leaders communicate both poles at the same time. Very confusing.

What we need, particularly in a moment such as that which we are facing now, is a theology of enough. The importance of the manna narrative is that there is enough for all of us ... but not so much that some can have more than enough. In fact, the story in Exodus tells us that those that tried to stock up on manna for a rainy day had the stuff spoil on them. God wouldn't allow some to have more and others to have none. There was enough for everyone.

What does that look like when applied right now?

Could it be that when it is clear that some have not been provided for, this is not God's negligence? Rather, could it be that this is our negligence of abiding by a theology of enough?

What would it look like for us to ensure that everyone had enough out of the conviction that this is what God's dream is for us?

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