Three Fallacies of Scarcity
As part of St. Peter's Stewardship program we have been presenting short “Stewardship Moments”. This year's theme has been ‘Three Fallacies of Scarcity’.
The worlds of media, politics and industry fill our waking moments with the fear of scarcity and the urgent need to consume and acquire more possessions. That’s how we are told to measure success. The reality of God’s world is that there is an abundance to share. The Gospel encourages us to achieve fullness of life by giving, sharing and working towards bringing about the world God has always intended.
The following are personal reflections from three of our preachers, each speaking to one of the three fallacies of scarcity:
- There Is Not Enough to Go Around;
- More Is Better; and
- That’s Just the Way It Is…”
We hope you find these reflections bring you a sense of hope and help you to think about how these fallacies may be influencing your life.
Stewardship Moment #1: “is there enough to go around?”
The Rev. Dr. Lissa Wray Beal
I’ve reflected on this throughout my life. Let me tell you my story that continues to remind me that there is always enough to go around.
When I was younger – much younger! I decided God was calling me to train for ministry. This meant leaving my paid position in a church. It was not a well–paying position, so I didn’t really have lots of money saved up. And as a single person, that meant there was no one working to pay the bills while I studied. A part–time job would take care of the most basic of necessities. . . if I was very careful!
As I thought of launching out into the world of “how would I pay my bills?” “how would I put food on my table?” I had to decide whether I would continue to give to the church. I’d made a commitment several years earlier to pay – off of every pay cheque – a proportional amount. Doing so helped remind me that God was providing a job, money, an apartment, food –– an understanding I didn’t want to lose. So I made the decision that, throughout my time of study, I would keep on with the level of giving I’d had while working. I also had a sponsored child, and I figured her need was greater than mine ever would be. So I also decided to continue sponsoring her while I studied.
So, I took the plunge, paid my tuition that first year, and watched my spending. I figured I would be able to keep things going if I was careful. And then – unexpectedly – things started happening: a lady from church offered to prepare “care packages” – a couple of meals a week that she put together for me. She did this for a full 2 years. Another person offered to pay the next semester’s tuition, even though I’d said nothing about my need. Someone else offered to pick me up so I could save on gas.
I had prepared for a tight belt, and increasing poverty through the years of study. In the end, others walked with me – sometimes with $$, sometimes with tangible goods. There was enough to go around. So much so, that I’d somewhere in the middle of my studies started sponsoring a second child. At the end of my studies, I still had a car, an apartment, food in the cupboard. Yes, I’d picked up a bit of student loan, but a lot less than I’d anticipated. And I had continued without interruption the same level of charitable giving as before I quit full-time work.
I think of that experience often now. Because now I do have a full-time job. I’m married now, so we have 2 incomes. But we recognize that these are God’s provisions to us – not to keep all to ourselves, but to give out of gratitude for what God has given us. There are lots of opportunities at school, and I watch for places where I might give, remembering what I had received when I was a student. I want to remember that there still is enough to go around. Over the years, we’ve sponsored several children from various countries, given time and money to various charitable causes, and continued with our church giving. It’s not like we are rich. Nor that we do it, wanting to be seen as big-ticket givers. Rather, each time we give, we are delighted that God has provided for us, and want to share with others!
Because what I’ve learned about stewardship is this: there is always enough to go around. Scarcity is never the issue. The issue is our willingness to watch for the needs, and give to the needs those things we can: our money, our time, our efforts.
There is always enough to go around.
Stewardship Moment #2 – “More is Better”
The Rev. Canon Mary Holmen
Today’s Stewardship Moment is brought to you by the second Fallacy of Scarcity: “More is Better”.
For those of you who don’t’ know, I was married to Mr. “If some is good, more is better”. John used to stock up on things when they went on sale. When my sister and I cleaned out the den last spring, I sent unopened packages of loose-leaf and graph paper, and a shoe box full of pens and pencils to Agape Table for school supplies or their children’s programs. Like many of us, John learned from his parents, who lived through the depression of the 1930’s, and some here today also experienced that time of hardship and deprivation themselves. It’s understandable that an experience like that, especially if it comes early in life, can colour your attitude and feelings about scarcity.
While I joke about what it was like to live with “if some is good, more is better”, if you take it to the extreme you get to the thinking that says, “The one with the most toys wins”. We live in a culture that glorifies the acquisition of things. If one car is good, why not have two? If you live in a 1500 square foot home, why not “move up” to 3000? I recently visited my sister in Thornhill, north of Toronto. We went for a walk around the neighbourhood and saw the contrast between the older homes and new construction. The oldest part of Thornhill is protected by historical designation, but outside this area, existing homes are being torn down and huge new ones built in their place. Perfectly sound, average-sized houses are gone to the landfill, and in their place are these monstrosities of 10,000 square feet or more. If they were large and beautiful, that might be one thing, but these aren’t even attractive. They are ostentatious, pretentious “McMansions”. They scream, “Look at me! Look at my wealth! Aren’t I successful? Aren’t I great?”
Our culture would like us to believe that the more things you have, obviously the more successful you are, and therefore the happier you will be. We are bombarded daily with advertising designed to support the culture of consumerism. This campaign is directed at all age groups, and it is remarkable successful. It both feeds on and feeds our anxiety about not measuring up, of being found deficient in some way. Our culture teaches that people are worth what they possess. This is a lie. It breeds competitiveness, aggression and greed. If we judge others only by what they have, we miss who they are, the inner gifts and character they possess. If we fear that others judge us by our possessions, we waste our energy promoting a false image to ourselves and others, instead of living mindfully and with contentment with what we have.
The thinking that says more is better is connected to the fear of scarcity. At bottom, it is really about lack of trust in God’s provision. Last week, we heard Lissa reflect about how she learned that there is, in fact, enough to go around. Scripture says we are made “in the image and likeness of God”. God is generous. God’s blessings abound and overflow. If we bear the divine image, we are made to be givers, not getters.