The Fear of Not Enough
According to Paul, Jesus said “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about giving. I don’t know about you but giving doesn’t come naturally to me. I don’t think any of us are born with a natural propensity to be generous. A quick study of a preschool playroom will affirm this.
Have you ever dreamed about what you would do if you won the lottery? If you are like most people, you’ve dreamed about how much good you could do with all that money! Interesting fact, a simple search of the internet tells us up to 70% of Lottery winners end up broke, or depressed, or both. But that’s not the point here. In reality, our level of generosity has little to do with how much we have. It has more to do with fear and the idea of scarcity.
Dr. Tim Keller says, “America is filled with comfortably prosperous people who mostly feel they don’t have enough. The root of an ungenerous heart is not mere stinginess or greed but fearfulness.”
Scarcity is a word that has come up often in the past decade. Everyone from psychologists to advertising executives to talk-show guests have tried to explain, and sometimes capitalize on, the ways scarcity shapes us as humans. But when we take away all the scientific talk, what does it really mean? The sense of scarcity, simply defined, is the fear that there is too little of something to go around—that there might be too little for us.
Scarcity affects us in almost every area of our lives. The messages all around us tell us to be afraid—and it’s easy to believe them. Fear is a suffocating emotion. It leaves us feeling selfish, bitter, and disconnected from others. Scarcity is an offshoot of fear that makes us see the world as zero sum, where anything you give means there’s less for me.
God didn’t create us to live this way. He wants us to trust in his goodness and his plan of provision. Out of the dust of the earth, he created humans with five senses and a playground of experiences to explore. Did you know the human tongue contains more than ten thousand taste buds or that they are regenerated and replaced every two weeks, just so we can experience flavor in what we eat? Or that the human eye can see more than ten million colors?
This makes me wonder, If God, in his generosity, creativity, and abundance, chose to create humans with such intricate detail, why do we doubt he has the capacity to care for a single person?
God addresses this in Matthew 6:25-26, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
God’s Capacity for More
The solution to Scarcity thinking and fear is resting in God’s capacity to care for us. Not just care for us, he orchestrates amazing and generous acts of kindness through us. Capacity is the fulfillment of opportunity God created in each thing and person for his purposes and glory. It’s about what God sees, which is so much bigger than even the most expansive human potential.
The paradigm of capacity helps us see beyond what I call the Land of What Is, which is where a scarcity-driven culture leaves us, and realize there is a Land of What Could Be that is rooted in faith and possibility. Faith leads us to recognize the capacity of something, not just things on the surface. Living in faith means leaning into the unknown and being willing to take risks. The paralyzing thing about fear is that it makes us hold on and not engage. Prayerful risk-taking pleases God.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul said, “I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others” (2 Cor. 8:8). Does the God of love really compare the devotion and actions of his children? Paul clearly said he does in the areas of love, sincerity, and honor.
In the early years of my marriage. Lisa and I were young, and a series of financial challenges and unexpected needs had depleted our bank accounts and left us in a place that felt unstable. But then I received my first-ever bonus at work—a check for $5,000. After a year of so much bad news, this money would make such a difference!
God had other plans. My wife felt God leading us to give that money toward the purchase of a vehicle for missions work in the Sudan. One that would be used to provide medical care to children. That evening as I prayed, God showed me the thousands of Sudanese children and adults who would receive inoculations and emergency care because of it.
God used that bonus to introduce me to the Land of What Could Be. He replaced my reluctance with a sense of privilege that he had chosen our family to take part in his work. That bonus check didn’t help us pay for the things I thought we needed; instead, it became a reminder that God’s economy is an economy of abundance, not scarcity. He changed my story from one of self preservation to one of hopeful generosity.
There is no limit to what God can provide when we let go and love with everything we have. When we learn to take our time, energy, and resources and look up to God’s purposes rather than being dragged down into the narrow perspective of a hurting world, we enter the Land of What Could Be.
The Life Lens of Faith
When we are faced with giving part of ourselves away, whether it’s money, time, or possessions, it takes faith to overcome our fears. Unless we can see with eyes of faith the capacity God has given, we will succumb to the snares of the enemy that seek to rob us of God’s provision in our lives. God wants us to sow and be generous. Satan wants us to be fearful and hold on to what we have. He wants our story to be one of pain or loss.
God loves to be believed. He loves it when we step out in faith and believe his promises of direction and provision. Exercising your faith will actually build your capacity. It will also build the “muscle mass” of your faith. Take time today to seek his direction in the area of giving.
When we specifically ask God to lead and bless us in the area of giving, we invoke his presence, power, and holiness in and he does the supernatural in us and through it. True consecration is an association with the sacred, an invitation for God’s divine holiness to enter into our limited human experiences and efforts.
Our human, scarcity-driven nature wants to store up what is ours and set it aside for a rainy day. God asks that instead we give him everything and then trust him to do what’s best. He will do something special to our sacrifices, but it’s not always what we expect. Sometimes he consumes the sacrifice, knowing we are better off without it. Other sacrifices he gives back to us, instilled with his power and purposes with capacity far beyond what we could bring on our own. From experience, let me encourage you to step out and see what God will do.
Hardwired for Generosity
Behavioral and neurological scientists have solid evidence that the human brain is designed for relationship and generosity. God designed us to reflect the generous nature of the great Giver. New research shows that generosity triggers satisfaction in the brain in the same way that our primal desires for food or even sex do. God designed us to give and share with others. Acts of generosity and sacrifice also appear to stimulate the production of the hormone oxytocin, which promotes bonding and closer relationships between people.
In the Bible, we are called to live generously in community with one another. This isn’t a suggestion or a nice idea. It’s the simplest description of what God wants from us. Knowing this, Satan attempts to fill us with anxiety and fear, hoping to keep us from God’s direction to love one another. Living one to another means making friends with people who need friends, giving time to people who need time, giving forgiveness to people who need to be forgiven, and giving love to those who feel unlovable. We were hardwired to do this!
God is faithful. He sees your intentions and knows your heart. His grace and mercy can fill in the gaps of your broken life and satisfy all the places where you think there is not enough. If you are in a place of fear and doubt, or if you’re holding on to something precious that God is calling you to commit—your time, your resources, your vulnerability, your gifts, your family—he understands. But still, he calls us to experience freedom and abundance through obedience. He beckons us to believe him. To consecrate ourselves and all that we have for his purposes and his glory.
I want to leave you with a prayer that’s recorded in Scripture. Paul prayed it over the church at Ephesus. Today, it is my privilege to pray it over you: 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19a and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
Today, step into faith and experience the power of a generous life!
If you want a deeper dive into this topic, I recently wrote a book called The God Guarantee about my transformation journey from scarcity thinking to God’s pattern of provision and abundance.