A Generosity Project Reflection: Scarcity or Sufficiency?

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A Generosity Project Reflection: Scarcity or Sufficiency?

The Generosity Project is a collaborative effort between ABCUSA, regions, and local congregations.  The Generosity Project aims to help pastors re-frame the conversation around stewardship and generosity in their congregations. Bi-monthly blogs help support new growth and understanding as we deepen our ministry and discipleship. The reflection below was provided by Rev. Stacy Emerson.

In her book The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist contrasts the vocabulary of “scarcity” with the vocabulary of “sufficiency.” When we are entrenched in a scarcity mindset, we live in places of “never enough, emptiness, fear, mistrust, envy, greed, hoarding, competition, fragmentation, separateness, judgement, striving, entitlement, control, busy, survival, outer riches.” We compare and judge, perceive better or worse, and live in a constant state of dissatisfaction. But when we re-frame and work to ground ourselves in “sufficiency,” we dwell in “gratitude, fulfillment, love, trust, respect, contributing, faith, compassion, integration, wholeness, commitment, acceptance, partnership, responsibility, resilience, and inner riches.” (p.209)

One of the challenges of moving from scarcity to sufficiency is that we believe that in order to achieve sufficiency, we must have more. “More is better” is woven into American identity. More money. More time. More church members. We think, next week or next year, or in 5 years, then we will have enough. Except that the goal post keeps moving. Look closely and we can see the illusion—the yearning for more is just another expression of scarcity’s “not enough” point of view. The contentment found in sufficiency is not about striving for more; it finds peace in having—and being—enough. When we claim that God is sufficient for every need, we trust in “enough.” We temper the temptation for more, for scarcity’s deceptions about what we have and who we are, and we live and serve not only with more contentment but with deeper purpose.

This does not negate the truth that there are those who truly know scarcity—who cannot make ends meet and live in anxiety and fear for want of basic necessities. We should work to make the world an equitable place. But so often we are stopped or limited in what we do because we are protecting our own sense of not having enough. And that attitude stunts the flow of generosity.

We do have the power to reframe the conversation—the one we have internally and the ones we have with each other—around not having, or being, enough. It begins with the vocabulary we choose to dwell in, whether centered in scarcity or sufficiency. It will take some practice to become aware of the unconscious ways we live with “not enough” and then choose to perceive the ways God is providing sufficiently. But when we do, the power of it can transform not only our own lives, but the world around us. All it takes is “gratitude, fulfillment, love, trust, respect…” You get the idea.

Rev. Stacy Emerson is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, CT and the Stewardship Consultant for ABCUSA.  She is also the Facilitator for The Generosity Project which is about helping congregations deepen their understanding of stewardship as a call to generosity as disciples of Jesus; re-framing the stewardship conversation; and cultivating generosity in pastors, lay people, and congregations.