Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Abundance (06/08/06)
TITLE: Bumper Crop
By Michelle Vander Wal
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Abundance in life, whether material goods, family or even spiritual blessings is a good thing, up to a point. What happens when we have a consistent bumper crop of anything? The overall value of the item or person or experience becomes less because it has become taken for granted. Now, many of us would say, “I don’t take my family, or my job or my faith life for granted,” in an injured voice. I think we do. Only when seen against the backdrop or circumstance of lack do we realize the true value of abundance.
When you have a great marriage, with a spouse who cares about you and fulfills their wedding vows, you feel lucky. On your anniversary you may even express this feeling of blessing to them and to God. On many days though, I bet, the routine of life does not leave much room for this awareness of abundance and it is taken for granted. Little things rankle, words can be less than encouraging and moments of connection go by with no notice. That is, until you come up against the knowledge of infidelity, drug addiction or financial ruin that tears apart the marriage of a friend or family member. The tears and cries on the other end of the telephone can bring into rapid focus just how good you may have it. This is when abundance shines and you thank God daily for his blessing in this area.
Abundance needs to be balanced by knowledge of poverty. The greatest type of poverty is expressed in Matthew 5 where Jesus tells the people, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.” Generally speaking poverty of spirit does not seem very desirable. We crave abundance, abundance of life, health, wealth and spirit. We want a nice house, a good job, well adjusted children, a close, loving relationship with God. What can happen to our abundance after a while is a sense of entitlement. Many societal commentators look at the teenagers of suburban North America and blame this sense of entitlement for their lack of focus, for drug abuse and a high pregnancy rate. We want to give our children everything and in doing so create a glut of abundance that blinds them to the value of poverty, to delayed gratification, to working for what you want. We need to reclaim the value of poverty of spirit.
What does it mean to be poor in spirit? To approach the throne of grace knowing that all that you have, are and do is a gift from God. It sounds easy and quite simple, like counting your blessings, but it’s actually hard to live this way. We feel entitled to our job, after all, we work hard. We feel entitled to a rich spiritual life; we attend church every week, read the Bible daily and pray. We feel entitled to a happy family environment because we spend quality time together and share our faith openly. Being poor in spirit means that when tough stuff hits we acknowledge our abundance, everything we feel we’ve earned, worked for or deserve is all from the hand of God. Job said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed is the name of the Lord.” Job understood the point Jesus is making in Matthew 5. The poor in spirit know the nature of true abundance and so when they come to God, they come with nothing. That is why they inherit the kingdom of heaven; they depend completely on God’s grace and so receive their treasure from him. Like a bumper crop of soy beans, abundance can be less fulfilling than you think. Remember, it is our poverty God wants, not our wealth.
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