Posted by: Dan | January 31, 2007

Recovering a Theology of Abundance

Abundance,not scarcity, is the mark of God's kingdom. Bu that abundance must be made manifest through the lives of a people who have discovered that they can trust God and one another.
~ Stanley Hauerwas, Matthew

In general, the language of “abundance” and “blessedness” puts me on edge. I tend to associate such language with either the “prosperity gospel” that teaches us that God wants us to have more than we already have, or with the upper-middle-class form of Christianity that assures us that God just wants us to be comfortable and enjoy the blessings that our culture affords us. Thus, when I stumbled onto Hauerwas' words about “abundance” in his commentary on Mt 6, I was a little taken aback. Yet Hauerwas was clearly offering a different sort of approach to abundance than the norm. Generally those who talk about “abundance” don't talk about the need to trust one another. After all, from their perspective, abundance is akin to some sort of extravagant autonomy. Sure, they would say, I learn to trust in God, but the abundant life means not having to trust in others for acts of charity.

So what is Hauerwas doing when he combines the notion of “abundance” with the notion of trusting in (and even depending upon!) not only the charity of God, but the charity of others?

Well, Hauerwas is recovering a proper theology of abundance. A proper theology of abundance results in simplicity. Our assertion that abundance is the mark of God's kingdom does not lead us to live extravagantly; rather it leads us to live simply — it leads us to give away, today, all that we have because we are certain that both God, and his people, will provide for tomorrow. We become so certain of God's overflowing abundance that, instead of grasping and hording, we end up living lives that are increasingly free of the possessions and securities that are, in fact, the marks of worldly kingdoms.

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