As the crippled US economy limps through another year of recession/depression/debacle/whatever, my thoughts have moved to the nature of the Divine Economy. Not that Heaven has a monetary system with currency, exchange rates, and a national debt. I’m thinking more of an economy of value. When I look at God’s Word I am impressed that the Lord values scarcity in His kingdom. He actually seems to intentionally build it in. Intuitively, we think the opposite would be the case in a kingdom that makes its own rules. Abundance seems good and scarcity is a problem to be solved. But this isn’t the first time you’ve noticed that the Lord sees things a bit differently than you and I.
Our own earthbound approach to economics actually understands the value of scarcity. Even though more seems better, marketing experts understand that scarcity or at least the perception of scarcity is a good thing. Promotions that feature a rare product, in short supply, for a limited time dominate ads. Perceived scarcity generally increases a sense of urgency among consumers. And that increased urgency motivates consumers to action. Want to ratchet up responsiveness? Reduce availability of goods, services and opportunities. We see this played out here in North Carolina every time there is a hint of snow. Stores in the area quickly run out of bread and milk in a threat-of-scarcity fueled buying frenzy.
Abundance, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. Next time you are sitting in a left hand turning lane waiting for a traffic light to change, pay attention to the behavior of drivers in the line. The first few drivers have an abundance of time to get through the intersection under the green arrow. They start slowly and move at a snail’s pace through the turn. As the time to make the light decreases (creating scarcity), you’ll observe drivers further down the line responding aggressively with a growing sense of urgency. Also note that scarcity encourages efficiency whereas abundance leads to waste. The drivers further down the line are more focused and aware than those out front. The former don’t have the luxury of distraction and complacency. Waste is the typical result of abundance.
We see the principle of scarcity played out in relationships as well. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” is an old saying based in this concept. People with less access to one another tend to make the most of the time they have together. Often, the quality of their interactions increase as time together is limited. People are usually on their best behavior with each other before marriage. However, abundance of time and access after marriage often leads to an erosion of considerate and gracious behavior.
So, what about the heavenly economy of scarcity? Well, take a look at the Beatitudes. Blessed are the poor. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Lots of scarcity in those blessings. The poor are much better resource managers than the fabulously wealthy. Nobody asks Donald Trump where to find the best deals on car or appliance parts. Those who grieve appreciate the loss and scarcity of life. Those who grieve do not take living loved ones for granted. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness implies an awareness of scarcity in one’s soul. A longing in the spirit drives the starving to activities that allow them to know God more deeply. Along those same lines, have you ever had an unanswered prayer? The Lord’s delays usually lead to more passionate and conscientious prayer. We usually don’t search the Scriptures for answers and insight when we immediately get what we ask for. Finally, Jesus’ life was a remarkable statement of the Father’s value for scarcity. From its onset in a rented barn to the disposal of His estate at the foot of the cross, the King of Kings demonstrated unearthly peace with very little.
This fortnight, thank God for the scarcity in your life. Scarcity is maybe more evidence of His activity on your behalf than the abundance. It is the scarcity, not the abundance that draws you into His presence. It is the scarcity that makes you more mindful and reverent. And it is the scarcity that hones your spirit into the likeness of His beloved Son.
Now go out there and have a great fortnight. Lord knows they are scarce…so make the most of ‘em.