From the Field

What My Dog Emmett Taught Me About the Theology of Scarcity

From the Field

What My Dog Emmett Taught Me About the Theology of Scarcity

By February 12, 2016March 26th, 2024No Comments

No one formally instructed me on the theology of scarcity, but somehow I believed in it.

I didn’t know that until my dog Emmett showed me.

Every day on our walk Emmett always looked for something to eat.

Any moldy piece of bread or chicken bone with ants crawling all over it was viewed as a delectable morsel he had to have. Then, one day, he gobbled up something disgusting and I had had enough.

I yelled at him, jerked his leash, made him sit down, and began to reason with him, “Emmett, I have fed you twice a day since we brought you home. You have a yard to hang out in, we walk every day, and you have been provided for your whole life. Why would you eat that crap?” He just looked at me, licked his lips, yawned, and pretended he didn’t know what I was talking about.

Of course, I had to carry both sides of the conversation. So I formulated a response for him that began to disturb me, “Master, Master, I know you have taken care of me every day of my life. You’ve fed and sheltered me and become my family. Even though this has happened consistently since I was a pup, it will most likely end tonight.”

I then realized – Emmett believed in the theology of scarcity. I started to wonder, “Did I believe this, too?”

I have been provided for all my life, yet fear drives me towards foolish and unhealthy crap. I fear the other shoe will drop and I’ll end up under a bridge eating cat food. I know what God says. But I was living in the theology of scarcity, just like Emmett.

Fear told me God’s provisions were a fluke, temporary, and would most likely end tonight.

The theology of scarcity is a dangerous belief for relationships.

I remember realizing this during a massive relational conflict. I was once identified as the ring-leader in a cast of characters who had caused a decade-old hurt in a person.

When confronted, I was defensive. I reasoned multiple ways to reject the criticism aimed at me; the amount of time that had passed, Matthew 18 had not been followed, regulations in our church constitution forbid people bringing complaints this old, and the indignation…the list goes on and on.

I felt like someone wanted to take something from me and I needed to protect myself.

I spun this conflict like a holy quest and everyone I knew was with me, except the Holy Spirit. Dang.

I was deep in scarcity theology.

But the Spirit was pushing the theology of abundance.

Somehow, I started reading about it everywhere.

Genesis 1 illustrates the abundant goodness of creation. Psalm 23 describes a feast with an overflowing cup, even in the presence of enemies. In John 21, the fishermen-disciples haul overflowing nets when they follow Jesus’ direction.

And in Philippians 2:4, Paul shows us what the theology of abundance looks like: 

“Don’t look only to your own interests but also to the interests of others,” implying there is plenty to go around! Jesus calls me a friend and a son. “You are an heir with all the resources you need. If you give some or even all of your stuff away, or someone takes it, there’s plenty more.

You live in abundance. You are a SON. Your resources are limitless. Don’t be afraid.”

At that point, something changed.

Naming and repudiating my scarcity belief enabled me to enter the conflict with an abundance mindset changing everything about me.

We had a mediated encounter, where I carefully listened and understood how this person had been hurt. I could join him in his grief over his loss. I could wholeheartedly accept my part in his hurt. I could apologize for me and all the others who were implicated in this old, sad story. It helped him and it helped me.

I did have enough. There was enough to be radically generous.

Scarcity theology runs deep, and it lingers.

The other night, I walked into the grocery store and saw the man I had hurt in the checkout line.

He had not seen me and I wondered, “Would he be glad to see me? How awkward would this be? Maybe I could disappear in the back and linger in the dairy section until he leaves.”

But that night, abundance prevailed, and I yelled across the cashiers to get his attention. I waved and made my way around to shake his hand and greet him. He smiled and greeted me warmly.

I should have known. The Spirit is all about abundance theology.

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