In 1999 the renowned Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann published a powerful and challenging essay in the Christian Century in which he characterized the biblical narrative as a story of tension between a mentality of abundance and the myth of scarcity. The entire article is well worth reading and can be viewed at http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=533

Here are a few selected quotes for those who may not feel inclined to plow through all 3,500 words of the original. These quotes need to be read slowly and thoughtfully. Each one is a small meditation in itself.  Brueggemann writes:

God’s force of life is loose in the world. Genesis 1 affirms generosity and denies scarcity. Psalm 104 celebrates the buoyancy of creation and rejects anxiety.

Blessing is the force of well-being active in the world, and faith is the awareness that creation is the gift that keeps on giving.

Pharaoh introduces the principle of scarcity into the world economy. For the first time in the Bible, someone says, “There’s not enough. Let’s get everything.”

the great king of Egypt, who presides over a monopoly of the region’s resources, asks Moses and Aaron to bless him. The powers of scarcity admit to this little community of abundance, “It is clear that you are the wave of the future. So before you leave, lay your powerful hands upon us and give us energy.” The text shows that the power of the future is not in the hands of those who believe in scarcity and monopolize the world’s resources; it is in the hands of those who trust God’s abundance.

the gifts of life are indeed given by a generous God. It’s a wonder, it’s a miracle, it’s an embarrassment, it’s irrational, but God’s abundance transcends the market economy.

because Israel had learned to believe in scarcity in Egypt, people started to hoard the bread. When they tried to bank it, to invest it, it turned sour and rotted, because you cannot store up God’s generosity. Finally, Moses said, “You know what we ought to do? We ought to do what God did in Genesis I. We ought to have a Sabbath.” Sabbath means that there’s enough bread, that we don’t have to hustle every day of our lives. There’s no record that Pharaoh ever took a day off. People who think their lives consist of struggling to get more and more can never slow down because they won’t ever have enough.

we must confess that the central problem of our lives is that we are torn apart by the conflict between our attraction to the good news of God’s abundance and the power of our belief in scarcity — a belief that makes us greedy, mean and unneighborly. We spend our lives trying to sort out that ambiguity.

The conflict between the narratives of abundance and of scarcity is the defining problem confronting us at the turn of the millennium. The gospel story of abundance asserts that we originated in the magnificent, inexplicable love of a God who loved the world into generous being. The baptismal service declares that each of us has been miraculously loved into existence by God. And the story of abundance says that our lives will end in God, and that this well-being cannot be taken from us.

What we know in the secret recesses of our hearts is that the story of scarcity is a tale of death. And the people of God counter this tale by witnessing to the manna. There is a more excellent bread than crass materialism. It is the bread of life and you don’t have to bake it. As we walk into the new millennium, we must decide where our trust is placed.

Jesus demonstrated that the world is filled with abundance and freighted with generosity. If bread is broken and shared, there is enough for all. Jesus is engaged in the sacramental, subversive reordering of public reality.

The closer we stay to Jesus, the more we will bring a new economy of abundance to the world.

the creation is infused with the Creator’s generosity, and we can find practices, procedures and institutions that allow that generosity to work.

Our faith, ministry and hope at the turn of the millennium are that the Creator will empower us to trust his generosity, so that bread may abound.

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