Scarcity thinking

Tuning in to a Mindset of Abundance

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10 (ESV)

Merriam Webster defines abundance as “an ample quantity, profusion, or a relative degree of plentifulness.” The Bible teaches that we will not only have enough, but that God will provide for us abundantly. Do you always think that way? I don’t.

But the other day I was reminded how our scarcity thinking can distract us when a comical example of our confusion bounced into my kitchen.

The Scarcity of the Tennis Balls

While I watched my golden retriever try to play with three tennis balls at once, I laughed at how silly she was. Doesn’t she know that she can only hold one ball in her mouth at once? That no matter how hard she tries, two balls will not fit into her mouth? Doesn’t she realize that she has an abundance of tennis balls, and that she is free to enjoy the one that she has?

Instead, she would continuously drop one ball to pick up another over and over, each time thinking that the ball skittering across the floor was somehow better than the one she already held in her mouth. Never content to enjoy the one ball that she had, she wanted them all. It was super cute and funny.

Then I realized that I do the same thing. And it’s not so cute or funny.

Our Scarcity Mindset

I won’t have enough time to get done all the things I want to do today, so I rush. I won’t have enough money to send my kids to college or to retire in the way that I want, so I worry. I will be hungry later if I don’t eat enough now, so I overeat. I won’t have enough clothing options for the upcoming family pictures, so I shop even though my closet is full. I worry that there won’t be enough demand for my book idea or a large enough market for my business idea, so I take action on neither.

This is my scarcity mindset, but I am not alone.

We see this attitude imbedded in our society. Why do we work ourselves to death, while our kids are young so that we can go on a European river cruise when we’re 70? Why do we eat past being satisfied as if we don’t know where our next meal is coming from? Why do we spend money we don’t have to buy square footage we won’t use and furnish it with furniture we can’t afford to impress people we don’t like? Why do we buy plastic junk from China to fill stockings with things that will be in the landfill by next Christmas?

The answer to all of these questions can be answered in one word: Scarcity.

We don’t think we will have enough time, money, food, space, or stuff. Even though we have enough right now, we worry that, in the future, there will be scarcity. But that’s not how we, as Christians, are called to think. Jesus came to give us life to the full…in abundance.

When Scarcity Thinking is Helpful

There are times when it is wise to recognize and consider true scarcity. We don’t have unlimited amounts of time or money, so we must prioritize the important. Planning and saving for the future are responsible things to do.

So, where is the line?

The line between considering scarcity and allowing it to hold us back is that same fine thread between trust and fear. If I am taking action to prepare for the future or walk in my calling while trusting God for the results, then I am using a healthy dose of scarcity. I’m planning my day because I know I can’t do everything that pops into my head or onto my screen; I’m stocking the fridge to feed my family; I’m buying things out of necessity, but not stockpiling or buying out of fear; I’m taking the next step in my career path, trusting God even in rejection, knowing that He will also use things that I perceive as “failures” in my life.

How Can I Recognize When My Scarcity Mindset is Pointing to a Lack of Trust?

In our culture, scarcity thinking out of fear for the future is so prevalent that it’s thought to be normal. Shouldn’t we get as much stuff as we can? Buy the biggest house we can afford? Get our money’s worth at the buffet?

I know that I am falling into a scarcity mindset when:

  • I am rude or short with people who “interrupt” my day. Instead of keeping people a high priority, I put too much focus on sticking to my plan.

  • Finding myself worrying instead of praying, I try to control all the variables.

  • I prioritize things, tasks, and my list over people.

  • Procrastination becomes a tool of avoidance because I’m afraid that my idea won’t be good enough, there is too much competition, or I don’t have what it takes.

  • I fear failure instead of focusing on what I can learn from failure.

How can I transform my thinking into that of abundance?

First, I need to wake up and smell the fear in my thinking. When I begin to believe that I can’t trust God’s promises and I need to strive and control in my own effort, that is the scarcity talking. I don’t have what it takes. I will fail at what I’m trying to do – and that would be the end of the world!

But the truth is that God will finish the good work he started in us. So, we have no need to fear failure. While we might not experience success the way we define it, we will undoubtedly learn some great lessons from the process. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. They are better.

  • Instead of worrying so much about results, we can put our focus into walking in our calling, being faithful today, and letting God be in charge of the results.

  • Instead of worrying that our to do list won’t be checked off, we can plan our days and let go of its arrangement when God redirects it.

  • We can remember that people are always a good use of our time.

  • Instead of fearing competition, we can encourage other people who have similar interests and passions. We can choose to see those who have gone before us as those who have proved the concepts that we want to deepen or expand.

  • Being responsible with what God has given us, we can steward our gifts and blessings as best we can.

  • We can choose to not worry about tomorrow, and let tomorrow worry about itself, knowing that today has enough for us to think about.

  • We can call to memory the many times when God has provided for us. So often we have worried about things that never came to pass, problems that resolved themselves, or walked through trials that God has been faithful to walk through with us.

  • We can remember that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Do you tend to have a mindset of scarcity or abundance? Leave a comment and let me know!

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this today, as I read it on the last day of 2018. My prayer is to not have a mindset of scarcity in 2019, but to walk in all if God’s provisions each day, as they are surely enough!
    Wishing you and yours a blessed new year!

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