The God of All Abundance

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God did not create man because He was lonely. The Creator of all things was not trying to fill up any sort of lack in Himself. He is fullness itself, and is never in need of anything. Everything He did was pure overflow. Abundance is not something God has, but is rather something that God is.

And one of the great privileges that we as creatures have is the privilege of learning how to imitate Him in this. How might we learn to overflow? The beginning of that wisdom is the realization of what God is like. We are imitative and reflective creatures, and we will become like what we worship (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 3:2). As we grow in our realization of what He is, which is what happens in the natural course of our worship of Him, we are transformed increasingly into His likeness. But there is a possible problem. He is in fact the God of all abundance, but if Christians are working from a false doctrine that assumes He is the God of all scarcity, it is not surprising that the results we get are as dismal as they are.

But this does require careful treatment.

That Careful Treatment

This good world is also a fallen place, and this means that we do have to deal with the fact of real scarcity. Scarcity is a grim reality. We do have to cope with a scarcity of wisdom, a scarcity of joy, a scarcity of our old prelapsarian ability to see and understand the fullness and goodness of Almighty God. Our fall into sin did not change or alter His character at all, but our whole rebellion at the fall was predicated on the lie that God was being stingy with us. And we have been believing that lie ever since. If someone lets go of the wheel, we drift inexorably toward the ditch of that lie. We need to have our front end aligned.

“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

Genesis 3:4–5 (KJV)

God had given Adam and Eve life, and breath, and glory. He had given them an entire world, over which they were instructed to exercise dominion (Gen. 1:28). He had given them every herb bearing seed on the face of the entire earth, and fruit-bearing trees in the world for food, all trees but one (Gen. 1:29). He gave them a multitude of descendants in principle, and dominion over every living creature (Gen. 1:28). And then the serpent came with the insinuation that God was somehow holding something back, something that they felt they had a right to. They had a claim on whatever it was that He was holding behind His back. God was being stingy. There was something there in His hand, and it was their duty to pry His fingers open. God must be holding something important back from them, and He must have had nefarious motives for doing so.

This is the primal lie. God must be tightfisted. He must be the Lord of the pinched results.

When we give ourselves over to this lie, there are times of chastisement when God in His turn gives us over to that same lie.

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, That I will send a famine in the land, Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, They shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.”

Amos 8:11–12 (KJV)

This is a time of true scarcity, but it is a famine in the heart. It does not say anything about the nature of the creation, the nature of the world—the world is as fecund as ever. What it says is that mankind, created to be a steward over all creation, has turned away from the God of abundance, believing Him to be miserly, and turned toward the father of lies, the devil, believing him to be willing to give us what we want.

And when there is a famine of the Word of God, there are soon famines of the other sort. When grasping selfish men gain control of a population, they soon lay waste to everything. If socialists were given charge of the Sahara, they would soon be dealing with a shortage of sand. If communists were to take over Hawaii, they would soon be running low on salt water. But this kind of famine is the direct result of the foundational famine—not having and not believing the Word of the ever-giving God.

The False Construction Placed on God’s Motives

God did tell our first parents not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which means that He did hold one thing back from them. But He did this because He was protecting them from the consequences of a premature grasping after rule. In Scripture, the knowledge of good and evil does not refer to an understanding of basic ethical issues, but rather to the maturity that understanding the responsibilities of rule and dominion. So when God says no, it is always because He has a richer and better yes in store. Adam and Eve were not yet ready for full dominion. Had they waited, they would have been given much more than they tried to seize prematurely.

God has a glorious banquet prepared for us, and He consequently forbids us to come into the kitchen and break open a bag of chips fifteen minutes before that dinner is ready. He says no to this because He does not want us to ruin the yes that is coming.

“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit”

Ephesians 5:18 (KJV)

Don’t get drunk on wine, but rather be filled with the Spirit. No to this, and yes to a much better that. This is the pattern. God teaches us that deferred gratification is the way. This is not the annihilation of all gratification, but rather deferred gratification. We should not be like the Israelites at Aijalon, who flew upon the spoil and ate the meat with the blood still in it (1 Sam. 14:32). Unbelief is profoundly impatient, and faith always has an eye for the long view.

Deferred gratification enhances the joy. Greed devours in a thoughtless way, and does not really enjoy what it vacuums up. Miserliness accumulates and never ever partakes of what is being gathered. Disciplined enjoyment is always better, but God is disciplining us so that we are fit recipients of His abundance.

“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

1 Timothy 6:17–19 (KJV)

Why did God give these rich people the gift of “uncertain riches?” What was that for? He gives them richly “all things to enjoy.” He is not parsimonious at all. When he goes on to say that the rich should be doing good, that they should be rich in good works, that they should be ready to donate and share, what is he saying? He is saying that by so doing they are becoming more and more like He is. He gives us abundance so that we might learn the blessing of giving abundantly.

When God gives to us, He is not trying to unload anything. It is not like the wealth of His grace is a burden to Him, and so He needs to get rid of some of it. In the same way, when a wealthy man follows Paul’s injunction here, he is increasing the blessedness of what he has. It is not as though a rich person has a bunch of money (money that has cooties), and so he needs to figure out a way of passing those cooties on to someone else, someone with no money. If wealth is such a curse, what on earth would we want to share it with other people for? If wealth was a curse, wouldn’t it be a noble thing to hog it? Kind of like jumping on a grenade to save your buddies?

But if wealth is a blessing, then it is necessary to treat it as a blessing. If wealth is a blessing that is grounded in the character of God, then it should be shared as though it were grounded in the character of God. When the rich in this present world share their wealth, they are trying to expand on a good thing. They are not trying to get rid of some sort of curse.

So the problem with abundance is not the presence of the abundance, but rather the presence of the selfishness. Take two selfish people and hand each of them a cornucopia overflowing with blessings, and at least one of them will notice some unfairness in the arrangement. But rather than repent of this selfishness, the selfish heart assumes that it is somehow a higher way to blame the abundance, and that is just a short step away from blaming the one who gave the abundance.

What God is Like

All of this comes back to what God is really like. If we perceive Him to be the Cosmic Skinflint, then we are reciting from the devil’s catechism. When we realize that we are the skinflints, and that we are this way because we have believed the devil’s lies, then repentance looks very different.

“Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.”

Dt. 28:47-48 (KJV)

Why were the Israelites going to come under judgment? Because they were not joyful and glad for the abundance of all things. They did not rejoice in their stuff sufficiently. And lest anyone respond with something like “that’s in the Old Testament,” I made a point of quoting 1 Timothy 6 first. God gives us things so that we might enjoy them. But not as the misers do—rather as the God of all abundance does.

The question again. What is God like?

“And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O Lord, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the Lord thy God, and worship before the Lord thy God: And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you”

Dt. 26:10-11 (KJV)

What does “thou shalt” make you think of? Does it make you flinch? Thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house.

But note that the worshiper is told that he must include the Levite and the stranger in his worship of God—he must share as he worships with his tithe—but that the foundation of this sharing is the fact of property ownership. He is called to share “every good thing” which the Lord his God “hath given” unto him. God gave every good thing to him, and to his house. He is to rejoice in that fact, and then he is to overflow in imitation of his God.

This is the answer to those who think that any assertion of robust property rights is to absolutize them. The only absolute property ownership is God—the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof—but it is precisely for this reason that we may have robust private property rights. The absolute owner gives, and we, mere relative owners, must imitate Him.

He gives with stipulations and conditions, certainly, such that our ownership is always stewardship, but at the end of the day, we may say that the God of all property gave “every good thing” to me and “to my house.” He does not do this so that we may then try to be unlike Him, hoarding everything for ourselves. Not at all. At the end of the day, the worshiper of God should be able to say something like this:

“I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them”

Dt. 26:13 (KJV)

The worshiper who gives to the Levite, and to the stranger, and to the fatherless, and to the widow, is doing so with the same verb that is used when it speaks of God’s giving to him in the first place. If God gives, then so may we.

This means that private property is the foundational basis of all true mercy giving, not a competitor to it