Abundance is a word that perhaps sits a little uneasily for a network devoted to simplicity – in fact abundance is part of the problem in a consumer society isn’t it? An abundance of choice, gadgets, food, credit and appetite for shopping has done significant damage to the fabric of communities, our moral vision and notion of what is valuable. As Jenny Flanagan said, “Everything is available to me right now if I have the money, but I don’t think it makes life better.” Too many of us have had too much of a good thing.
I confess I certainly saw it that way as I ruthlessly simplified and reduced in an effort to combat the spiritual obesity that I had gained along with an abundance of material possessions. Yet an ascetic response in a world of plenty lacks appeal and for understandable reasons. Self-denial is rarely an attractive message.
Breathe however was founded with different convictions. Instead we longed for something not less beautiful but more beautiful. We chose words like appreciate, thankful, connecting, faithful, generous. Even our refusal was rooted in a desire to find ‘joyous ways of engaging with the prevailing culture.’ We were ‘against’ consumerism only in as much as we were for a way of life that was richer and deeper. It was an invitation away from the shallow end and into the beautiful deep. It was an invitation to abundance; less stuff, more life.
The Christian tradition offers significant resources for those seeking this more abundant way and rooted in the character and nature of God. We believe that God is deep in His bones, as it were, a profoundly generous giver. Our planet, even in our age of ecological poverty, remains an incredibly bountiful, plentiful and diverse place. Yet just a few hundreds of years ago when the seas were teeming and the forests almost unending we would have seen how generous this creation really was. Yet this generosity was surpassed in the Father’s giving of His Son, to share our humanity, to redeem our brokenness and to lead us toward a future of renewed earth and heavens where again the lavish abundant gracious generosity of God will be shared with His new creation.
It is in reflecting on this that the apostle Paul tells us that we have an obligation that we should freely choose. There’s a reason why God loves a cheerful giver, because it means we’re once again reflecting the image of God to a broken world.
So out of the abundance of God’s goodness and grace, out of His generous provision to me and my family we want to give and to share. Generosity creates parties and opens homes to the homeless. Generosity turns the dining table from a place to impress to the place of family for the refugee who is separated from theirs. I want to be a cheery advocate of the benefits of generosity. Abundance means I don’t delight in how much I have but in how much I give. As we share and invite others to create, subvert and refuse the shallow end of mindless consumption we instead create a world of joyful participation. As we give away, so we receive so much more. As the scriptures say;
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
A philosophy of less can lead to spare sowing, but a mindset of generosity while not wasteful is bountiful and those who live like that will live abundantly.
*This post was first published at Breathe