In the Catholic Relief Services guest dining room in Baltimore we have decorated the left wall with pictures of grains, plants, trees, water. The inscription reads: “We shall see the bounty of the Lord.” On the opposing wall, we have the words from Psalm 27:13, “in the land of the living.” It is accompanied by pictures of people enjoying the gifts of the earth.
Our work, though it takes place in the worst deprivations (food, medical care, education, livelihood, or justice) is premised on our faith in God’s abundance. The cause of these sufferings is not that God has not provided enough but that we have not been good stewards in the way we take and give back.
A misinterpretation of God’s abundance has led many down the path of buying more, having more, building more, storing more, using more, wasting more, needing more. We know this is not sustainable as a way of living and is definitely not a way to honor God’s abundance.
To turn away from a consumerist approach to God’s abundance, I propose we look at contrasts.
For example: hoarding vs. giving. Scripture — most directly illustrated in Luke 12, the parable of the rich fool who built the barn for his surpluses — clearly tells us that when abundance leads to hoarding, we are in big trouble. Repeatedly, Christ summoned us to give, to serve, to feed his flock. Each of us must discern what constitutes appropriate preparation and what is too much? What is responsible planning and what is faith?
Christ reminded us in John 10:10, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Even in Genesis, when God left humans his handiwork, whereby everything he made was good, it is to allow us to “be fertile, multiply,” or to live life fully, to know and love him through his creation. God’s abundance is to lead us to life in him, not to things in place of him.
God casts his love for all, his bounty without exclusion for the entire land of the living. Abundance is for us, all of us, not just for one person. Economics posits that all the needs of every person cannot be met. I, trained in the discipline, ascribe to this.
But those needs that are essential for human flourishing and dignity can be and must be met for everyone. This is not just from my observations through the work of development, but ultimately it is the promise of God and the expression of the God of love for all.
May we turn our hearts and minds to God’s abundance this Thanksgiving season.
Woo is president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services.