Seeing God’s Story of Generosity In Scripture
The Bible tells the story of God’s generosity, from beginning to end, from the gift of an abundant creation, an earth overflowing with more than enough for all, to the gift of Jesus himself, the gift of the Spirit, the gift of the church, the vision and promise of a new creation.
As we read through a series of passages from the Bible, I invite you to write down words or phrases that you hear in the text itself, or perhaps arising in your heart and mind, that suggest God’s abundant generosity. Perhaps you have never noticed them before, or thought of them as related to stewardship and generosity.
We’ll be drawing on the scholarship and poetic writing of the great scholar of the Old Testament, Walter Brueggemann, among others. As you listen to the readings, keep in mind three verbs: remember, trust, and share. If Brueggemann’s writings on abundance and the Bible had to be summed up in only three words, these three might be good choices.
The Bible: The Story of Abundance
1. “In the beginning….” From the very beginning, God lavished an abundance of good gifts on us. Genesis, our founding story, our story of origin, is unlike the stories other cultures told in those days. Where others saw conflict and wars between gods, our ancestors in faith remembered that one good and loving God created all that is, including humankind, blessing it all and pronouncing it “good.”
Read: Genesis 1:26-31
Genesis describes the abundance of God’s generosity and the way God intended things to be. To “have dominion over” can be defined not as having control or the right to use something but instead “to be responsible for its well-being.” The Inclusive Bible translates Genesis 1:28: “God blessed them and said, ‘Bear fruit, increase your numbers, and fill the earth – and be responsible for it! Watch over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things on earth!”
A footnote in that same translation reminds us that we are created in God’s image, “so surely the idea of stewardship and caretaking, not violation and destruction, is inherent in that calling.”
2. Israel’s song of praise for God’s abundance: Israel noticed the abundance around them (how often do we miss it?) and remembered where it came from: a good God who found creation “good.”
Psalm 104: 1a, 10-28
- In the wilderness: After God delivered the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt, they spent time in the wilderness on their way to the land flowing with milk and honey. When things got tough, the people failed to remember the goodness of God and even longed for the “comfort” of the captivity they had left behind in Egypt. Moses and God reminded them, but instructed them to trust the goodness of the Giver to provide for them again the next day – that is, do not hoard.
Read: Exodus 16:11-21
REMEMBER the giver, and TRUST the goodness of the one who provides: there will be enough.
Walter Brueggemann writes about the clear choice Joshua puts before the people as they enter the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey:
“Joshua 24: 15b puts the choice before us. Joshua begins by reciting the story of God’s generosity, and he concludes by saying, “I don’t know about you, but I and my house will choose the Lord.” This is not a church-growth text. Joshua warns the people that this choice will bring them a bunch of trouble. If they want to be in on the story of abundance, they must put away their foreign gods — I would identify them as the gods of scarcity.”
How would you define idolatry, and false gods, in our own day?
What messages do “the gods of scarcity” send us today?
- The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007), 5.
2 Walter Brueggemann, Deep Memory, Exuberant Hope: Contested Truth in a Post-Christian World (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2000), 73.