The itinerant rabbi told the people that there was no shortage, insufficiency or lack. He told them that they could risk their lives as individuals, as families, and as a nation on the abundance of their God. He told them that if one of the foreign soldiers commanded them to carry his munitions backpack down the road for a mile; they could carry it for another mile as well. If someone asked them for their coat they could give them their topcoat also. When other people are in need you can help them be better off because you can afford to give to them out of your unseen abundance. Then he told them, freely you have received; now let us freely give. (Matt. 10:8)
Most of the people who listened to the rabbi as he spoke could neither grasp nor process all that he was saying. They had been taught the logic of the limited rather than the ability of abundance. So, he resorted to telling them a lot of stories and amazingly performed lots of miracles to help them understand and believe. More than once large crowds of people came to hear him teach and stayed right past their mealtime. On one occasion there was a gathering of five thousand men, plus women, plus children. Only one young boy had prepared for lunch by bringing five small barley loaves and two small fish.
The rabbi seated all the people, blessed the meager bit of food, and his companions started handing out the bread and fish to everyone. They kept passing it out until everyone was completely satisfied. When the large crowd left, he sent his companions around to pick up the leftovers. They picked up enough to fill twelve baskets. It was an astounding feat. It was a miracle where the local people could participate and go away with their stomachs full and their hearts and heads believing. There was no shortage and there was no garbage.
In one of his teaching sessions the rabbi actually told the people to stop fretting about not having enough. He seemed to know that living a life convinced that everything was in very short supply, or else already all gone, was not a healthy way to live. That kind of thinking would lead to weird behavior and set into motion tragic consequences. So he instructed them:
Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink: or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field which is here today and tomorrow thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well. (Matt. 6:25-34)
So, wherever the rabbi traveled and taught, the people were challenged to recall that throughout their history they had experienced abundance commensurate with believing in and being faithful to their God. When they had depended on themselves and their own cleverness and greed they had repeatedly shut off the spigot of abundance and had lived with the consequences of shortage, scarcity and insufficiency.
While teaching, the rabbi began explaining very explicitly who he really was. He was not just an itinerant rabbi, but the promised son of God who had come to present and explain eternal truth to those who would listen. That was even more perplexing and difficult for the people to understand and believe than the stories he told and the miracles he performed. He explained that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I come that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) He went on to explain that he would, of necessity, need to die to make provision for the promised resources and abundance, but would come back to life again to insure it.
I have personally witnessed how such things as this work. I have been a part of such miracles of abundance. While I was in Nagorno-Karabakh I saw the sad devastation in the country and the maiming and crippling of many of the victims. The constant bombing and the hidden land mines had left so many of the victims without arms or legs. Many others needed physical rehabilitation in order to be restored to health. I had promised the doctors and nurses that Project C.U.R.E. would help them establish a physical rehabilitation facility to be located in the city of Stepanakert.
When I returned to Denver from Nagorno-Karabakh, I had found out that we had sent all the rehabilitation equipment that we had collected in our warehouse inventory to a hospital in Turkey. What would we do? The time was quickly approaching when we had to ship the ocean going cargo container into Yerevan, Armenia to be transported by land to Stepanakert. Justin and his crew began to pray for the people in Nagorno-Karabakh, and that a miracle would take place allowing us to receive the needed rehabilitation equipment and prosthesis pieces. They kept the list of needed things for Karabakh right on their desk in the warehouse.
Then, one day our warehouse was notified that a large truck would soon be arriving at our docks. The truck was loaded with medical goods that had been donated to Project C.U.R.E. by a prominent medical company. But, Justin did not know what would be on the arriving truck. When the truck backed into the dock space, the driver hopped out and handed to Justin a manifest of all the donated contents in the truck.
“Jim, it was a miracle, an absolute miracle,” Justin said to me with tears welling up in his expressive eyes. “Jerry and I stood there, and I had the manifest of the new load from the truck that had just arrived in one hand and the list of needed equipment and prosthesis pieces for the Nagorno-Karabakh load in my other hand. The two lists were almost identical. Jim, it was a miracle,” he told me. “When we arrived at the warehouse this morning we didn’t have what we needed. Then within the next hour we had everything we needed to send. Now they will have almost everything they requested to complete the rehabilitation center, plus lots and lots more medical supplies than they even expected! We have just been a part of a miracle.”
I am learning that with God’s abundant resources available to us as a family, we can afford to give abundantly. I am learning that we can risk our lives on the enduring economic trilogy of abundance, choice, and accomplishment.
Next Week: Supposin’: A Personal Choice
(Research ideas from Dr. Jackson’s new writing project on Cultural Economics)
© Dr. James W. Jackson
Permissions granted by Winston-Crown Publishing House