There were nine in my missionary family. Living as supported Bible translators meant that my parents had to stretch the family budget like miracle workers. With her allotted portion, my mother put food on the table three times a day. While everyone got an initial serving, seconds were up for grabs and thirds were rare. Let me assure you, we did not go hungry. We just knew that the supply had to be carefully allocated.
Living on this planet has made us keenly aware we have limited resources. And that has led to a scarcity mindset. Since there is only so much to go around, we have to be sure to seize our share or we will miss out. We think there is only one first prize, one CEO, one glass ceiling. This mindset leads to comparison, competition and a me-first attitude.
Author and teacher, Dr. Jackie Roese says that “an ethic of scarcity is a sum zero game. It’s the idea that if a person moves forward then another must move back in line.” It causes us to police others to keep them in their lanes, to ask who’s first and who’s last and to hold back someone who might surpass us.1
At first glance, it seems as though Jesus is propagating this mentality in his encounter with the Syrophoenician woman:
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. ”Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.Matthew 15:21-28 NIV
A desperate Gentile woman seeks out Jesus and begs him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. Her words reveal that she understands that he is the king (Son of David). She prostrates herself before him, like a dog licking a master’s hand (according to the definition). She admits her need and persists in seeking Jesus’ help.
Jesus, the epitome of kindness, our example of hope and healing, actually ignores her!
Jesus says in effect: My bread (my message of salvation) is for my children (the Jews), not the household pets (everyone else). The disciples nod their heads in agreement. Limited resources. Scarcity mentality.
Then comes the twist. The woman responds: I only want one crumb. One of your crumbs will be enough for me and my daughter. With that faith statement, Jesus heals her daughter.
Just prior to this incident, Jesus had fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. Talk about scarcity. But Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35 NIV). Talk about abundant multiplication.
As usual, Jesus has more than one thing going at a time. This is not a snub to the woman but rather a teaching opportunity for his followers, the disciples. While Jesus started with the Jews, God intended all along to offer salvation to the whole world. The disciples needed to learn that their Savior and his healing powers is available to everyone.
In Jesus, there is enough bread to go around. There are not a limited number of seats in heaven, a restricted amount of spiritual blessings. Ephesians 3 says he has glorious riches. Our inheritance is vast. His love is not meted out piecemeal.
So when I view my life through a scarcity mindset, I become stingy with my time, money and gifts. I try to assert myself to get my share of the market, my rightful place in the company. Or I shrink back and disappear because the seats at the table are already taken by others.
This scarcity mindset kept me from pursuing one of my dreams—to write a book. I thought that there were only so many stories to be told, so many books that could be written, so many authors that could take a seat. I am learning that in Jesus, there is enough and my book is on the horizon.
How has a scarcity mindset affected your use of your gifts?
How is Jesus enough for you today?
Lord, Son of David, help me. I come to you because only you have the words of life (John 5:68) and an unlimited supply of resources. Help me to stop striving for my share of the goods, competing to get ahead nor shrinking back in fear—but instead confidently use the gifts you have given me.
1 Dr. Jackie Roese, I’m Enough: Learning to Live Confidently in Your Own Skin, (HIS Publishing), 81.