Three months ago, we were carrying on in our lives with the usual cares and concerns. Two months ago, much of what we thought was important had changed. Within just a matter of days, it was impossible to find toilet paper, Lysol, sanitizer, bread, cereal, and other staples. But perhaps the biggest concern was the scarcity of masks for the medical personnel. As we move forward, many supplies are still not available. Other items have restrictions on the amount that can be purchased. Some of you have experienced this personally, and it has impacted you in various ways.
Ultimately, the issue is related to a mindset of scarcity – and specifically, its relation to abundance. For years, we were a people living in an economy that was experiencing unprecedented abundance. Now, much of that thinking has been changed. But worldwide, approximately 702 million people (or twice the population of the United States) live on less than $1.90 per day (that’s $694 per YEAR!!!).
That is why I say that scarcity is a mindset. Because I know some of those individuals who make less in a year than I do in a week. I am by no means wealthy in terms of money. But compared to many around the world, I am. But even those of us who have more than most, have a scarcity mindset at times – which is so evident when we consider hoarding. Because although hoarding may seem like someone has an abundance of something, the nature of hoarding actually comes from a mindset of scarcity. And scarcity comes from a mindset of not having enough trust – particularly in God.
I am not suggesting that we should not save for a rainy day. I am not suggesting that we should not make long-term plans with our resources. But I am saying that trusting God means we can share, we must share, of the resources that we have received. We will see this idea plainly in the passage today.
Why should we share? Because, as I have been saying for the last three weeks specifically, we are better together. Again, we are experiencing that in a very real way now that we are gathering together again, but beyond that, we must realize that learning, and living, and worshipping, and doing ministry, and sharing with others is all better when we do it together. We are better together.
And we are better when we include others. We see that time and time again – in the New Testament AND in the Old Testament.
And sometimes we find this truth in little known stories from unexpected sources, and unnamed individuals. Stick with me for the next few minutes and I will share with you such a story and why it matters for us today.
Before continuing, please read 2 Kings 6.24-32; 7.1-2.
At the end of 2 Kings 6, the king of Syria had overtaken Samaria (the northern kingdom of Israel). Verse 25 says that a great famine was taking place and a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels of silver. Ok, we may not have much context for that. But notice that ¼ of a quart of dove dung sold for five shekels of silver. While we do not know what type of coin Judas got, it definitely could have been a shekel. If true, dove dung was worth about 1/6 the amount that Judas got for betraying Jesus! That is a sermon for another day!
But the price would not stay that way for long. Read 2 Kings 7.1-2.
Soon after, Elisha said that the going value for seven quarts of fine flour would be a shekel. And fourteen quarts of barley would be a shekel.
Thus, in a short span of time (Elisha said, “tomorrow”), people went from paying five shekels for ¼ quart of dung to one shekel for seven quarts of flour. In other words, scarcity turned to abundance overnight.
But the captain of the king did not believe it could happen, and so while he did see the prophecy come true, he did not get to experience it.
But why did the scarcity turn to abundance?
The answer lies in God doing what only God can do and four unlikely heroes doing what they knew they should do. And when I say unlikely, I mean unlikely. Because as verse 3 tells us, they were lepers.
The lepers were preparing to die. They would die if they stayed where they were. They would die if they went into the city. No food existed for them. So, they had an idea to go to the enemy to see about getting some help there. But the Syrians had abandoned their camp because God made the Syrian army hear the sound of a mighty army approaching. That is the part that only God can do.
Verse 7 tells us that the Syrians left behind everything including their horses and donkeys. Verse 8 mentions food and drink as well as gold and silver. They left everything and these four men were the recipients – and the only recipients!
What would you do? What if you and three of your close friends found a huge stash of money? Furthermore, what would you do if everyone else wanted nothing to do with you – that is, you were an outcast? You found the loot. No one likes you. What would you do?
Well, they did what most people would do. They started taking it and hid it for themselves (v. 8). But then they realized that wasn’t right. They had every opportunity to hoard. Perhaps, they had every reason to hoard. Remember, the price of dove dung was outrageous. Scarcity was not just a mentality; it was a reality.
But these four men realized a greater possibility. Despite their condition and despite their opportunity, they knew the right thing was to share the abundance with others. (Read 2 Kings 7.9-10.)
But notice the king had a scarcity mindset. (Read 2 Kings 7.12) A servant recommended sending a scout team to determine the facts. When they returned seeing that the Syrians had fled and left even more stuff as they ran away, the people went out and plundered everything. But let me read the rest of the chapter. (Read 2 Kings 7.17-20.)
The man who did not believe the prophecy of Elisha was trampled. He did live to see the abundance, but he did not get to partake – just as Elisha said.
What do we take from this story? I think we can find at least four specific principles.
- God will do what only God can do. And He will do it when His time is right.
- When God is doing His part, we must do ours.
- When we partner with God, He will be glorified and the multitudes will be blessed.
- Not everyone will experience all that God has for them to experience.
But I think the last two principles relate to the idea of our mindset.
Granted, the people benefited from the actions of four men. That will happen. But if those four men had been selfish, no one would have benefited except themselves. The land was in a famine, but they overcame a mindset of scarcity and shared from the abundance.
But the captain of the king did not believe. He could not believe. And thus, he did not benefit. His was a mindset of scarcity.
Ladies and gentleman, our culture has a mindset of scarcity right now. We are in a bit of a “great famine” in a sense. Sure, COVID-19 has played a part in that, but have we gone overboard. Is hoarding necessary? Is stockpiling every possible supply truly helpful? Again, I am not suggesting that we do not prepare for a rainy day. And right now, we are in a rainy season, if you will. But the clouds will lift someday and then what? I suppose all of the extra supplies can be donated, but still.
But, I want us to focus on the idea that these men knew what they should do – AND THEY DID IT. If you have been watching my daily videos, you will know that I have repeatedly discussed the difference between intentions and intentionality. In this story it is the difference between the men thinking “maybe we should tell others about the bounty we have found” but keeping it for themselves versus actually telling others about the bounty.
Ultimately the difference between intentions and intentionality in this story is the difference between paying way too much for bird dung to being able to provide families with substantive food. The four lepers simply did what they could do because they knew what they should do.
And that leads us to our 4 Ls. But first, let me share our JOURNEY letter for today.
Our JOURNEY letter for today is E – ENGAGE.
The Engage part of our Strategy related to evangelism. The word evangelism simply means to tell others the good news. We are to tell the good news, and to do that we need to engage with others. That is what the men in this story did. They found a treasure of food, supplies, and money, and they told others. It was good news indeed. And because they told others, everyone received the blessing.
That is what happens when we share the good news of Jesus. We offer everyone who hears the good news – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the opportunity to receive blessings.
LEARN. In order to tell the good news, we must hear it. We must know it. In other words, we must LEARN it. The men in this story actually discovered the good news, but discovery is a part of learning.
LIVE. After we LEARN what the good news is, we need to LIVE it. We need to apply what we know to our lives. Just like the men in this story, they knew what they should do, and they did it. We need to do the same.
LOVE. As we LIVE according to the Good News, we begin to LOVE God and love others more. This love enables us to serve others even when it is difficult. Again, the men of this story were lepers. They were not likely shown much love. They likely were ridiculed. But they served others because it was the right thing to do.
LEAD. Ultimately, our LOVE for others will require us to share our lives with others. In other words, our lives can be an influence on others. That is what leadership is. It is influence. The four men influenced others by their action of sharing. Imagine how much influence they had to LEAD after that!
We need to be people who continue to LEARN, to LIVE what we learn, to LOVE while we LIVE, and to LEAD others to do the same. If we do what we are to do, and let God do what only He can do, then like this story, all of us can experience the blessings of God in ways that we can otherwise not imagine.
We are living in a time when most people have a mindset of scarcity. Maybe the scarcity is related to food or household items, maybe it is related to health, or any number of other matters. But as this story shows, it just takes people willing to do something a little different to turn scarcity into abundance. I believe God acted because these four men were willing to act. And because God acted, and the people acted, the prospects of a nation changed – at least for a while.
So, if your mindset is focused on scarcity, ask God to help you see the abundance in your life. Move your mindset from one of scarcity to one of abundance. When we live with a mindset of abundance (not prosperity, but abundance), we can say with the psalmist – “I shall not want.” And that is only possible by living in the economy of God, by trusting God, and by being willing to do your part as God does His part too.