What does Jesus know that we do not?
This coming Sunday, we will pray in our opening Collect for God to “give us the liberty of that abundant life” which has been revealed to us in Jesus. These are powerful ideals, liberty and abundance, and this language echoes Jesus’s own understanding of His mission – that “[we] might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b).
But what does the abundant life look like? Let’s begin with what it is not: While some hold to the tenets of the so-called “prosperity Gospel,” which promises that believers will be rewarded with temporal riches, it’s safe to say that most mainline Christian denominations understand God’s abundance differently. The “Way of Love,” a set of ancient Christian practices promoted by the Episcopal Church and preached extensively by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, describes the abundant life in this way:
- Overflowing with joy, peace, generosity, and delight
- Where there is enough for all because we all share with abandon
- A life of meaning, given back to God and lived for others.
The abundant life that Jesus offers is not measured in terms of status, wealth, education, or possessions. On the contrary: Jesus invites us to transcend (dare I say break free from?) societal metrics of plenty and strive instead for a life of true meaning and purpose. This can be challenging, when so many of us have been taught to evaluate success according to a set of predictable markers, most of which have to do with “upward mobility.” Yet we also know that pressure to perform, achieve, and acquire can lead to anxiety, depression, and debilitating stress – none of which feels particularly abundant to me. What does Jesus know that we do not?
You have heard me say before that the call of the Christian is to be counter-cultural, and it seems to me that pursuing God’s – and not the world’s – abundance is a great place to start. Begin with gratitude, naming and giving thanks for all the blessings of your life. This may require discipline and fortitude, since it seems to be human nature to focus on what we lack (a “glass half-empty” mindset), as opposed to on what we have been given (a “glass half-full” mindset). Insofar as possible, reject scarcity. Rebuke the voice that says “I don’t have enough” or “I’m not good enough.” Imagine yourself bathed in the lavish, over-the-top, abundant love of God – and then offer that love to someone else. You’ll be amazed by what happens!
This week, I encourage you to take words such as “overflowing,” “joy,” “generosity,” “delight,” and “abandon” to prayer. Reflect on each one in turn – slowly, deliberately. What feelings are evoked? What do they do for your soul? How might God be calling you to respond? How might you begin to enjoy the abundant life?