Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 104: Abundance Versus Scarcity: The Miracle of Feeding the 5000
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 104: Abundance Versus Scarcity: The Miracle of Feeding the 5000

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Many people think that the important thing about the miracle in which Jesus divided the fish and bread was that it proved the power of Jesus to perform miracles, thereby confirming his divinity. However, there is much more to the story.

For one thing, the story offers an image of a God of abundance, which seems to contradict everyday impressions that scarcity besets the world. God’s love and compassion is limitless, and Jesus taught that we should trust in God. This is why Jesus so often said, “Fear not,” even though his Disciples lived in a world in which there seemed to be pervasive scarcity, violence, and danger.

How can one reasonably envision abundance when scarcity seems ubiquitous? The answer, I think, is that humans have the capacity to participate in God’s redemption of the world. We can show love and compassion, and one way we do this is by sharing, thereby alleviating scarcity.

Mimetic rivalry invariably leads to a worldview of scarcity. If our desires are defined by what our neighbor has, then the objects of desire will soon become scarce. Indeed, since a fundamental desire is for self-esteem and since we often believe that self-esteem requires our having things that are difficult to obtain, scarcity in inherent to acquisitive mimetic desire. Girard contrasted such acquisitive mimesis, which invariably leads to conflicts and violence, to “good mimesis,” in which we model our desires on those of Christ, who wanted us to love each other.

It is difficult for us to avoid thinking in terms of scarcity, since notions of scarcity are central to capitalism. A fundamental principle of a market economy is that the price of a given good or service reflects its availability. However, believing in a God of scarcity, with limited love and generosity, is one way to define our Original Sin. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve believed that God had not given them enough and that they needed more. This attitude led to Cain’s murder of Abel (in which Cain perceived God’s favorable regard as scarce) and to countless killings ever since.

Getting back to the miracle of the feeding of 5000, it is hard to imagine that so many people traveled a great distance and forgot to bring enough food. However, as time wore on, many people’s supplies started to diminish. It is reasonable to suppose that, envisioning scarcity rather than abundance, they were loath to share with those who had not prepared as well and were now hungry. Only The Gospel According to John identifies a “lad” who provided the loaves of bread and fishes, which were divided and miraculously fed thousands of people (6:1-14). Children have acquisitive mimetic desires like adults, but children are simpler, more trusting, and less cynical. I think this story illustrates one way in which it is true that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:15, Luke 18:17). We explore this passage further next week.

Go on to: Part 105: Receiving the Kingdom of God “Like a Child”
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