Scarcity and Abundance – 09.05.2021
Alright, I’m going to give you a shotgun spray, and then I’m going to connect the dots – okay? First, Edward Murphy Jr., not to be confused with the New York Politician Edward Murphy, or the beloved Daddy Daycare actor and voice of Donkey in Shrek – Eddie Murphy. Edward Murphy Jr was an air force pilot who retired and became an aerospace engineer who worked on rocket acceleration. Which sounds like an awesome job. He’s best known for his namesake law, Murphy’s Law – which basically says, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Now apparently Edward never liked that phrase and always said people misinterpreted him – but the name stuck. Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Shotgun pellet number 2: Sun Tzu was famous Chinese General and strategist who wrote the Art of War in the sixth century… BC. In his book he wrote, “Every battle is won or lost before it is fought.” Which of course is about preparation. Every battle is won or lost before it is fought.
Shotgun pellet number 3: metaphor of the bank account. Gary and Barb Rosberg, popular Christian radio show hosts and popular marriage conference speakers, introduce an idea called the metaphor of the bank account. And it basically goes like this. In your marriage, but really this applies to every relationship – kids, co-workers, friends, whatever, your connection is like a bank account. When we serve one another on the good days, we are making deposits in the bank account. And when we have a bad day, a fight, or whatever, we make a withdrawal in the bank account of our relationships.
Now, I know you might be asking yourself – WHAT could an Aerospace Engineer from 70 years ago, have to do with a great Chinese military General from well over two thousand years ago and some cheesy Christian radio hosts from the 90’s have to do with one another – well the answer comes straight out of our scripture today. Today is the final sermon in our series, “dreams of desolation” where we have been traveling along with Joseph on his whirlwind trip down into the depths of Egypt.
Now to recap, just in case you’re just joining us – Joseph has been through the ringer. First he was this whiny little daddy’s boy, whose jealous brothers sold him into slavery. Then in slavery he did really well and God was with him, until a false accusation landed him in prison. Then in prison he did really well and God was with him, until some quote-unquote friends got sprung from jail and completely forgot to mention Joseph to Pharaoh. Last week we ended the chapter with Joseph, left behind and forgotten in prison. And that’s where we start today.
Now I mentioned this last week – two full years go by. And Joseph is just hanging out in prison, probably pumping some iron and getting some sweet prison tattoos. Meanwhile, in the cushy throne room, Pharaoh has this super strange dream. You might remember from last week, Egyptian culture felt that sleep brought you closer to the other world where the gods were – so they took dreams VERY seriously, and you’ll see in a second – it’s a pretty freaky dream. So Pharaoh wakes up, and he tells his advisors. Guys, I had a dream. And he explains the dream to them, and the advisors kinda sit there, “what in the name of Osiris is wrong with that guy? Did you hear about his dream, what was he smoking before going to bed that gave him a weirdo dream like that?” And they come back and they got nothing. We cannot explain your dream. Then, the cupbearer, you know – the guy who forgot Joseph – he has a horrible lightbulb moment. Oh, I forgot about that guy! I mean, you ever forget to do something important? Like, Oh no I was suppose to drop off that thing or meet someone or call someone, oh no I left my kid at soccer practice. Yeah, that’s what the cupbearer did – except it was for two years. I don’t know how you recover from that. So he pipes up in verse 9, finally, [read v.9-13a]. Hey Pharaoh, I know a guy – he does dreams, mention my name, he’ll cut you a deal. So they pull Joseph out of prison, clean him up nice and he comes to Pharaoh.
[read v.15-16]. Alright, now we need to pause for just a moment and appreciate the humility here. Joseph knows – it’s not me, it’s God. He gives all credit and all glory to the true source of interpretation. It’s allll God. and then Pharaoh explains his dream. [read v.17-19]. I think it’s really nice that Pharaoh has such a body positive attitude about the cows. Nice, healthy fat cows – ugly, skinny scrawny cows. Years ago there was a lady named Kate Moss, she’s a model or something – and she said, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” and at the time she got brutally mocked for such a ridiculous quote – and my favorite Jim Gaffigan who responded and said, “I can think of a thousand things that taste better than skinny feels” And he’s right! Because you know what skinny feels like? It’s feels like hunger! And grumpy. That’s what skinny feels like. So we’ve got seven fat cows come out of the river – because that’s totally normal, and then these skinny cows show up. And then [read v.20-21]. The skinny cow eats the fat cow. What? Like, exactly how does a cow go about eating another cow? Mmm, yum – it’s like a burger, wrapped in leather with hooves. It’s easy to see why Pharaoh was so shook, this is a messed up dream. Skinny cows eat the fat cows, and then he has another dream that’s exactly the same but it’s wheat. Like the healthy heads of grain get eaten by the skinny heads of grain. And I guess I really don’t want to know what wheat looks like with teeth. The skinny one eats the fat one, and Pharaoh turns to Joseph and says, “nobody can figure this out, you’ve got to help me.”
Verse 25, Joseph lays it out there, [read v.25-30]. Seven years of abundance are coming – it’s going to be awesome, that’s the fat cows, but THEN seven years of famine will come after that, that’s the skinny cows. It always seems obvious when you know the interpretation. But Joseph is the full package dream consultant – right, he doesn’t just stop with the interpretation, he follows it up with some advice. [read v.33-35]. You’ve got abundance coming, so don’t waste it. Pile up 20% of it, and save it, so you can make it through the tough years. Pick someone to be in charge and get it all organized and you’ll be just fine. And Pharaoh looks at him, and he’s like – cool, great idea – you do it. Verse 40 comes around and Pharaoh says, “alright, you are now in charge of everything.” And I read that, and all I could think was – what is this, a church committee? You had a great idea, so we dumped all the responsibility on you – good luck. And the whole rest of the chapter is basically just everything they said coming true. Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge, he get married and has some babies, seven years of abundance come and he works hard to store up the surplus, and then the hard years come – and Egypt is basically the only land that food, because they prepared for it. The abundance got them through the scarcity.
Now, coming out of this story – there are two things we see. First, God provides the abundance. (yay!) But, God also provides the scarcity. (less yay?) If God’s in charge of the whole show – both abundance and scarcity are coming from God, and so what we see is that God provides everything we need. The good news is that God provides what we need. And it’s our job to use it wisely. What Joseph is showing us is that the good days, the days of abundance are NOT for sitting around. Wow, look at all this abundance we’ve got – let’s sit on our butts and waste it all! But Joseph shows us – NO! Make good use of that abundance! We, as a people, we are so good at wasting a season of abundance. Got a little extra? Time to put up our feet and do nothing! But the truth driving our story this morning is that abundance is a responsibility. Abundance is provision, and provision is designed for preparation. God has given you everything you need to do what you need to do in your life. God provides the sparks, it’s your job to set the flame. The good days in life are not for sitting around doing nothing. The good days are there to prepare us for what’s coming.
Now, I’ve only got one challenge for you today – but it breaks down in a lot of practical ways. If God provides us what we need – then we must steward your provision. If you don’t know – steward is like babysit. Right, to take care of something that has been given to you. Steward your provision. God has given you everything you have in life, and so take care of that provision – make good use of your life.
Now let me give that to you on some different levels – number 1: personal finance. Right now, the government is being very generous. They’re writing checks all over the place. I know a lot of people living on the edge of poverty, their money situation has never been so good. For the first time in their lives, some folks are really experiencing financial stability. And the temptation is to blow it. Finally we got a little extra change in our pockets, so let’s eat out every night, buy the $15 designer coffee everyday, let’s go on a vacation we’ve always wanted. But what people don’t realize is that this moment is an opportunity. If you budget, and you take that surplus and you put it towards some of your goals – build up an emergency fund, put something into retirement, pay down the principle on some bills, get rid of some debt – if you take advantage of that abundance you can change your life – not just right now, while the government is in the mood to pay for everything, but you can change the entire family tree. Dave Ramsey talks like that – set up a plan, don’t waste a season of abundance in your personal finance. Because look, you don’t have to be a prophet, or a dream interpreter or even a financial analyst to know – COVID money aint forever. Right now, there is so much financial assistance for those on the lowest financial categories – non-profits are sort bracing themselves. Demand is down, because folks are getting grocery assistance, rent assistance, health care, child-care – there is money for everything. And non-profits are sort of scared, like – batten down the hatches the storm is coming. When the government assistance dries up, which is very soon – eviction moratorium’s going away, extra unemployment’s going away – there is going to be a wave of need and poverty numbers are going to spike. We know this, as a church – we are preparing for it, FCOC is preparing for it, all of the non-profits. There is a season of abundance right now, and if you’re smart you’re using it to prepare for the scarcity that is right around the corner. If you are enjoying the benefits of COVID government money, please – plan for tomorrow. Steward your provision.
First level – personal finance. Second level – church finance. In seasons of abundance, we want to steward our provisions well. Couple years back, we as a church were living almost week to week financially. If anything big happened, we would have been in trouble. And so the finance committee set a goal, to build up an emergency fund. Because we got organizations counting on us – mission organizations, partner non-profits, community groups – we want to be able to continue helping those people no matter what. And so when we had an abundance here or there – we were smart with how we used that money. Here’s another example that has nothing to do with money. Last year, when COVID dropped, we had to create worship services, pre-recorded, but we didn’t have very many songs in this church recorded at all. For a while there we were scrambling trying to record music and prayers and sermons – so that we could keep worship going in this church in some kind of digital format. And so after the initial wave of crazy, and we got all the equipment upgraded and everything we in the office started piling up recordings. We created an archive of music videos for the traditional and the contemporary styles. Now it is my hope and goal that this church will never close the doors again – but if something catastrophic happened, we are ready for it. I’m never gonna pray for scarcity, of course – but as a church we have used our abundance wisely, so that we are ready no matter what the future might throw at us. Abundance is provision, and provision is preparation. Steward your provision
Personal finance, church decisions, and finally the third level is steward your provision wisely in your relationships. Remember at the beginning of the sermon – that bank account metaphor – when you serve one another, when you invest in your relationship – you are depositing in your relationship bank account. When you fight, and take from one another, and you didn’t pick up your socks for umpteenth time this week, and you spent too much money at the store, and you’re spending too much time at work, – you are withdrawing from the relationship bank account. And this is not just about marriage, but all relationships are like this. And some of you have relationships where you’re getting notices from the bank – error: insufficient funds! That relationship with your kid, that relationship with your co-worker or boss, that relationship with a friend, or your husband or your wife – it’s running on empty! You are living in a season of scarcity. So you gotta pile up some cash in the relationship bank account! Invest in that relationship. And you do that with acts of service. Serving the people in your life is how you build up relationships. Use moments of abundance to make a healthy deposit into your relationship bank account. Look for opportunities to serve one another.
In every area of life, abundance is not an invitation to laziness, Abundance is not an invitation to indulgence. You are not given all that this world has to offer so that you can sit on your butt and do nothing. Abundance is provision, and provision is preparation. Use what you have been given. Get yourself ready for whatever tomorrow might throw at you.
What could an Aerospace Engineer from 70 years ago, have to do with a great Chinese military General from well over two thousand years ago and some cheesy Christian radio hosts from the 90’s have to do with one another? The answer is they all understood the importance of preparation. Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Prepare accordingly. Sun Tzu – “every battle is won or lost before it is fought.” Prepare accordingly. Barb and Gary Rosberg – “relationships are like a bank account” Prepare accordingly. And God told Joseph, seven years of abundance, seven years of famine – Prepare accordingly. And so I’ll leave you with this. May God provide you with everything you need, to do everything you were meant to do in life. Prepare accordingly. Amen.