Counting Blessings

Image by Jill Wellington, Pixabay, with thanks.

“Oh, how great is the abundance that is stored in granaries so rich above, that down on earth were fields ripe for sowing!    Dante’s Paradiso, Canto 23, 130-132

In his TED talk on cynicism, Jamil Zaki referenced a study on two Brazilian fishing villages, only 30 miles apart.  Fishermen in one village worked together to fish the ocean, sharing the necessary heavy equipment.  Fisherman in the other inland village fished on a lake in small craft.  On the ocean, people trusted each other and worked together.  On the lake, there was competition and mistrust.

We put a lot of time and energy into acquiring, storing and guarding possessions, and it seems as if God has a tough time prying off our fingers from them.  Like the lake fishermen, we are convinced that the world is a place of limitation and scarcity.   It’s as if, Zaki noted,  we think of life as a zero-sum game.

When we begin to understand we are part of a community, a world, where no one wins unless everyone’s needs are satisfied, we can begin to tame the grasping part of our nature that wants to hoard.  We can open our hands to receive, and share what resources we have.  We learn to trust the Giver.

This became abundantly clear to me in the years when I worked to help contract and schedule corn receiving.  The plant needed 40-60,000 bushels of corn daily to process into starches and syrups, roughly 35 trucks per day.    Sometimes, near the end of an old crop season, supplies were tight.  It could feel, as someone jokingly teased, that we were like hens scratching for corn in a farmyard.   So often there was unexpected grace in answer to prayer, along with the reliable suppliers who did what they could,  and our own hard work.  In all the time I was employed there, through prosperous and lean years, we did not run out of corn, though it sometimes came very close.

God laid His character on the line when he challenged the Israelites of the Old Testament on the practice of tithing, bringing the first and best of their produce and livestock to the priests at the temple.   If they were stingy, they would always struggle to eke out a living, have purses with holes in them.  Be generous in this, and they would have more than enough for themselves and others.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”   Malachi 3:11

It is a relief to lay down our burdensome worrying and to trust that God’s providence comes out of unending riches, an unlimited ocean.  With joy we receive liberal blessings, far beyond what we could ever ask or imagine.