“Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it.” — Rabindranath Tagore
I listened to a recording recently of two men having a conversation about the nature of abundance. In their conversation, the dominant metaphor for abundance was water. They said that we are like fish swimming in the ocean, not recognizing that we are immersed in abundance all the time.
As metaphors go, this is an intriguing insight into the nature of abundance. I have no idea of the consciousness level of a fish, but I imagine that fish don’t analyze their surroundings much. They live in water, but have no consciousness that they are swimming in water. And this is the point of the metaphor. We live in an abundant world, but don’t see abundance because it is the medium of our lives.
But there is a missing piece to the metaphor. The missing piece turns scarcity into real abundance in our lives. The missing piece involves a bucket.
Instead of the thinking of yourself as a fish swimming in the ocean, think of yourself in a rainstorm. Rain is on my mind these days. I am writing this in the middle of a heavy rainstorm. The jet stream from Alaska has dipped down farther south than usual, bringing rain and rain and more rain. The San Francisco Bay Area just broke the record for the number of rainy days in March. So far in April, it has rained every day. Forecasters predict the rain will continue for the next two weeks.
And so with rain on my mind, I ask: How is it that you can live in an abundant universe and not increase your own abundance? The answer is simple. You aren’t holding out your bucket.
If you want to collect rain water, you don’t just stand in the stuff. You do something to collect the water. You take along a bucket. You set up a cistern. You use water tanks. You dig reservoirs. Otherwise, the water rolls off you as water rolls off a duck.
“The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car… a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little.” — Ben Sweetland
And this is what sets apart those who live in abundance and those who live with lack. Those who live in abundance do something to collect the water. They take a bucket with them. They build cisterns, water tanks, and reservoirs. Those who live with lack just stand in the rain and get wet.
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” — Acts 20:35
In other words, the ones who live in abundance know how to receive. Those who live in lack don’t.
One of the real reasons so many of us struggle with lack in our lives is that we internalized the words, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” This Bible verse, taken out of context, sets up a value judgment: Giving is better than receiving.
I’m not going to do the critical work involved in telling you what the Greek words mean, or putting in these words in their biblical context. Let’s just look at the words themselves and ask what is wrong with this kind of universalizing statement.
“If you want greater prosperity in your life, start forming a vacuum to receive it.” — Catherine Ponder
Consider breathing. You breathe in and you breathe out. Somehow, we all got the idea that it is okay to receive when we breathe. What if you decide that it is better to breathe out than to breathe in? You can’t live very long before you realize that breathing is a cycle. If you want to continue to live, you need to receive air into your lungs as much as you need to breathe it out.
Even the rain itself is a cycle. The rain falls on Earth, runs into the creeks and rivers, flows back into the ocean, gets picked up into clouds and falls on Earth again. Breath and rain are part of life’s cycles of giving and receiving. But when it comes to Bible verses, this awareness of the cyclical nature of life often gets replaced by categories straight out of Greek philosophy.
The ancient Greeks, especially Aristotle, divided reality into opposing pairs, and then attached value judgments that one element of each pair was better than the other. So “reason is better is than emotion.” “Male is more human than female.” “A free man is a more moral being than a slave,” and on and on.
Christian theology picked up many of these same value-laden dichotomies, and imposed them on biblical statements and stories. As a result, many Christian people learned to think in dual categories, with value judgments attached. One example is that Christian theology has taken this one verse: “It more blessed to give than to receive,” and turned it into a one-sided rule for life.
From this simplistic notion, many of us learned that giving is better than receiving. The obvious question is: How can you give what you don’t have? And if you give all you have, how can you give any more? To give, you have to have something to give. And to have something you have to receive it first.
“Asking is the beginning of receiving. Make sure you don’t go to the ocean with a teaspoon. At least take a bucket so the kids won’t laugh at you.” — Jim Rohn
Giving and receiving together are part of the cycle called abundance. Abundance is a dance, involving give and take, back and forth, ebb and flow.
And so, if you are wondering how to create abundance in your life, claim the metaphor of rain as abundance. If you are standing in the rain, hold out your bucket.