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Dec. 14-20, 2009

Freed from the Tyranny

of Scarcity Thinking

By Konrad Raiser

We live in a world without mercy, where more and more people feel trapped. Time and money have established their merciless rule. The secret of their power is scarcity. Time is money, they say. Those who have a lot of money never have time, and the poor perhaps have time but no money. Yet they need money in order to live, so they borrow, and then they find themselves trapped in the relentless grip of debt.

We are told that in a world of scarcity, competition is the best way to achieve more. Competition obeys the merciless rule of winning and losing. Because time and money are scarce, the one who moves faster or can offer the better price will win. Those who are too slow or have little to offer are eliminated from the race - excluded. In a world of competition, there is little to protect them.

Where money rules, almost everything becomes scarce. When power and even justice can be bought, there is little left for those who are poor. Here, too, there are only winners and losers.

When money reigns supreme, even the call for justice comes to be counted as a cost factor. The powerful will be careful not to apologize for acts of injustice for fear of claims for monetary compensation. As for those who have nothing to lose, in extreme cases some of them may turn to violence in order to command attention and assert their rights - only to be met with relentless retaliation.

It is in this merciless world that the "grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all" (Titus 2:11). This is the same God whom Moses encountered as "a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Ex. 34:6) and whom the psalmist praises as the one who "does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities" (Psalm 103:10). God has come into our world to live among us and to liberate us from the merciless rule of winning and losing, from the yoke of competition and scarcity.

This is the message of Christmas: "And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth... From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace" (John 1:14,16).

Our world will not be saved by increased competitiveness in face of scarcity, but by grace and mercy. The grace of God which is God's true being has taken on human form in Jesus Christ. God's grace overrules the law of scarcity and breaks the relentless dynamic of retaliation. God does not treat us on the basis of achievement, worth or power. God gives and forgives generously, without counting the cost, and offers life in its fullness (John 10:10), particularly to those who are the losers in our merciless world.

May we therefore, this Christmas, receive from his fullness "grace upon grace"!

Konrad Raiser served as Secretary General of the World Council of Churches from 1992 to 2004. This is his Christmas Message from 2001.

      Copyright 2009 Stewardship of Life Institute