“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) Most people know that verse and are drawn to the idea of an abundant life. What would that look like to you? If we don’t have an idea of what it looks like, how will we know when we have it?
Once upon a time in Kenya, an Englishman visiting the central highlands, and discovered a beautiful river. Not too far downstream he came upon the chief of the Kikuyu people enjoying a moment of fishing. The chief had a great spot in the shade, the fishing line was tied around his big toe, and the chief seemed like he was napping more than fishing.
The chief had a beautiful string of trout he already had hooked. The Englishman asked how long he had been fishing; the reply was “maybe an hour. It’s hard to know. The fish keep waking me up.” The visitor was amazed, but was even more amazed when, during the conversation, he heard about the astounding productivity of this river for year-round fishing. He saw such great potential for development. So, with great enthusiasm, he explained to the chief how they could build a fishery on this spot.
“Why would I want to do that?” “So, your people could have jobs and money” “What would we want with money?” “You could buy things to make your life easier, jewelry for your wives. You could get the latest and best fishing equipment.”
“What would we do with all these fish?” “You can start another company to transport the fish to the market in Nakuru and Nairobi – then you would have even more money. And more of the tribe would have jobs. And they could build better homes and schools. Some of your best and brightest children could be educated at Oxford and Cambridge and return home to expand your fishery operations.”
You can imagine how the conversation continued to describe an ever-growing empire of commerce and expanding ideas for the good life for the people of the tribe. When the visitor finally took a breath, the chief asked, “And when I have built all this for my people, what will I do?” The Englishman said, “Why you can retire” “What would I do then?” “You could live the good life….and, ah…you could go fishing whenever you want.”
How do you understand living an abundant life? The Kikuyu chief knew he was blessed with the gift of that river. Maybe that’s a place to start – what are your blessings in this life? I think these days of sheltering and social distancing have given us an opportunity to reflect upon what is essential, what is life giving, and what we long for – longing that we “might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Perhaps our reflection should start at the beginning, considering “life” – especially the newness of life given to us in baptism. It is a washing clean with water and the Holy Spirit. It instilled the conditions for the possibility of a life of faith, love, hope, wisdom, understanding, right judgement, courage, knowledge, and reverence. These are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are the gifts that God gives in abundance. Are we good stewards of the gifts given us?
Look at the life around you – the people, the material things that help you and your family flourish, the time and materials you give away for the benefit of others. God has given us gifts of all manner and kind. He has given us what we need to “buy happiness” to connect to the world and to pass on our treasures and good gifts. To create an abundant life out of the abundance we’ve been given.
What would you want on your tombstone? Here lies the person who built the largest fishery in the central highlands of Kenya – or – here lies a person of love, wisdom, generosity, courage, and a life well lived? I think it is the second case in which the person was a good steward of the gifts given by God – the one who lived in the light of those gifts and handed them on to the people of his or her life.
God came so that we would be more loving, more hopeful, more, …. more, everything – and would give it all away, knowing there is more where that came from and the Father will richly pour these gifts into the one who asks for more. As the one who asks, your life is fuller. As the one who gives, your life is more abundant.
Abundant life is not about what we have. It’s not about what we get. It’s not about what we claim. Ultimately, abundant life is knowing what we receive as a gift from the Lord and to live knowing we are stewards of those blessings of God.
“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” What does it look like in your life? That understanding is the start of a life lived well, lived abundantly in the blessings of God.