A Better Kind of Abundance

God took physician Renee Lockey completely by surprise one day while she was out running. At the height of her career, she sensed that he was planting an idea in her head: “Work like a doctor and live like a nurse.”

Renee now lives on a nurse’s salary and gives away the rest of her income. She says, “When we take this idea literally—that we are His—it results in a drastically different way of thinking and living."

While Renee’s colleagues might assume she has denied herself the good life by living below her means, in reality, she has discovered the secret to the abundant life.

Treasure No One Can Steal

John 10 shows us that the false shepherds of Israel, the Pharisees, sought to keep people from Jesus, the one true Shepherd. Jesus promises abundant life, and in contrast, He speaks of false religious teachers as thieves and murderers who rob people of life. He said of Himself:

Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:7-11)

When Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” He was alerting us to how much the devil hates life. But Satan isn’t only a liar and a killer; he is also a thief.

Satan seeks to destroy us by robbing us of the good life God originally gave Adam and Eve—the life Christ came to restore to humanity. A key way he tries to destroy us is by convincing us that money and possessions are the source of an abundant life. 

If you assume you’ll never be burglarized, you’ll leave your windows open and your cash lying on the dresser. Jesus knew our tendency to live in denial about the dangers of money-love, which is why He sounded this alarm: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed” (Luke 12:15, NIV). If we value the good life Jesus came to give us, we’ll clasp it closely when Satan and his minions try to lay their hands on it. As 1 Timothy 6:19 commands us, we’ll “take hold of that which is truly life.”

The devil might not be able to deceive us into believing outright that nothing’s more important than money and possessions. Instead, he might draw us to a catalog that shows us all those possessions we “really need.” We might say no to Internet sites offering sexual temptation, only to succumb to websites where we indulge an unfiltered lust for things. We might buy dozens of utterly unnecessary things during Black Friday sales, which ironically mark the beginning of a holiday season that culminates in the birth of the One who told us that we need to be on our watch against greed and that life isn’t about the things we possess (Luke 12:15).

Satan has numerous allies in his campaign to make us believe the lies of materialism. Advertising exists to sell us the “goods” that supposedly give us the good life. Fortunately for advertisers, no products exist that actually deliver on that promise, so we keep right on buying more things, hoping this time they'll deliver. But they never will.

Let’s Not Buy Ourselves to Death

Attempting to experience the abundant life Jesus spoke of while burying ourselves in material abundance isn’t just difficult; it’s impossible. That’s not because material things are inherently bad. It’s because accumulated stuff suffocates us, crushes us, and blocks us from Jesus.

In moderate quantities, certain possessions might draw our attention to him as our provider. For instance, when I buy a good book or my wife gives me a thermal mug, I am truly grateful to God. Other possessions, such as clothes I will never wear or the third version of a gadget I already own and don’t use, do nothing for me or God’s Kingdom. If it’s something that will sap hours of my time, it may even draw my attention away from God and his Word.

Many things may be neutral or even fun, but it’s too easy to end up trusting our stuff instead of our Savior.

In some circles, the abundant life has been confused with material wealth. Prosperity theology says that God’s plan is always for us to be wealthy—and to spend our money primarily on ourselves. Jesus, who didn’t even have a place to lay His head and who owned nothing but a robe and sandals (Matthew 8:20), clearly didn’t live a money- and possessions-centered life. Surely that’s not what He wants for us either.

Jesus told the church in Laodicea, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17, NIV). What had buried these Christians’ sense of spiritual poverty? Their material abundance. It tricked them into believing they were living the abundant life when in reality they were sabotaging it.

Jesus promises, “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14, NIV). The abundant life isn’t measured in gold or material goods. It’s rooted in the precious fact that our Creator and Redeemer himself indwells us, imparting His delight-giving presence to us. He says the very reason he came is to give us “a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10, NLT) or “life to the full, till it overflows” (AMP).

Abundant Life Begins Today

Jesus doesn’t make us wait until we die to start living the abundant life. The abundant life begins now! So if you’re a Christian and you’re searching for the good life, you don’t have to go far to find it. Look no further than Jesus. Know Him, delight in Him, serve Him, learn from His people, and do what He says. (Of course, you must study His Word to do this.) There’s no life better than that.

Jesus Himself is the entrance to an Eden of the heart—the ultimate refuge for refugees, and the home for every homeless and heartsick person in this world, whether they live in poverty or wealth.

God didn’t send a spokesperson, a prophet, or an angel to give us life, protection, provision, safety, and guidance. He sent His Son—His very best. He’s the only Savior, and He freely offers all of Himself to us.

When I was a young Christian, some sincere believers tried to convince me that I should seek a life in which miraculous events were the norm. After a year spent searching for more, I recall reading the promise that God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). I also read, “[God’s] divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

That’s when I asked myself, What more do I need than what God has already given me? I realized that Jesus, along with the power of God’s indwelling Spirit (Romans 8:11), was enough for me to enjoy abundant life.

The same is true for all of us who know Christ. We simply need to enter into and enjoy the abundant life Jesus promises.

Abundance Naturally Overflows

Jesus said, “The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him” (John 7:38, CSB). There’s an unmistakable sign of an overflowing, abundant life that comes from knowing Jesus, the author of life: generosity to others.

An old but helpful illustration applies to the abundant, generous life. In northern Israel lies the beautiful Sea of Galilee, where Jesus often sailed with his disciples. Water freely flows into the Sea of Galilee from the Jordan River, and its water is fresh and life giving.

Eighty-eight miles to the south is a larger and radically different body of water. One of the lowest places on the planet, the Dead Sea collects large volumes of water but disperses none. Its salt concentration is so high—ten times greater than ocean water—that no fish or vegetation can survive there.

While the Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee, it also flows out. The water simply passes through, allowing it to support fish life and plants. Trapped, with no outlet, the Dead Sea keeps taking water in, but no water leaves it except by evaporation. No outlet means no life.

This is a good parable of the Christian life in general—and an even better parable of the generous life in particular. In order to be faithful stewards and to love others, we must be not only recipients of God’s provision but also outlets of it. Only then will we experience the true and abundant life He intends for us.

Such a dramatic overflow can have an amazing effect even on those who are hostile to the Christian faith. My friend pastors a church that rents a public school auditorium on Sundays. When a new principal arrived, he showed hostility toward Christians and urged the pastor to find another place to meet.

But over the next few years, something happened. The principal discovered that church members cheerfully give time and money for the sake of the school—a practice that was in place before he came. They schedule cleanup days. They serve teachers meals during parent-teacher conferences. They give teachers gift cards each year. They do this not simply to win favor but because Christ’s love and kindness overflow from their lives.

The pastor of the church told me, “Three years later, this principal is no longer an antagonist; he’s our advocate. Our works of service have softened his heart toward the Lord.”

The cause for this astonishing turnaround? It was simply Christians living the good life, which always entails good deeds of generosity. Jesus put it this way: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NIV).

Generosity Is Contagious

The more we give in Christ’s name, the more life he will put into us. And the more life we have flowing into us, the more that life will flow out of us to others. “Give, and it will be given to you,” Jesus said. “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38, NIV).

By giving generously of our money and possessions, we’re able to open our hands to receive the abundant life God has for us. God is the greatest giver in the universe, and it’s impossible to outgive Him. This is not prosperity theology. It is simply the way our generous God delights to work in the lives of His children.

Out of a deep love for Jesus, Pete and Debbie Ochs decided to acquire a business constructing industrial products in prisons. They employ inmates, some of whom have committed violent crimes. They invest in these prisoners’ lives by offering life lessons on topics like parenting, finances, and relationships. Pete says, “In one of our life lessons, we presented this whole concept of generosity and challenged [the prisoners] that we would match dollar for dollar any dollar that they gave to one of a number of charities and we gave them a list. It was amazing the amount of money that these prisoners gave to charity. . . . Most of the charities . . . existed to help the victims of the crimes that they committed.”

Giving Is the Good LifePete and Debbie’s overflowing good life has not only brought these men the gospel but has also introduced them to the overflow of joyful giving so they, too, can experience abundant life.

The good life in Christ is not only wonderful for those who live it; it is also a joy for those who behold it. Generosity is just as contagious as materialism. However, it brings life instead of death.

Excerpted from Giving Is the Good Life: The Unexpected Path to Purpose and Joy.

Photo by Jeffrey Workman on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries