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Scarcity and Addiction

Learning the true meaning of trusting God’s abundance
by Mort Meyenburg | September 5, 2022

I’m an alcoholic. I haven’t had a drink in many years. I believe that by the power of God and with the supportive people in recovery, I have been taught how to live. Quitting drinking wasn’t the only issue—I needed to learn how to live without drinking. 

Though I’ve been sober a number of years, I learn something new about addiction and recovery every year. Normally when I’m trying to learn something else, I am opened up to new ways of seeing how addiction has played a part in my life. Recently at Luther Seminary, I was in Grace Pomroy’s class “Money and Mission of the Church.” We were discussing scarcity and abundance.

In our reading for that class, Walter Brueggemann caught my attention with his Christian Century article: “The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity.” Brueggemann writes, “Because Pharaoh, like Hitler after him, is afraid that there aren’t enough good things to go around, he must try to have them all. Because he is fearful, he is ruthless. Pharaoh hires Joseph to manage the monopoly. When the crops fail and the peasants run out of food, they come to Joseph. And on behalf of Pharaoh, Joseph says, ‘What’s your collateral?’ They give up their land for food, and then, the next year, they give up their cattle. By the third year of the famine they have no collateral but themselves. And that’s how the children of Israel become slaves — through an economic transaction.”  I was astounded because this is exactly how addiction works. 

Whatever we are addicted to takes us piece by piece until we become its slave. This notion of scarcity—the fear of not having enough—pulls and pulls us into this myth of scarcity. I hadn’t ever thought of scarcity playing a role in addiction until I was reading Brueggemann. 

When I started drinking, I wasn’t automatically an alcoholic. I became an addict in much the same way the Israelites became slaves. You see, when I drank, I felt like I was a different person; I felt like I fit in; I felt like I was finally enough. So, I’d go back to my addiction, and it would ask, “What’s your collateral?” And I’d pay by giving up some time with my friends. Then, I’d go back and be asked again, “What’s your collateral?” As years went by, I gave up money, I gave up time with my family, I gave up values, I gave, and I gave. I could never sate my addiction; I couldn’t get enough, so I kept giving and giving until—just like the Israelites—my addiction had all of me and I was a slave.  

When I was in active addiction, I didn’t understand that I was enough exactly the way I was; I didn’t understand that God was all about abundance. Just like Israel learning to trust God that there was enough, I had to learn to trust God that I was enough. I needed to trust that I was made through the grace of God’s abundance. 

Eventually I learned, I am enough.

About the Author

Mort Meyenburg

Mort Meyenburg is a Luther Seminary student currently serving as a synod authorized minister at Healing Waters Parish in SWMN ELCA Synod with three churches: Augustana Lutheran in Clarkfield, Bergen Lutheran in rural Granite Falls, and St. Lucas Lutheran in rural Cottonwood. Meyenburg is grateful for the gift of sobriety these past 26 years.

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