Conclusion: A Theology of Abundance
In our world today, it is easy to become accustomed to the dominant narratives of consumerism and individualism that pervade our personal, professional, and even spiritual lives. It is not easy to look around and have a clear vision for how we might achieve an end to poverty. The temptation to gather resources and keep them for oneself is strong, sometimes overpowering. In our profit-driven world, outcomes, not current reality, drives decisions. In fact, one might even say that the measure of success in today’s society is economic prosperity. That means that business owners, so focused on competition, are “winning” if they are making lots of money. We need to change the measure of winning so that success means businesses pay workers a living wage, developers invest in affordable housing, and healthy food is accessible to all. This is not the way that we, as justice-seekers, are called to live.
Time and time again in the Bible, God demonstrates unending generosity and shares the abundance of Her creation with humankind. In miracles and parables, Jesus taught his disciples about a new way to live together, caring for our one human family without any fear of scarcity. Catholic Social Justice and the lived witness of prophets, saints, and justice-seekers show us what living faithfully to this call looks like, and how choosing abundance can transform the world.
Believing in a theology of abundance is a new way to live in the world. It is a direct contradiction to the individualism, consumerism, and unbridled capitalism that dominate our world today. Moreover, it is an active choice, and one that may require sacrifices. It requires taking a critical look at where resources are hoarded and kept from people at the margins of society.
We know there is a way to fix this – and it is part of NETWORK’s core mission! As we work to Mend the Gaps in economic and wealth inequality with big-picture, structural solutions, we must also continue our advocacy to ensure that current, successful federal programs are protected and enhanced. These safety net programs ensure that we all have a place in ensuring the financial security of our neighbors. But, they are constantly under attack because of our society’s incorrect understanding of 21st century poverty.
It is tempting to collect assets and wealth, whether to protect against future hardship or because one feels that is the measure of self-worth. But, doing so is incompatible with the trust we are called to place in God and the care we are called to provide to our one human family. As the theologian Walter Brueggemann wrote: “Too often, the church has understood God’s unconditional grace as solely a theological phenomenon, instead of recognizing that it has to do with the reordering of the economy of the world.”1 It is time to begin talking about a theology of abundance in the real world, both the current challenges and our visions of hope. Only then we will get closer to the Kindom of God.
Reflecting on a Theology of Abundance
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS reflects on how we are called to a theology of abundance.
Noel Castellanos, President of the Christian Community Development Association
Facts and Figures
- The safety net kept 38 million people, including 8 million children, above the poverty line in 2015.2
- 2 million people, including 4.4 million children, were lifted out of poverty by refundable tax credits in 2016.3
- Housing subsidies shielded 1.0 million children from poverty in 2016.3
- In 2016, the uninsured rate for people under 64 was 10.3%, the lowest it’s been in decades.4
Words of Wisdom
Gracious and loving God,
Long ago, you created the world and you called your creation good. You filled your world with your abundance. You freed your people from slavery in Egypt and made of them a community, giving them manna in the wilderness so they would have enough to eat. You sent your prophets who called your people to live justly and generously, sharing resources, so that everyone would have enough. Your servant Mary sang a song of praise about you, saying: “God has filled the hungry with good things.” Your Son Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fish for a hungry crowd— and they ate and were filled. In Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, you gave the gift of eternal life. Your Holy Spirit made your early followers into a community that shared your abundance and gave to all who had need.
Merciful God, too often we live in fear. We are isolated. We value rugged individualism. We focus on scarcity. Forgive us. Help us to celebrate the gifts of your good creation. Make us good stewards of your many blessings. Give us courage to live justly and generously, so that everyone in this world has enough. Teach us to listen to the poor and learn from their generosity. Show us again the fullness of the life you have given. Bring us from scarcity to abundance, from isolation to community, from fear to love.
Written by Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, Co-Pastor of Overbrook Presbyterian Church
- How do you encounter the dominant narrative of individualism in our society; do you have any examples of counter-cultural encounter in your life?
- How are you already living out a theology of abundance in your life?
- What can you do moving forward to reinvent and correct the outdated narrative of poverty that currently dominates our political discourse?
- NETWORK: Mind the Gap https://networkadvocates.org/advocacytoolbox/educate/mindthegap/
- NPR: Poverty: ‘We Need To Talk About It As It Is, Not As It Was’ https://www.npr.org/2014/01/15/262738834/poverty-we-need-to-talk-about-it-as-it-is-not-as-it-was
- NPR: An Outsider’s View Of How the U.S. Treats Its Most Vulnerable https://www.npr.org/2017/12/15/571199941/an-outsiders-view-of-how-the-u-s-treats-its-most-vulnerable
Return to 21st Century Poverty Homepage
1. Brueggemann, Walter. Enough is Enough. The Other Side. November-December 2001,
2. Stone, Chad, Trisi,Danilo, Sherman, Arloc, and Horton, Emily. A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. October 11, 2017,
3. Cooper, David and Wolfe, Julia. Poverty declined modestly in 2016; government programs continued to keep tens of millions out of poverty. Economic Policy Institute. September 12, 2017, http://www.epi.org/blog/poverty-declined-modestlyin-
4. Kaiser Family Foundation. Key Facts about the Uninsured Population. November 29, 2017,