What a Scarcity Mindset Reveals About You

Have you ever wondered if you had enough? Enough food, enough friends, enough savings? These thoughts might seem like planning for the future, but they are actually an indicator of something deeper going on in your life. Kim King, author, advisor, and board member, shares her thoughts on the origin of the scarcity mindset, what it reveals, and how to shift out of it.

Tell us about yourself and how you got connected with 4word!

I worked as an attorney and manager for over 33 years. I left ExxonMobil to finish writing a book I felt God was leading me to write, When Women Give. I currently serve on the board of Thrivent Trust Company, a financial services company, and also serve as an advisor to non-profits. I continue to write as a guest blogger on topics related to women and money, as well as occasionally speak on this topic. 

How would you define the “scarcity mindset?” 

The scarcity mindset is the belief that what we need now or the future will be unavailable. This leads to a mindset that we need to protect or hoard in order to be prepared for the future and take care of ourselves or our families. The Bible is clear, however, that 1) we are not to worry but to trust God to provide what we need, and (2) that worrying about tomorrow is pointless, but we cannot control our lives or what will happen in the future.

Where do you think the scarcity mindset came from? 

I think a major contributor to this mindset is the growth in fear in our culture. Two events have contributed to that. The first is 9/11 and subsequent events that have shaken our sense of safety and security. For some, the recession in 2007 was that event. The second factor contributing to this is the rapid rate of change. Human beings generally don’t like change. Change makes us anxious and insecure. I think these and our own personal experience of loss contribute to a level of anxiety that most of us are unaware of. That anxiety leads us to prize safety and security over following Christ in obedience.

We say we trust God to take care of us, but our actions reveal what we really believe. Our beliefs exist at two levels. The first is the conscious level. At this level we say we believe we can trust God to provide. At the second level, the unconscious level, we may not fully trust God. Our reaction then is to have a Plan B in case God does not come through. This leads us to save more than what is needed for us in the future and label it “wisdom.” True wisdom is found in two parables that Jesus taught as recorded in Matthew 13:44-45. In these parables Jesus teaches his disciples the value of the Kingdom of God. A man discovered great treasure in a field and sold everything he had to buy the field. A merchant of pearls discovered a pearl of great value and he sold everything he had to purchase this pearl. The Kingdom of God is the treasure and the pearl. The Kingdom of God is worth giving up everything. Jesus made it clear that he came to give us life and life that is abundant. This abundant life is much more than the sum of our possessions or even our desires.

Another belief we have is that God can and will meet our needs but He will be stingy about it, meeting only the bare essentials. The truth is that every good thing we have is a gift from our heavenly Father. He loves to lavish His love on us and loves us to give us good gifts. We can be so busy or have our eyes on the things we don’t have that we forget these gifts. For this reason, a regular practice of listing things for which we are grateful will open our eyes to how much God has blessed us. At this moment, I am grateful for having a printer on my desk, the fun of watching an Astros game, the taste of cheese enchiladas, and this old shirt I am wearing. We have heard that every day is a gift. This is true, and every day is full of His gifts to us. 

Sometimes the scarcity mindset is related to a deep belief that we are not enough. I think most people carry this belief to some degree. As a result, we desire to fit in, belong, appear successful to meet our need to be enough. Our heavenly Father makes it clear that we are enough in His eyes. We don’t need to work for His love and acceptance. We are His beloved. HE made us and continues to lead us on a path of growth and joy in His presence. We will never feel that we are enough if we look to others to provide that need. Only the One who created us, calls us His beloved daughter, and gave His Son for us can fill this need. 

The opposite of the scarcity mindset is a grateful acknowledgement of the abundant life we have in Christ. Can “abundance” ever be a negative idea, though?

When Jesus promises the abundant life, He is talking about a life with Him and in Him where we find purpose and wholeness. Abundance in this case does not necessarily mean an abundance of material possessions or money or the things the world offers as signs of successful living. We are designed by our Creator to find the greatest joy, peace and satisfaction in life with Christ. 

For someone struggling with a scarcity mindset, what advice would you have to help them shift into a more generous frame of mind? 

The practice of gratitude I mentioned above helps one clearly see God’s provision and more. But to grow in generosity is to grow in faith rather than in fear. A scarcity mindset is really fear; a fear that God won’t be there for us. As with other areas of faith in our lives, we just need to take that next step. Give a gift larger than one has before and continue to grow. 

Making a Giving Plan is encouraged. Like most things that are important that we want to ensure gets done, we need a written plan in order for us to be intentional and accountable. I create one at the beginning of the year for my giving that year. This plan can be a good time to set a stretch goal. 

Anything else you’d like to share? 

I have to remind myself that following Christ is a journey of continuous growth in my trusting him. If I wait until the moment of 100% certainty, I will never give and I will miss out on part of God’s plan for me.