Eldar Shafir, an American psychologist, has extensively researched the impact of scarcity on the way a person thinks. Whether that scarcity is the grinding material poverty that people experience in the developing world – and increasingly in the Western world as well – or the scarcity of time, which Westerners seem to struggle with, the effects are the same; lack leaves us vulnerable to making poor decisions. In one experiment Shafir and his colleagues measured the IQ of sugar cane farmers in India before they harvested their crops and then measured it again after harvest and found that their IQs were significantly higher after harvest!
Both Abraham (Genesis 12) and Isaac (Genesis 26) faced one of the most extreme experiences of scarcity: famine. Both faced the temptation to go to Egypt. Abraham succumbed. Isaac listened to God. They both discovered an inner fear surfacing in the time of difficulty, the fear that someone would kill them and take their respective wives because they were so beautiful. And they both succumbed.
Whether or not Abraham and Isaac provide ancient proof for Shafir’s twenty-first century psychological theory is debatable. What it does remind us is that scarcity, whatever way it manifests itself, can reduce your capacity – or narrow your mental bandwidth, as Shafir might say – for making good decisions. Time scarcity. Money scarcity. Affirmation scarcity. Love scarcity. Encouragement scarcity. They can all play mindgames with you to the point that they actually take captive your mindset.
The record of Isaac’s brush with famine records that in the midst of the pressure he had a fresh revelation of God. A reassuring revelation of God. God spoke into Isaac’s heart the promises He had spoken to Abraham. Isaac was open enough to God to stay where he was. And he was bold enough in faith to do something that his father had never done – at least if he did, the Bible does not tell us about it: he planted crops.
When scarcity threatens to kidnap your mindset, there is nothing quite so powerful as a fresh encounter with God through His word. Promises that have blessed and sustained people for generations are promises to bless and sustain us. They weren’t just for Abraham and Isaac. Or the disciples. Or the last generation of faithful Christians. They are for us. Today.
Like Isaac, God has promises for us. Like Isaac, God wants to bless us where we are. And like Isaac, he wants us to take steps of faith. To do something new and bold.
Like Isaac He has given us keys to unlock His provision in the time of famine, and one of those keys is sowing and reaping.
If you feel like what’s going on around you is beginning to shape your outlook and expectation in an unhelpful way, it’s time to fight back. You might experience some setbacks, but with God’s help you can win the battle for your mindset.