“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”- Jesus
Jesus tells a parable to a group of shepherds and disciples in which he makes a big statement. To paraphrase Jesus, one of the central reasons why he came was to give us…life. Real life. Abundant life.
What does this abundance look like?
It’s not about accumulation, or wealth or material possessions. It’s deeper than that.
In the contemporary service at PCPC, we’ll be using the season of Lent to explore this question: “How can I live an abundant life?”
This past week, we looked at one possibility to get started on this path. 19th century theologian Soren Kierkegaard outlined three possible ways to live. He argued that we all begin at the base level (level one), and that we could grow in life to a higher, more abundant way to live.
I took Kierkegaard’s outline and then paraphrased into what I call the three levels of life. We all begin in level one with the goal of eventually living in level three.
Level 1- Pleasure Seeking Only
Like it or not, this is where we naturally begin. Our very nature is self-centered (theologically, we call this a bent toward sinfulness). We want to look out for ourselves, first and foremost. This is the most basic level of existence.
And unfortunately, some never grow from this level.
People spend their lives going from one thing that gives them pleasure to the next. There is a temptation to pursue only the things that make us happy in the moment and then discard them once they no longer fill that void.
This stage is characterized by when we care only for ourselves and our personal pleasure, even at the expense of others.
Thankfully, there is a second level of existence.
Level 2- Seeking the Good of the Community
On this level, Kierkegaard described it as “a commitment to choosing the good over the evil; having an ethical mindset.”
A person must make a choice to not live only for one’s self, but for the good of the community. This person seeks to do the right thing, tries to make ethical choices that benefit all people, not just themselves.
You can see the difference between the first and second levels, can’t you? The first is all about yourself and what makes you happy. The second expands that view so that it takes into consideration the good and well-being of others. Many people strive to spend time on this level, and the world is better for it.
But on this level, it all depends on the individual. It depends on your own will power. And we cannot stop there. Because sometimes, our own will to do the good isn’t enough. Which leads us to level three.
Level 3- The Level of Faith.
In this stage a person recognizes that he is a created being, and that there is a creator.
In this stage comes a realization that your good works alone are not the point of your existence. The point of your existence is to develop faith in a creator of which no good works are required, and yet they naturally flow out of this holy relationship.
When you rely on nothing but the grace that is freely given from above…that is starting to sound like abundance.
When the focus of your life is not simply on pleasure or good works but on the ultimate contentment that comes from knowing you are a loved creation of God- this is true abundance.
According to Kierkegaard, we all travel through these stages in life- sometimes focusing solely on our pleasure, sometimes truly sacrificing our pleasure for the good of others, and, if we are truly lucky, arriving at the level of faith- where we come to believe that we are good and acceptable simply because we are created by a loving God.
That is where true abundance begins.