“Takers believe in a zero-sum world, and they end up creating one where bosses, colleagues and clients don’t trust them. Givers build deeper and broader relationships – people are rooting for them instead of gunning for them.”― Adam Grant- American Author
In prayer, I was cautioned by the LORD to avoid zero-sum thinking. ZERO-SUM is a game-theory term used by people who study how games are played and won. ZERO-SUM is a situation in which whatever is gained by one side is lost by the other. If you get an advantage, I lose one, therefore the sum of the game is zero. This kind of thinking eliminates any possibility that we both could win and the sum be two or even more. As the graphic to the left shows; we talk about win/win propositions, but we generally act in win/lose ways, pitting ourselves against one another. If you win, that must automatically mean that I lose. So I can’t celebrate when good things happen to you because I believe that in some way takes away from the possibility of something good happening for me. And when good things happen to me, I must hoard them to ensure you don’t get a chance to share in my blessings. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Rom 12:15) We are generally ok with the weeping part…misery loves company…but at times we find it difficult to be happy for the advancement of others—particularly in areas where we’ve failed, longed to excel, or where others might be further along than we are. It can be a bitter pill when ‘their gain’ emotionally equates to ‘our loss.’ This is real talk. Zero-sum thinking is at the root of all kinds of societal and relational divisions like racism, sexism, and classism. It causes sibling rivalry (if mom and dad love or give attention/affection to you, I can’t get any). Zero-sum thinking brings envy, jealousy, comparison, and competition into marriages, workplaces, and even churches. It is black or white, and all or nothing. This perspective leaves no room for grey nuances or extenuating circumstances. It pits us against each other, causes all parties to lose, and shows we really do not love.
Zero-sum thinking reveals a scarcity mentality and our God is all about abundance. When you’ve grown up with zero-sum, it’s hard to transition to the truth that the LORD desires and has provided for all of the families of the earth to be blessed (Genesis 12:3). We are greedy— fighting over ‘pieces of the pie’ in everything from money to love. What if there is no pie? only a huge stratosphere of God’s blessing is available to all if we’re willing to stop fighting over perceived slices. Whether in finances or forgiveness, the economy of the Kingdom is win/win and abundance, not lack. Givers understand Jesus’ exhortation to, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38, NLT) What if God’s blessings, His possibilities, and opportunities were as abundant as the air we breathe? We don’t argue over whether or not someone close to us is taking a piece of our air! Maybe it’s not the competitive environment. Maybe it’s not the proliferation of churches in the City. Maybe it’s not the advancements your spouse, child, friend, or neighbor is making that feel like your loss. Maybe the problem is your zero-sum thinking.