Scripture mirrors our present moment of leaders embracing a narrative that sparks fear and anxiety, one in which rumors rooted in scarcity, supremacy and distrust of neighbors divide communities and sow animosity.

But Scripture also provides examples of ordinary people resisting such narratives and building community instead, like the heroic Hebrew midwives in Exodus. Remember Shiphrah and Puah?

In Egypt, a new king had come into power who did not understand the long history between the Egyptians and the Hebrews.

He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land” (Exodus 1:9-10 NRSV).

Motivated by fear and embracing a destructive narrative, Pharaoh warned that the Hebrew people were an immediate threat that must be managed — and, he eventually decided, eliminated.

Instead of building relationships, he embraced a narrative of competition and supremacy. Pharaoh created a problem by casting the beauty and blessing of community as a threat.

In the Exodus account, the midwives Shiphrah and Puah were ordered to embrace this narrative by killing the Hebrew boys at birth, but they chose to resist. Women who tended to other women, they would not have been regarded as powerful, yet they ignored Pharaoh’s orders and faithfully wrote a different story through their actions.

“But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live” (Exodus 1:17).

While Pharaoh sought to spread a message and employ tactics that would destroy the community,  Shiphrah and Puah sought to engage in activities that would lead the community to prosper.

Could the key to community be resisting the mythology of scarcity and embracing the call to be tangible signs, foretastes and instruments of God’s reign on earth? Could it be believing in and creating narratives of good news?

When we step into a message of abundance, mutuality and respect, what can we create together?

For Christian organizations and institutions, our work involves building people’s goodwill. To do this work, we must fortify our courage to call out the destructive nature of exclusionary narratives and begin articulating a message that addresses the challenges of the day.

People need community! People need to be a part of a system that invests in their wellness and allows them the opportunity and space to live and live well.

Leaders need to be encouraged and supported to know that this is a part of their vocational call — to acknowledge that all of us have resources and assets to consider for the goodwill of our community. And those same leaders need to be coached to unclench their hands, to hear and to tell stories of abundance, and to share authority beyond the typical structures of power.

Jane Wei-Skillern and Sonia Marciano, in a 2008 article in Stanford Social Innovation Review, wrote: “Most social issues dwarf even the most well-resourced, well-managed nonprofit. And so it is wrongheaded for nonprofit leaders simply to build their organizations. Instead, they must build capacity outside of their organizations. This requires them to focus on their mission, not their organization; on trust, not control; and on being a node, not a hub.”

Too often, we think we must own the resource to operate it. This idea derives from our conditioning to believe that we are surrounded by scarcity. However, our Exodus text demonstrates that in adversity, we can also be surrounded by abundance, especially when we work together. Building collective partnerships that work together to ensure the holistic thriving of all in the community is the key to addressing the challenge of the day.

This is nothing new for the church. We have been working together to seek something new. The impulse to look at the world and do something new and different derives from a holy boldness and reverence for God. We are invited to innovate and develop constructive achievements that wrestle with the questions of our day and create opportunities for people to live well.

C. Kavin Rowe, in his 2023 book “Leading Christian Communities,” writes: “Christian institutional leaders regularly need to make connections conceptually, metaphorically, and institutionally. This effort creates an ecology of interdependent institutions able in partnership to do what each is unable to accomplish alone.”

Our organizations and institutions should make room for the vulnerable. Thriving includes naming and acknowledging our own vulnerabilities while making provision for and including those at risk because they have been marginalized in our communities.

Leading from a vision of interdependence sees the value of inclusion and provision not as an extension of the core mission of the Christian community but as vital to our purpose. Communal development is the core mission. We have, with God’s provision, all that we need to accomplish this mission of living and living well — even amid the constraints.

Shiphrah and Puah’s fear of God, our metaphor in this narrative, was not the same fear that the king had of the Hebrews. The midwives revered God, respected God, valued and loved God. This was evident in how they interacted in their community. They expressed that love in a manner that demonstrated their belief in God’s provision and inclusion.

They deliberately resisted a narrative that told them to be fearful and self-protective. It is time for our organizations and institutions to vigorously resist narratives of scarcity, exclusion and competition.

Deliberately resist the fear of seeing some communities as less than others. Deliberately resist the contagion of dread. Deliberately resist the blinders that make you miss the reality that your blessing is not a threat.

Here is the invitation to join the litany of resisters who have articulated a vision of living and living well.

People need to be a part of a system that invests in their wellness and allows them the opportunity and space to live and live well.