When we talked about mental health issues during Mental Health Awareness Week in May, we used the analogy of a bucket which, if faced with too much stress, overflows (and said that overflow represents our inability to cope and the fact we then become pronte to anxiety, fear and depression). In that analogy, the goal is not to have an over-full bucket, but to learn coping mechanisms which allow us to let out water (stress) in a controlled and helpful way.

The image of an overflowing bucket does not always have to be negative, however. In the Bible, the image of a cup overflowing is often seen as a sign of God’s blessing which is so abundant it cannot be contained. Ps 23:5 says, ‘my cup overflows’ in the context of God’s anointing and blessing.

Jesus talked about generosity as a key to blessing: ‘Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.’ (Luke 6:38)

Joel prophesied about a time of blessing when ‘the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.’ (Joel 2:24)

The abundance found in God is often described positively: ‘your carts overflow with abundance’ (Ps 65:11); ‘you will drink deeply and delight in the overflowing abundance.’ (Is 66:11)

If we view the overflowing cup in this light, we notice several things:

  1. God is a liberal, generous God who is not mean or stingy in any way. James reminds us that every good and perfect gift comes from Him. (James 1:17) Paul tells us that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. (Eph 1:3) There is no lack in God, and He is not only able to bless us, but willing.

  2. God’s generosity is so overwhelming, there will inevitably be mess. When my grandchildren play in water, I have to be prepared for everything to get wet! Their splashing, tipping and pouring result in water getting everywhere – their clothes get soaked; the ground gets soaked; the water goes everywhere. We mustn’t be afraid of the ‘mess’ blessing can bring us. Revival – surely the ultimate example of God’s blessing seen on earth – often looks messy: people weeping uncontrollably, people laughing for hours, people prostrate before God, meetings that last for hours as the Spirit of God moves in ways we have not seen before. For many, the ‘mess’ of blessing is too much, but we are urged not to quench the Holy Spirit. (1 Thess 5:19)

  3. God’s generosity in overflow means everyone gets blessed. Blessing is not really meant to be contained. It’s meant to overflow to others. God’s plan has always been to bless others through His people: ‘all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ (Gen 12:3) The parable of the talents reminds us that ‘whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.’ (Matt 25:29) Abundance isn’t meant to be simply hoarded, but to be used to benefit others. We are blessed to be a blessing.

  4. Blessing comes from God. This truth is fundamental to our spiritual growth. We don’t earn blessing (we earn wages!) There’s no place in God’s kingdom for the quid pro quo mindset which governs so much of our thinking. Abundance and blessing are rooted in grace. They have nothing to do with our ‘rights’ or what we think we deserve, and we have to let go of all that’s connected to the legalistic way of life if we are to know God’s blessing more fully. Holding on to grudges, seeking revenge and trying to force blessing from God will all ultimately prove to be unsuccessful. We don’t need to twist God’s arm to bless us. We simply have to live as children of God.

 5.  The bigger the cup, the bigger the blessing! We may feel there’s not much we can do about the size of our ‘cup’: it is what it is. But if our cup is     clogged up and filled with other things, it does affect its capacity. Our part is to ‘put off’ our old self and ‘be made new’ in the attitude of our minds (Eph 4:23) so that our capacity to receive God’s blessing is increased.