The scarcity of plenty
July 20, 2022
The old adage about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence still speaks as loudly today as when it was first coined around the time of Christ. Attributed to the poet Ovid, it speaks to covetousness and the discontent we all share when there is something we imagine that we can’t do without, something that is oh-so-close yet manages to elude our grasp. Sometimes we allow ourselves to become so enamored with the thought of getting that we entirely forget that giving is also a critical part of the equation. So, we cry foul, scuff our feet in the dirt, and declare what a raw deal we have gotten compared to everyone else, a reminder that victimhood is alive and well in the church among other places.
It is our very real human tendency to take for granted the plenty that is present in good years, then lament the scarcity that ultimately and inevitably follows, something that always seems to catch us a little off center. Exacerbated by good old-fashioned greed, we find ourselves admiring the lushness that appears on the other side of the fence without paying true attention to whether we are envious of grass or flowers, ground cover or a good crop of weeds. Sadly, we’re not all that particular when it comes to wanting what others have as long as it is green. “Having” represents a victory in itself.
This has been a tough year moisture-wise. Wheat yields are light and erratic. New summer crops are taking it on the chin. Even concluding which side of the fence you are on becomes an exercise in uncertainty. It is a moving target at times. In certain settings it is clear and unambiguous, less so in others. And yet bounty can still be found. The difference between our normal vegetable garden and more water conscious raised beds is night and day, at least for this year’s growing season. Onions, carrots, garlic, peppers, tomatoes and summer squash might be considered to be the other side of the fence compared to previous years, but when the whole enterprise is taken into account, the opposite side of the fence appears less enticing.
“Plenty” rarely happens without some outlay for labor and other resources. In the case of the raised beds, costs included seeds, mulch, fencing, timers, water hose and locating water hydrants in near proximity to the garden. The green results we coveted began to look less verdant than we had imagined. Could it be that there might be different notions of scarcity and plenty?
“The poor” are mentioned in the New Testament over two hundred times, mostly rising from the words, teachings, and actions modeled for us in Christ. The poor included not only the economically disadvantaged, but persons who were marginalized in other ways … the weak, the lowly, the downtrodden, the disenfranchised. It is not a matter of simple redistribution of resources in striving to claim a better balance. It is reevaluating our understandings of what constitutes plenty or scarcity. Jesus turned those definitions on their head by encouraging people to adopt another way of living, a new way of being in his world as well as our own.
When we are finally able to open our minds to a more inclusive understanding of faith — scarcity and plenty are seen in a new light. It is never too late to plant new seeds.