When significant snow is predicted in our area there is a run on the grocery stores. Quantities of bread, milk and eggs are purchased by many people. They are afraid of running out or having the stores run out and so go into hoarding mode.
Scarcity is a great fear in this nation of abundance but it also inhibits our ability to think clearly. A recent book “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much” explains that whenever we perceive that we lack something we become so focused on it that our thinking is altered. They write, “Scarcity captures the mind. The mind orients automatically, powerfully, towards the unfilled need.” And it is not just actual scarcity but the perception of scarcity that affects our ability to think clearly and act rationally.
Our faith teaches us about abundance. An abundance of goodness, an abundance of that which we really need. In the United States, a land of great abundance, we have many who can only look for and thus find scarcity. If we look for scarcity it is there, but if we look for abundance we will find it. The Judeo Christian tradition teaches us to look for the abundance and not for scarcity.
Why is it important? According to the authors even the slightest suggestion of scarcity taxes the ability reason well, to control impulses, and to think clearly. With an inch or two of snow falling overnight will the average household need several loaves of bread and a couple of gallons of milk? Probably not. But the threat of scarcity tells us to make sure we have ours just in case. The threat of scarcity creates scarcity.
What if we intentionally created a sense of abundance and sharing? What a difference it could make. People sharing out of their abundance could reshape our society into a more compassionate and less materialistically driven way of being together. It can and does happen particularly strangely enough among those closest to poverty. It is those of us who “have” who are so afraid of not having that we skew our thinking against sharing. It is those with relatively more wealth who are most vocal against allowing others to have their fair share of resources. It is those with investments, and more resources, who despite all manner of tax cuts and breaks given over the past 20 years continue the hue and cry for more tax cuts and loopholes – even and especially to those programs that provide a social safety net. And we provide the flimsy rationale of making people more independent and responsible as an excuse for our fear of scarcity and our resulting greed.
Jesus of the Gospels tells us of the abundance provided for us if we but look for it and share it.