Lately: Scarcity vs. Abundance in Faith, Reading, and Work


I’ve been thinking a lot about how the ebb and flow of scarcity versus abundance affects my entire life. This is a mind-set we’re taught to put on from an early age—one of those subtle rules we assign meaning to in some way or another, whether it’s scarcity-thinking of finances, possessions, time, friendships . . . it truly devours and gnaws away at us, to the point where abundance is always an arm’s length away.

I’ve been freelancing now for a few weeks, and I’ve been blown away by the abundance of projects and work I wasn’t anticipating. It’s been so nice, and honestly, I didn’t expect this cushion. Now that I have it so soon, however, my grip tightens. What if it’s not enough in a month—four months? It’s feast or famine. What if, just before I take a breath and know I’ve officially settled into this transition, something is taken away? These past few weeks have been a dream. When will the other shoe drop?

Scarcity-Thinking Steals Joy

I think people pursuing ambition always have to fight away the monster of scarcity-thinking. It steals joy and replaces it with fear and anxiety. A scarcity mind-set is carved out of a purely physical perspective, even if it’s just time on this earth and not having enough of it. Being a freelancer full time again means I’m trying to figure out those healthy boundaries of work and life, and while being protective of my time is a necessary step, it’s easy to peer through the lens of "only." I only have this much time to spend with friends. How will I manage my time? If I have all of these editing projects now, I’ll only have a few to work on later. What will I do then?

In My Reading Life

I’ve even noticed the scarcity mind-set creeping into my reading life. Not having enough time to read means I’m paralyzed from picking up my next book, even when I try to make time for myself. There’s always something different—something better—I should be spending my time on. I’m a reader who reads when relaxed, not a reader who reads to relax. I have to feel as though I’m in a place of abundance—spiritually, mentally, emotionally—before I can really dig in, quiet my brain, and enjoy a good book.

While reflecting on this word only, I remember Jesus feeding the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21). The disciples know what scarcity looks like.

“‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered” (Matthew 14:17).

But what happened? Jesus gave thanks and broke the loaves. He gave them to the disciples to scatter among the people, and “they all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over” (Matthew 14: 20-21).

The Abundance Mind-set

Jesus came to give abundant life (John 10:10), and I can put on an abundance mind-set because of his generosity—trusting that even the leftovers of the abundance of Jesus are far greater than the scarcity the world offers. I don’t have to worry or be frustrated, and what’s more: I don’t have to scrap the bottom of the barrel. I can dare greatly, and I can rest—even in the possibility of failure and falling. There’s freedom to fail when you aren’t clawing for a false security. And when we aren’t afraid to fail, we can be vulnerable, creative, joyful, generous, and alive.