Scarcity Mentality vs. Abundance

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Your work and mine centers on the written word, right? And we suffer from no lack of words. But we do seem surrounded by the discouraging reality that much is scare in our world:

  • Time to write
  • Available publishing slots
  • Creativity
  • Unique ideas
  • Marketing dollars

On this Labor Day weekend, I’ve been thinking about the scarcity mentality and how it binds us up from reveling in our work. As we tick off what’s lacking, I believe we should counterbalance those points with where abundance lies. That would be with God.

Nature: A Riot of Richness

Several decades ago, I sat in a publishing committee meeting awaiting my turn to present projects. But first Julie Link, a fellow editor at Zondervan, was summarizing a manuscript she hoped would receive thumbs up all around the table.

The book’s concept was that nature trumpets, over and over again, about how God doesn’t have a scarcity mentality. He’s all about abundance.

The author pointed to the ridiculously high seed count most plants produce. Sure, a certain failure rate is bound to occur, but do dandelions really need the dizzying array of pinwheel seeds that just one each flower produces? And what of a single pomegranate, that vast globe of seeds?

If we think of the riot of colors in nature, we have to wonder if God might have gotten a bit carried away. Wouldn’t the basic tones, without all the variations, be stunning enough?

And what of the amount of fruit from a single tree? Anyone who has fruit trees realizes just how many “seeds” hang on a single branch, let alone the entire tree.

We haven’t touched on how many insects God decided the world needed. Really, God?

By the time Julie finished with her presentation, I was fairly breathless with enthusiasm for the book because the writing was as exquisite as the magnificence of the thoughts.

Sad to say, the decision-makers didn’t agree with Julie (and me) that the book held important reminders of the lens through which we as believers should view life. We have no need to be fearful hoarders, but as children of an extravagant God, we have in abundance all that we need.

The Message of Abundance Reverberates

While the committee said no, note that I’m recounting the book’s contents decades later. I never forgot about that book.

Oh, wait, that’s not true. Actually, I forget about that book and its message all the time. I regularly fret over the inadequate supply of all that I need or want.

God caught me up short a few weeks ago, reminding me of the scarcity mentality vs. abundance. I was reading Psalm 78 when I came to this question: “Can God set a table in the wilderness?”

To put the question in context, the verses before portray the Israelites during their journey to the promised land. The psalmist says of them, “They tested God in their hearts, demanding food for their craving. They railed against God and said, ‘Can God set a table in the wilderness?'”

I picture them sneering as they pose the question. It’s a challenge to God, not a paean to his provision.

The next verse makes me smile, as the Israelites concede, “True, he struck the rock, the waters gushed out, and the gullies overflowed.” They already had seen that God’s provision was more than they could consume.

Despite this “minor” concession, the Israelites continued with their challenge to God in the next part of the verse: “But is he able to give bread or to provide meat for his people?” The tribe seems eager to point out God’s deficiency, as if that were something to relish.

In response, God sent manna to them, which is described in this way in the psalm: “He…gave them grain from heaven. So mortals ate the bread of angels…”

He also “rained down flesh upon them like dust, and winged birds like the sand of the sea.” Abundance beyond imagining!

The Surprise in the Story

But here’s the kicker: If you’re picturing a long-suffering God providing for his people, you have it all wrong. For Psalm 78 specifies that their churning need for MORE and MORE and MORE unaccompanied by faith filled God with wrath. The psalm describes them as having “no faith in his wonderful works.”

Their challenging, dare-you question, Can God set a table in the wilderness, caused him to burst forth with manna, meat, and birds. A feast fell from heaven. It was so much more than they could have imagined. They might have hoped for  a bit of bread for each person to gnaw on to take away the hunger. A scarcity mentality causes you to think small, you know.

Turning the Question on Itself

As I read this Scripture passage, I decided to intentionally stop small thinking but to challenge myself to believe big. So I’ve posed that core question to our Father, “Can God set a table in the wilderness?” But my tone isn’t derisive, it’s full to overflowing with hopefulness and praise. If he responded to the Israelites, who endlessly challenged him, with such abundance, what might he bestow on someone who envisions a festive table so laden with provision that the boards bend? Now there’s a question to ask!

What other thoughts about publishing and writing reflect a scarcity mentality? What questions would a writer who believed big ask?

34 Responses

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  1. Michelle Aleckson says:

    That’s a beautiful challenge! It’s so easy to think of God as stingy, forgetting His provision and faithfulness.

    When I’m discouraged by the lack of opportunities or when I read someone else in my genre that writes so well, I wonder if anybody would read my story. But I think of the amazing variety of people, personalities, cultures, skin tones, hair color, and think there’s a possibility my voice will resonate with someone. He is a God of variety and abundance. It gives a girl hope. 🙂

  2. Kathleen wright says:

    This is lovely.

  3. Jeanette Raymond says:

    wow great insight Janet, King David had asked God to build for Him, but he had shed blood so Solomon had been given the task. Either way David had a dream and it was accomplished. In 2 Chronicles 1 we hear of this exceptional question being asked of Solomon.
    8 And Solomon said to God: “You have shown great mercy to David my father, and have made me king in his place. 9 Now, O Lord God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. 10 Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?”

    11 Then God said to Solomon: “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life—but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king— 12 wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.”

    What an amazing Go we serve. As a daughter of the King in the area of writing I’ve asked for His presence in my life, through His word to overflow in my writing so other may be reached in whatever capacity is needed whether it be entertainment, bringing laughter, thought provoking meditation or fun filled adventures to escape to. Desires of the Heart come in many forms. In wanting to please God in giving back to Him what he has given and in seeing His love in the many gifts he gives it’s a thrilling time to live and breath. If I were to dream big and ask a question I think It would be such an amazing thing to see a book series I’m writing be on screen to see the characters come to life and others enjoying them would be so fun to watch. But in the area of believing God Big it would also mean seeing others hearts transformed filled with joy love peace and much of the fruit talked about in a previous blog 🙂 growing in those we love surrounding ourselves in this vineyard of beauty hope and wisdom would bring heaven on earth to all our surroundings. Personally it all begins with Solomons prayer of wisdom, as a teen I asked God for this because without this jewel we might as well not go any farther because it’s so easy in the scarcity mentality to many “fall out of the way” they become ensnared in traps and would have been better not finding themselves in a position which could take them farther from God and His will. But this scarcity in some areas is very real and should be heeded. It’s a fine line we walk as pilgrims in a foreign land. I’m blessed to know this Savior of the World who graciously offers “Big” things everyday. The sky, rainbows, love of others, a home, and food on my table. Small things become very big when we have gone without, lives become very thankful in scarcity. Either way God says come to Him and ask and I’m thankful for His open arms , listening ear and watching over me.

  4. Beautifully and memorably said, Janet. Thank you!

    God has done, is doing and will do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” now and forever without end. Amen.

  5. Janet, thanks for balancing the negative thoughts we all have (well, I have them, and I suspect I’m not alone) with this positive imagery. Have a great rest of the holiday.

  6. A baleful plenty, hell’s supplies
    that keep fear’s death-gleam bright
    sorely my lonely courage tries
    till honour has fled my sight.
    But the One mine heart more than thrice denies
    forgives, with tears holy and bright
    and bids, with fierce and glad-ringing cries
    that I rise against the fall of night.

  7. I watched Hidden Figures this afternoon (thank you, Netflix) and I laughed out loud at the line “Math is always dependable.”
    All I could think was “Yeah, but only if you understand it!”
    In this maze of waiting, I KNOW that God is always dependable, His grace is always abundant, even when I do not understand it.
    And yet in the last few days, I have been letting the worry pull at my wings. I’m allowing the scarcity mentality to inhibit my flight path.
    Why? Because I don’t write to bring comfort to the found, or peace to the sleeping. I’m afraid that editors will snap their crayons and run.
    Instead, I should be planning what to serve at the launch party.
    And yes, this was the third nudge from God for today to stop worrying, ask big, and get ready to jump into the fray.

    • Jeanette Raymond says:

      Hi Jennifer,
      There is room for all in the body each bringing with them a different spice to the party. Some hot, some cool other warm. Your given a gift You nique to you. Don’t shy away from what God has gifted you with. Hugs.

  8. Carol Ashby says:

    Janet, I’d add the worry that the next book I publish won’t be as good as the last so readers who’ve loved the earlier books will be disappointed. But that’s a symptom of not trusting God to inspire and direct what I’m doing. If He’s done it before, why should I think He won’t keep guiding me to new story ideas and giving me what it takes to craft something that glorifies Him while giving readers what they hoped to find in the next one I write?

    • Carol, this is a great paradigm for other things as well. It was a fell weekend for me, and this morning I arose with things only getting far worse. And yet, the God that got me through yesterday will see to it that I can stand in the furnace-heat of the evil day, and spit flame right back into the devil’s face.

  9. And there is, of course, the Abundance Of One, that singular moment in which we can by our choice make transcendent all that has passed before, and thereby define love and hope and honour by the sum of our being.

  10. This reminds me of the Prayer of Jabez. Enlarge my tent. I had a friend who put that passage on her bathroom mirror and prayed it every day. 🙂 It’s crazy reading through the Exodus … it’s just shocking to think how short-sighted the people were. Don’t you remember the great things God did? And then it’s so shocking to think … I am that person. But another thing … if one asks big, and God delivers big, how does one properly and humbly give God credit in the writing world without sounding ridiculous or arrogant?

  11. Angie Arndt says:

    My hubby is a beekeeper and he says each box in a hive holds 15 – 20,000 bees. Each queen in each hive can lay 2,000 eggs a day. In fact, we probably have around 100,000 in our yard, so yes, the insect world is a great example of abundance, too.

    By the way, my husband often goes into a hive without a veil or bee suit. What if we approached God’s blessing the same way, without any pretense or fear to hide behind? What if I concerned myself with producing my best work, and leave how it’s received to Him?

    You’ve given me a lot to think about, especially as I prepare for the conference. I hope I can focus less on worry and more on expectancy.

  12. This belongs on a wall in my home: “We have in abundance all that we need.” Well said, Janet!

  13. Oh, I needed this today, Janet. It’s a beautiful reminder.

  14. Lisa Bogart says:

    Feasting on your post. Thank you so much Janet.

  15. Wow! What an inspiring post! It’s just what I needed to read today, and the responses are inspiring, too.

  16. Cynthia Ruchti says:

    In love with this post…and its wisdom.

  17. Janet Grant says:

    Thanks to all of you for your responses. I’m grateful that God’s nudges for me are meaningful to you as well. That’s just what I had hoped for.

  18. Wanda Rosseland says:

    “Books don’t sell.”
    “Writers can’t make a living writing.”
    “You won’t be able to get an agent to take you on.”
    “Your manuscript will never be published.”
    “Your book has to be rewritten. And rewritten. And rewritten.”
    “Who’s going to buy your book?
    “Books cost too much money.”
    “Everything’s on the computer these days.”

    That said………

    “Off with their heads!”

    God loves books. He wrote the first one.
    He gives writers the command to write.
    He made pens.
    God knows exactly where your book is supposed to go.
    He will see it to the (expected) end.
    If it doesn’t happen, it’s not your fault, if you did the best you could do.
    He never gives you one idea only. Many. Keep writing.

    Dear God, I’m sitting down here on earth, not having any idea what You want me to do, except chew on a pencil and maybe write down a few words. Would you please guide my hand, and put what you want in my brain? Thank you very much. Wondering now, since my book Angels Among Us is coming out, would you be so kind as to send it to a million people, yes, really Lord, I’d love to have it sold that much and more, all over the world, and fill it with your Holy Spirit so all those who read it will be knocked over by your majesty and glory and great great power and love–for them, and all of us human beings, and turn their hearts to you, Lord. O great and wondrous God who fills us with the plenty of heaven and wishes to throw out a bucketful over our heads instead of the dribbles we meekly ask for.
    “Figure it out! I AM The Lord! I made heaven and earth. Ask largely! It is my pleasure to give you the kingdom. Ask, and it shall be given you, full measure, pressed down and running over. Do you know what running over is? Running over! Down your pant’s leg, on top of your shoes, into the ditch, overflowing the pond, to-the-sea! All that is in my hands I give to you. My treasure house is yours. Why do you falter and fail? It is your doing, not mine.”
    Ok, ok, God! I get it. Ten million copies! Ten million souls saved. A great shout of triumph crying, I believe Jesus Christ is the son of God, save me from my sins. All praise and glory to thee. Amen
    And may I please have the next book? Amen

  19. Jerusha Agen says:

    What an encouraging post, Janet! Thank you for this reminder that our God is more than capable of providing a “feast” in the seemingly scarce publishing world. Amen!

  20. Susan Sage says:

    I often wrestle with the question of following the norm in the writing process. Our industry says you must do X,Y, and Z. I’ve pondered the issue of God’s plan vs. our world’s standard. I’ve been challenged to pray God-sized prayer, or the idea that if I don’t believe prayer (and thus the sovereignty of God) matters, it won’t.
    Yes, I’m on a roll.
    If the industry says we as writers, authors, and wanna-be’s, must do “it” this certain way, where does the truth of God’s powerful plan come in.
    I believe we must not begin with what the industry or the world says must happen in a certain order (blog, platform, audience, etc.) but rather be still and listen to God’s direction and let Him lead the way.
    If He wants us published, it will be so.
    If He wants us to write for a small group, it will be so.
    If He wants us to write for family and friends, it will be so.
    If He wants us to write simply to help us know what we believe and think, it will be so.
    I must first be faithful to that whole thought of HIS greatness, sovereignty, plan, and the fact that He can indeed set that table.
    I learn from those in the industry because God has put them in my life for that reason. I follow Him to the conferences, people who can pour knowledge into me, connections with people He wants me to encourage.
    But, bottom line, I’ll keep looking for that table!

  21. I am a HUGE fan of abundance, and have written about it a fair amount, too. Here’s a post from Christianity Today about it, in fact:

  22. Peggy Booher says:

    I just read your post. Thank you for the reminder that God deals in abundance, not scarcity.
    *As you wrote, there are plenty of examples of that fact in nature. When I think about those examples, I wonder how I can worry so much about not having enough of this or that. Why should I worry? God has enough, more than enough, and He loves to give. He is able to pour it all over me, if He desires.

  23. This exact topic (scarcity and abundance) has been on my mind lately too. I wrote about it in my blog a few weeks ago:

    But it took reading your post today, Janet, to remind me. Why is it so easy to forget God’s abundance?

  24. ej bohan says:

    I so love this post because even as believers we can think of God, the Father especially, as a take away God. He takes away our fun, our rights, our pleasures. When in reality He really never takes away to leave an empty hole, no, the Father is so good..He replaces to overflowing with what really matters. He takes away our sin and gives us eternal life, takes away what we think is fun, and provides us with true delights, and he takes away our selfish ambitions and gives us a heart to serve. Only a God of abundance can do such things. Our eyes tend to look at the material and fret for what we think we lack or what the world says we lack, but true riches are already available to us from the Father who delights to bless His children. I may be poor in this world, but I am more than supplied with what truly matters…my cup overflows.

  25. Janet, perhaps one scarcity mentality posture is the I’m-not-good-enough, I’m-not-smart-enough to write the really great book idea God has given me.