Plenty of Abundance

Don’t expect a word nerd like me to entitle an essay using redundancy every day. Gloat, go on. You know you want to, except – haha! I was being ironic, because abundance is used ironically in Luke 6:45. When Jesus says ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’, don’t you get the feeling he is displeased by someone? There are plenty of times when Jesus uses irony to get his point across, or not, because usually the Pharisees are so busy listening to their own plotting hearts they don’t notice. He teaches about fruitfulness right in front of Israel’s most (self)righteous scholars over and over. I always thought educated people got irony.

First Plus-Size Model

The Oxford English Dictionary tells readers that abundance is ‘the state or condition of having a copious quantity of something; plentifulness.’ Most of the time, a positive connotation is attached as in the case of this secondary definition: ‘Plentifulness of the good things of life; prosperity.’ Imagine a garden bursting with vegetables, a household full of love, or a business owner whose list of clients is reassuringly long and whose bank balance always features six and seven-figure sums in black. Today, one would typically reserve terms such as ‘overgrown’ or ‘burdensome’ when referring to weeds and debt. Children from austere families are ‘love-starved’.

Westerners are usually trained to associate ‘plenty’ with wealth and success, although some of us are afraid of wealth too. I sometimes fear losing what I have, and wonder if it’s fair that I have so much compared with most people in the world (i.e. a home, food, political freedom). I value knowledge and friends: to me, those are good things to have lots of. The value of ‘plenty’ is related to context: my personal beliefs, society’s yardstick of success, and worldwide standards and ideals.

Oxford’s online dictionary also states that ‘abundance’ is derived from the Latin ‘abundantia’ which means ‘overflowing’ ( Strong’s Concordance leads readers to the noun ‘hadrotés’ (Greek) meaning ‘thick, well-grown’; ‘shepha’ is the Hebrew ( Deuteronomy 33:19 provides scripture’s first use of ‘shepha’ which appears not to offer any further root. The Greek is apt as far as my thighs go, and my 16-year-old daughter demonstrates what well-grown looks like, especially her long, thick, hair. In some cultures, my thighs would be a sign of prosperity. I should establish my travel plans around such places.

Enough Dry Stuff; How about Juicy Fruit?

I sometimes try to picture Christ speaking to crowds of followers. They are hungry and thirsty for Jesus’ teaching which is like nothing they have ever experienced. Here is a rabbi who settles right in their midst; who walks miles between locations to reach forgotten people and to enter communities where God is not respected. In his midst, other teachers shake their heads and fold their arms. They are disgusted by Jesus who, though obviously well-versed in the Torah, uses his influence to teach what sounds like blasphemy and riddles. Surely only the word of God is all that matters; his law? What does he mean ‘no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit’? (Luke 6:43 ESV) Why can’t the man speak plain English?

Do you feel saddened by the Pharisees’ hardness of heart? I wonder if Jesus allowed himself a moment to mourn how these highly educated men had abandoned knowledge of God for knowledge of knowledge and were becoming as brittle as so much parchment left in the sun too long. If so, the moment was short. Jesus was eager to provide forgiveness of sins to the faithful. The Pharisees did not regard themselves as sinners requiring grace. They stopped the flow if Living Water from reaching them, arms folded across their hearts. Even a Roman Centurion would exhibit a juicier spirit than theirs while the Pharisees would be like Lot’s wife, turning into pillars of stinging salt subjected to the harsh winds of judgement, wearing down the intelligent but stern features of scholarly men like a sculptor destroying the fine lines of his creation. If only their hearts had been sponges, their words would have dripped with life-giving truth; with good news.

Still Abundant

Value is not conferred upon ‘abundance’ in modern usage; biblically, however, we see that one translation of 2 Corinthians 8:20 speaks of a ‘generous gift’ (New American Standard Bible) or ‘liberal gift’ (New International Version) which in the King James Version is ‘abundance’. So often, scripture means to speak about fruitfulness and plenty. Then again, the Psalmist laments an ‘abundance of […] transgressions’ (5:10, ESV). Jesus says ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’. He did not qualify what sort of abundance he was talking about, but I’m pretty sure if we drew a picture of what he knew was in the Pharisees hearts, mothers everywhere would be covering their children’s eyes. ‘Time for bed, Tommy,’ his mom would say and Tommy would protest ‘but it’s only two o’clock!’ ‘Well,’ his mother would reply desperately, ‘go play a video game. You’ve had plenty of human interaction and fresh air today already.’ The hearts of religious leaders might have resembled black holes of lifeless cold. Religion knows how to kill faith.

Put it like this – an amount of something too great to count, good or bad, is an abundance. That goes for sin, grapes, love, or judgement. Luke’s Pharisees sit in plentiful judgement and out of this judgement their hearts speak. Christ’s heart speaks mercy and truth. If I was going to wait hours under the hot sun to hear someone speak, I know which speaker I would wait for, even while lacking adequate supply of loaves and fishes. Eventually, the people understood what ‘plenty’ looked like when they hung-out around Jesus and it wasn’t guilt or sunburn. Well, maybe sunburn.