We live in a world, in the US, specifically, in whch we have more than we need (most of us). We take more than we need, and it’s a way of life.
Read the portions on the box, or can, or bag of whatever it is you just ate. How many portions did you judst eat?
I rest my case.
Ok, I am certain to be wrong about you, or him or her. Outliers always exists. On the whole, though, we consume way more than we really need. We have more than we need.
How many pairs of shoes do you have?
I rest my case again. For real this time.
Who doesn’t have more than one pair of shoes? Even if they are old and ratty, and have holes in them, people in some countries would give their left hand for a pair of shoes. (If they gave a foot, … well, you know….)
Just a day ago, I saw a short video on what “green pastures” might have meant in Psalm 23. While the video may be more interesting to watch than reading my summary of it, summarize it will (but I won’t fault you for watching it).
“Green pastures” in the stony, arid Palestinian landscape is something far different than the verdant fields of lush vegetation I have always pictured. Maybe the Psalmist envisioned those greens fields also, but his reality was far different.
Green grass grew around small rocky clumps in the psalmist’s world, sparsely scattered in the rocky fields. Water (or maybe just the morning dew) collected – just enough – around those rocky clumps to grow a few tender shoots around each array.
Shepherds had to keep their herds moving, always moving, to cover enough ground to feed them as the sought out those scattered patches of greens.
When the psalmist wrote the following words, he may well have been envisioning a lush, green field:
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures…. (Psalm 23:1-2)
But his world would have betrayed those day dreams. The reality he faced every day was a struggle. He would have to move, and constantly move, to keep his flock fed. The life of a shepherd was a difficult one in terrain that did not its provision easily.
Yet, the psalmist proclaimed, that God was his shepherd, and as he was able to provide enough for his sheep, God also would provide enough for him.
We have a hard time relating to the experience out of which those words were penned (most of us anyways). How much more significant do they become in the context in which they were conceived and then written?
God gives us enough, but maybe only just enough. Do we really need more than that?
And, the things that we need (or want), are they the most important things? We lose sight of the fact that our lives on earth are short, and we can’t take our things with us. This is why the psalmist also said:
LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup…. (Psalm 16:5)
But the psalmist had a more difficult life than we do. He didn’t have supermarkets. He didn’t even have green fields. He struggled to eke out his subsistence. It may have been easier for him to pray:
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 75:25-26)
But, though we may have more than enough, more than the portion we need, are we richer in spirit than the psalmist to which we turn when our times are hard?
Our things, the things that we want, and even the things we need, often leave little room in our lives and hearts for God.