catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 10 :: 2009.05.08 — 2009.05.22


Quantity and quality

I usually associate the word abundance with holiday images from my childhood: mounds of presents under the tree from “Santa Claus” even after my parents resolved that “this Christmas would be a smaller Christmas than last year;” or Thanksgiving napkins on my Grandma’s table with images of cornucopias spilling over with fruits and vegetables; or my Return of the Jedi pillow case weighed down by Kit-Kats and M&M’s after a good night of trick-or-treating.

I also think of some of Jesus’ words about abundance, recorded by Luke: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).  “The abundance of the heart” informs our actions in the world. It guides our interactions with other people. Particularly for someone who loves to talk — like me — this abundance comes into play day in and day out, because I’m constantly talking.

I saw this play out in my own life through conversations at work. I had the opportunity to work in a Christian bookstore for over year. The job was a blessing because as a lover of ideas, conversations and Jesus, I was almost in heaven every day at work. I read constantly that year and so did the people around me. We each had our own ideas based on what we read (whether it was theology or fiction) and so numerous debates began.

In this setting the abundance of my heart began to speak, and I didn’t always like what it had to say:

“That’s the dumbest frickin’ thing I’ve ever read. What Bible is he reading?”

“Ugg, I hate this guy’s books. What a load of crap…”

“No wonder Christian bookstores have a bad name! When people are writing books like this…”

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. I was opinionated and unafraid to share those opinions…all the time…with no holds barred.

Around this time, God taught me what Jesus was saying in Luke 6:45 through another verse, Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”  I found myself driving home from work, re-living conversations in my head, and being ashamed at how opinionated I was. I knew I was speaking a lot but saying very little, and I wondered what kind of affect my comments were having on my co-workers and on myself.

I eventually resolved to memorize Proverbs 18:21, and as much as I could, I would recite it to myself throughout the day, hoping it would change the tenor of my conversations at work.  It sounds like a simplistic approach to the Bible, like something out of Sunday school from when I was a kid (“Memorize this verse and say it whenever you feel tempted…”), but God met me through that verse and transformed my interactions.

By watching my speech and purposefully trying to replace what I would say with what God did say (i.e. the verse), I saw the abundance of my heart change.  I became more aware of what was on everyone else’s hearts too. The more I listened to God and others, the more my sensitivity to what others were saying increased. I still formed strong opinions, but expressed them differently, and perhaps formed them more humbly in the first place. 

My childhood memory definition of abundance was fueled by parents’ overspending on Christmas toys and the neighbors dropping king size Snickers bars into my pillow case on Halloween. But after experiencing the words of God affect my daily encounters with people, I have a more complete understanding of abundance.  Abundance concerns not only quantity, but quality, and it’s capable of affecting my life —  for better or worse.

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