Scarcity and the Fear of Going Without

“Getting rid of stuff makes me feel lighter,” my daughter-in-law said. Without thinking, I responded, “I don’t believe I’ll have the means to replace something if I let it go so I keep it just in case I might need it.”

Even as the words were out of my mouth, my heart knew the truth. I still operate out of a scarcity mindset. Scarcity says there’s not enough to go around. At my core, I fear I’ll have to go without.

I don’t hoard, but I do have—neatly stacked mind you—keepsakes, letters, papers, craft supplies, and children’s toys. I know why throwing away is hard for me. My six siblings and I were raised by frugal missionary parents who grew up in the Great Depression.

Knowing the source of my scarcity mindset is helpful but I am chagrined because I have been trying to overcome it. I know better having lived in parts of the world where using, reusing, and recycling everything is a necessity. Storing is actually a luxury for those who already have much.

The world around me also reinforces this tendency. Last year it was toilet paper and cleaning supplies. More recently, lines at the gas pump and pool chlorine. The news reports a potential shortage and the shelves are bare within hours. Even the rumor of a restriction causes some to immediately “get some” before the law changes. Fear that our freedoms will be taken away bring a tightening of control and unwillingness to share those freedoms with others. And while we live in the richest nation in the world, when our supply is threatened, we panic. Why are we are so afraid of going without?

The Israelites were told to gather only what they needed for each day. In fact, hoarding more food than was needed led to rot and decay (Exodus 16:18–20).

Jesus taught his followers to focus on the present (Matthew 6:25–26), to ask for daily bread (Matthew 6:11), and to not worry about tomorrow’s need (Matthew 6:34).

My scarcity mindset limits my trust in God because I take measures to ensure that I always have what I need. My hesitancy to purge stymies generosity and promotes an unwillingness to loan. It ties me to stuff.

This time, I determined to make progress. So I began purging, or editing as some call it. I started with my jewelry, moved on to my craft closet, old teaching material, the utensil drawer, and bookshelves. Now, if I want to add something new, I commit to clearing space for it first. And clearing out more than I add.

My daughter-in-law was right. I feel lighter!

How might you be operating out of scarcity?

What threat might this indicate that you fear?


Lord, teach me to let go, to trust you for tomorrow and be generous with what I have.

I also found these questions from Third-Culture Thriving Podcast episode 43 very helpful:

  • Will I really use this? Do I really need it?
  • Is there really not an opportunity to get this elsewhere?
  • Where will I put this?
  • How and when will I use it?
  • Will this contribute to peace and harmony in my home or will it take it away?

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