Sunday, May 20, 2012


cornucopia detail

I've been searching for a word recently.

You might recently have read the story of a Wisconsin man who was asked to leave an "all you can eat" fish restaurant after consuming twelve pieces of fish. (He was given eight more for the road.)

This being America, he returned and picketed the restaurant, accusing them of "deceptive business practices".

Scripture celebrates abundance.  Look at the wonderful Harvest Festival in Psalm 65:9-13, for example. But abundance does not mean the absence of all limits, the right to consume without restraint.  Classical theology defined gluttony to be the inordinate desire for food and drink - "inordinate" meaning "not regulated by reason" - and listed it as potentially among the mortal sins (Aquinas, Summa theologica, question 148). What I'm looking for is a word that simultaneously gives the idea of abundance and the idea of reasonable restraint.  Because I think we're going to need such a word, and the attitude it refers to.

I believe I've found it.  The word is plenty.

Plenty means abundance. "Honor the Lord", says Proverbs,  "and your barns will be filled with plenty, your vats will be bursting with wine."   But it also means enough. "You've had plenty of strawberries", my mother might say, "save some for later".

What difference would it make if we were to talk about "green" issues (like recycling, energy conservation, moderating consumption, and so on), not in the all-too-available language of asceticism, but in the language of plenty?

Could our children's future be the "Age of Plenty"?


John Roe said...

I just came across the book Year of Plenty , here is the description from Amazon. "In 2008, Pastor Craig Goodwin and his young family embarked on a year-long experiment to consume only what was local, used, homegrown, or homemade. In Year of Plenty, Goodwin shares the winsome story of how an average suburban family stumbled onto the cultural cutting edge of locavores, backyard chickens, farmers markets, simple living, and going green. More than that, it is the timely tale of Christians exploring the intersections of faith, environment, and everyday life."

Craig Goodwin said...

John, I'm glad you discovered Year of Plenty. Your question is right at the heart of what I try to flesh out in the book. There's more background on the book at my blog -
All the best.
- Craig Goodwin