Is Dirt Cheap?

The Lord detests dishonest scales,
    but accurate weights find favor with him.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
    but with humility comes wisdom.

  • Proverbs 11:1-2

The merchant uses dishonest scales
    and loves to defraud.
Ephraim boasts,
    “I am very rich; I have become wealthy.
With all my wealth they will not find in me
    any iniquity or sin.”

  • Hosea 12:7-8

“If you want to make something dirt cheap, make it out of dirt – preferably dirt that is locally sourced.”

  • Donald Sadoway

Okay, to answer the title question, you need to be more specific.  You can go to an online shopping site and buy a 2 cubic foot bag of potting soil for $15 to $20.  But if the dirt is attached to real estate, it depends on the location.  It could run into the millions.

But I do like Donald Sadoway’s quote, and not because he is a prominent engineer, presently teaching at MIT.

The idiom, dirt cheap, means that something is very inexpensive.  It is thought to have its origins in Roman times, about 60AD, when it was said that “food could be had for dirt.”

But there are many things that we think of as inexpensive that are not “dirt cheap” anymore.

About the time that the engineering company that I worked for lost several contracts in Asia when the economy fell apart there, we had a few layoffs (Few?!? – more like half the company), and mysteriously a printed comparison appeared in the men’s restroom on the floor where the big bosses had their offices.  I never knew who put the comparison on the wall.  Was it management?  Thus letting those who survived the layoffs know that there would not be a pay raise for a long time?  Or was it an experienced engineer, who had survived other layoffs, letting the new guys know why we were going to get no pay raises.

What was on the comparison chart?  Such things as a pound of bottled drinking water, about a pint, sells for as much as $2.00, but steel sells for the same thing that it sold for 50-60 years ago, about $0.19 per pound.  It is amazing how expensive bottled drinking water is per pound, not even the fancy sparkling water or flavored water.  Then compare that to many things that you would think might cost more. I think a few common drugs were at the top of the price per pound list.

Yet as prices of everything else goes up, the steel price does not.  So many things depend on steel.  If the steel price went up, the price of everything would go up astronomically.  The trucks that deliver the goods would cost more; the packaging of the goods would cost more directly (as in canned goods) or indirectly (due to the manufacturing equipment for cardboard boxes and such things use a lot of steel in the processing).  Housing would greatly increase in price.  There is steel rebar in the concrete slab.  Many buildings are made with steel studs these days instead of wood, but if wood were used, the nails are steel in most cases.

And our engineering company supported the steel industry.  Thus in financial turndowns, our company got little work.  The steel manufacturing companies that had cash were not spending.  Since we were international, we could go elsewhere.  International in sales, but still a small company in the US.

My point is that a pound of potting soil costs more than a pound of steel.

So, is dirt cheap?  Not really.  Is steel cheaper?  Yes, but it costs people their jobs when no one is buying.

It all depends on your frame of view.  When dirt is the commodity that puts food on your table (either in real estate or farming or moving dirt to build a highway), dirt can be more precious than gold.

And if you fought a battle to win it, every clod of dirt is precious. You measure that bit of dirt in blood.

The Scriptures above talk of dealing with one another fairly.  I really feel that if we all did that, there would be enough to go around, but far too many of us try to get more than their fair share.

That leads to all kinds of trouble.

Is it that those who cheat others are entrapped by the sin of greed?

Or do they not trust that God can and will provide our needs, so they must hoard or cheat others?

Dirt is not cheap.  My wife and I would like to move and moving is not cheap.

But with what did Solomon follow his admonition to not use dishonest scales?  Living a humble life brings wisdom.  Part of that humility is in dealing with others fairly.  Moving may not be cheap, but we know where to start: by being humble and praying that God will provide us with the wisdom that we need.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.


Add yours →

  1. Nope, dirt is not cheap!!!!
    Even if you were to buy just a lot, not necessarily a house but just a lot…a lot is a nice realty name for dirt.
    It is dirt that usually comes with a good bit of weeds, shrubs and even trees—
    We call that expensive debris with even more expensive dirt.
    Who would have ever thought dirt could fetch hundreds, thousands and then some bucks?!
    God is just shaking his head 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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