Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Manna Economy, the Essential Component of Faithfulness

And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, "Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Then the LORD said to Moses,
"Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not...."
So Moses and Aaron said to the people..."At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?"

It is not coincidental that in the model prayer of Jesus he uttered the words, "Give us this day our daily bread." In a day when "more is better", greed is "wise accumulation of resources", and gluttony is merely a health condition (obesity), the point of the manna story and the model prayer of Jesus is completely lost.

In the wilderness, Israel confused grace with comfort, and so do most people. In the discomfort of the wilderness conditions Egyptian slavery became preferable to living in the wilderness not knowing where or when they would have their next meal. Satisfying their hunger and knowing daily what to expect from their Egyptian taskmasters in the way of labor and cruelty became preferable to freedom.

Truly, ambivalence about the future has this effect on people. Chaining ourselves to our present masters prevents us from living in the hope of God's providential care. Grace is out of our reach if we do not act on the provision of faith which God gives.

The manna of the wilderness was not just about feeding the people; it was about how to walk in faith within the rules and limitations of God's design.

This "manna economy" is what Jesus's model prayer alludes to, asking God only to give us what we need to live daily, trusting that tomorrow, God will be listening again...and providing.

Needless to say, American culture knows nothing about the "manna economy." Instead, Christians and non-believers alike relish in the bounty of their production, ofttimes even at the expense of natural resources, attributing their "success" to the blessing of God. How contrary this is to the grace of God!

If Christians became more acquainted with walking in the faith set forth in the "manna economy" it might very well produce a grumbling sound, the likes of which exceeding the complaints of Israel in the wilderness. The comforts of slavery are preferable to not knowing what tomorrow might bring.

Confusing comfort with grace, and discomfort with curse, is a dangerous condition which engulfs American Christianity. In the process, while numbers grow and grow in churches which espouse this mentality, faith is becoming ever and ever an endangered virtue of the Christian life.

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