June 1, 2009

How to Manage your Manna

When I was small, one of the most interesting Bible stories I remember was the story of “manna from heaven” in Exodus 16. I stood amazed at how these people kept complaining against the Lord – and how God kept blessing them anyway. I wondered where in the world the stuff came from every morning … and where it went in the afternoon. And maybe most of all, I imagined what it must have tasted like! The thought of bread coming down from heaven is pretty unforgettable for an 8-year-old boy…especially one who never got bread from anywhere besides Kroger!

Now, as an adult, those same questions still capture my imagination when I read this chapter. But now I realize that there is more to be learned from the manna story than my child’s mind could perceive. Exodus 16 actually provides a wonderful theology for how a person ought to manage and trust God with His resources – particularly his financial ones. So let me give you a few lessons I see in Exodus 16 …

1. Sometimes God provides our financial needs out of nowhere. The Hebrew word for “manna” actually means ‘What is it?’ (v.13-15). The Israelites called it manna because they didn’t know what it was or where it came from! They simply knew that God had come through. And sometimes, He does it this way with us. We don’t know where the rent-money is going to come from … but God delivers. If He can do it for them, He can do it for us! So trust Him instead of complaining or worrying!

2. We only need so much. What a needed lesson in this country! Each day the people were to gather the manna, according to the need of their household – no more and no less (v.16-18). They were not to be greedy with it, hording more than was necessary to live on. Do you treat your money and possessions that way? Do you live on what is necessary and leave the rest of the manna for others (by giving it away)? Or are you and your household hording more than you need?

3. Horded resources are wasted resources. Those who horded more than they needed found that horded manna was wasted manna (v.19-21). God will not continually bless a selfish soul who keeps for himself more than is necessary and proper. Money that is socked away and not put to use for the kingdom of God and the good of others is about as useful as moldy bread!

4. God does not reward those who overwork. On the Sabbath day, God did not provide any manna (v.22-26). Instead, He told them to gather twice as much on Friday so they wouldn’t have to work on the Sabbath. And when some of the people went out to gather on the Sabbath, they found no bread! Why? Because God wanted them (and us) to work six days, and save the seventh for rest and worship. And those who do not abide by God’s wisdom will find themselves simply spinning their wheels, and working for no profit.

5. God is the one who provides! Why didn’t God just lead the people to a wheat-field or an apple orchard? Why didn’t He lead them to a riverbank and command them to plant crops to eat? Why did He provide bread miraculously? Partially because they were in the wilderness where apple trees and wheat may not have grown so well! But I imagine He may have also done it this way to remind them that it was He – not chance, and not their own resourcefulness – that kept their bellies full. He wanted them, when they arrived in the Promised Land and had normal means of provision, to remember that God is the giver of all good things. That’s the main lesson of the manna for us, too! Everything we have is God’s manna from heaven. So let us be grateful … and let us enjoy!

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