When God sends manna to the Israelites in the desert, they receive specific instructions: “You are only to gather enough for one day and only enough for yourself and your household” (16:4, paraphrase). Today’s text goes into detail about how they must gather the food and put it aside for the Sabbath. They are told to gather enough on the sixth day to cover two days so that on the seventh day they will be able to rest. The permission to store food for tomorrow will not be allowed for any other day of the week.
So, what is the first thing they do? Some of them decide to save some manna for the next day. Maybe they gather just a tad more than they need for that day. The human instinct for hoarding, for creating just a little bit of surplus to tide us over, is so strong that we ignore God’s instructions again and again.
But hoarding doesn’t work. As we see from the text, the food rots and maggots infest it. Under God’s system, it doesn’t do you any good to take more than your share. This is a theme that runs throughout the words of the prophets and the teachings of Jesus. The prophets preach themselves hoarse over injustices to the poor. Jesus tells parables about people who refused to share their wealth.
We are so much like the people of Israel. We can’t seem to pay attention to God’s instructions. We face our own wilderness, just like they did. We look into the desert and we see scarcity, just like they did. We find it very hard to trust, just like they did.
How have we drifted away from God’s instructions?
God of plenty, forgive us when we forget your instructions. Help us to trust your bounty and to share out of our abundance with our neighbors. Amen.