You’re breaking a law right now and you don’t even know it. The Old Testament is full of regulations we don’t adhere to anymore.
According to the Old Testament you can’t wear clothes made of mixed fibers: no cotton and wool blends. I’m not supposed to shave. And we’re told we can cook a baby animal, but not in it’s mother’s milk. Is there a lot of demand for that sort of thing? Also, for a few days every month my wife is supposed to live in a tent in our backyard. OK, so some of these rules aren’t so crazy after all I guess.
Then there’s the first law ever given to God’s people – the Israelites – after their release from slavery in Egypt. This law is downright bewildering to my modern American brain, while also proving God is from the South. Go with me here.
On the long trip out of Egypt, the Israelites grew hungry and began to complain. So God said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.” (Exodus 16:4)
Just like God promised, every morning the Israelites woke up to a front yard full of sweet bread called manna. And every evening God fed them quail. Now, I’m no Hebrew scholar but what is that if not chicken and biscuits? Like I said, God is a southerner.
The problem with God serving the Israelites fine southern cuisine though is that it’s too good. It’s almost impossible to only “gather enough for that day.” So, God made a new rule:
“Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.” (Exodus 16:16) “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” (Exodus 16:19)
At first, everyone obeyed this law.
The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. (Exodus 16:17, 18)
But soon some folks started putting leftovers in the fridge. And so God – this is my son’s favorite part of the bible – turned the leftovers into maggots and it began to stink. It could no longer satisfy them.
I was raised to believe that the Old Testament is just that: old – As if the ten commandments are the only chunk of it that still applies now that Jesus has come on the scene.
So, luckily, I can shave now. I don’t have to think about what my clothes are made of. I don’t eat baby animals cooked in their mother’s milk but I could if it was ever added to Chick-fil-A’s menu. My wife doesn’t set up camp in the backyard every month. And I can gather as much “bread” as I want.
The apostle Paul doesn’t see it that way though. Paul wrote a letter to a church in Corinth asking them to give to their fellow Christians in Jerusalem who couldn’t feed their children. He knew – even then – that people are hesitant to share with strangers, especially strangers they can’t actually see for themselves, so he spent two chapters of 2 Corinthians making a case for generosity.
“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.” (2 Corinthians 8:13)
Ew, that word bothers me. How about you? “Equality.” Sounds like something from the mouth of a politician or a hippy. Perhaps knowing that I’d try to twist the meaning of that word into something more palatable, more doable, Paul defines it in no uncertain terms:
“At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: ”He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians 8:14,15)
Our breakfast no longer arrives on the lawn every morning and supper doesn’t come down from heaven, but it’s no less a gift from God. It’s no less God’s. And because everything we have is God’s, HE gets to make the rules about how it’s to be used. According to Paul, those rules stand. Even today. Even after the death and resurrection of Christ, we’re still to take only what we need and share the rest so that there can be equality.
Daily bread. Jesus prayed for it and nothing more. So did Solomon. “Give me neither poverty nor riches,” he asked, “but give me only my daily bread.” (Proverbs 30:8)
Truth is, even in a recession the average American has more than her daily bread. She’s spending around $100 a month on soft drinks and more than $50 a month on cable. Not exactly essentials. Aren’t they bought with leftovers that we’re commanded to pass to the poor so that no one has too little and we don’t have too much?
I wish there wasn’t a plane ride between your computer screen and the smell of open sewage here in Kolkata. I wish there wasn’t so much distance between you and the mother with empty breasts pleading with God right now for her baby’s life. I’m praying this morning that somehow, supernaturally, God’s Spirit shortens the miles between you and the poor – That somehow as you experience every gift, every morsel of bread God gives you today, you remember your family here in India.
I pray this makes you grateful, joyful, and not depressed or condemned in the least. I pray that you are astounded at how much God loves you. And I pray that out of this gratitude, because He first loved you, that you will love a stranger in a far off place today and pass them your leftovers.