READ: Exodus 15-16
THINK: “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 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 8:12-15
The Apostle Paul quotes from Exodus 16 in his letter to the church at Corinth in order to urge them to give generously to those in need. And the context that Paul – a Jew who was highly studied in the Old Testament – gives to the passage helps us to get a bigger picture of just how the system of collecting manna actually worked. It wasn’t an every-person-for-him/herself type of a deal where each individual – or each family – collected what they needed and then didn’t worry about anybody else. The idea of that seems fine in principle, but there were elderly and infirm people within the Israelite camp who wouldn’t have been able to collect all that they needed. There were also young, healthy, able-bodied Israelites who had the ability to collect even more than they could possibly need.
Some of them gathered a lot. Some of them gathered very little (v.17), but when they measured it all out they made sure that nobody had too much – because that would have done absolutely no good whatsoever since it spoiled and rotted overnight – and that every single person had enough. Each individual was to collect what they could in order to make sure the needs of the entire community were met, even though that meant that some had to give from their excess and others had to receive because of their lack. The reason for this, echoed by Paul in 2 Corinthians, was not so that some would be hard pressed but so that all would be equally provided for. Each person gathered according to his or her ability and each received according to his or her need.
Are you feeling uncomfortable right now, reading these words? If you are an American there is an astronomical chance that the answer is “yes” if even just a little. We hear about a system like that – one that flies in the face of individual achievement, meritocracy, and the collection of assets – and we cringe (and we have company because clearly not all the Israelites in Exodus 16 were excited about it when they heard it). And it’s especially challenging for us given our current highly charged and divisive political scene. But here is the cold, hard fact: Exodus 16 & 2 Corinthians 8 are not the writings of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. They are the writings of Moses and Paul, divinely inspired by the God of the Universe. And they demand a response.
I want you to wrestle with a question today. I’m not going to reflect on this passage any further because I really want to leave space for you to think and grapple and even struggle with this. Spend time thinking about it and praying about it and asking for God’s wisdom and his guidance in letting you know how he wants you to respond. Here’s my question:
ASK/PRAY: When God set about shaping the people of Israel into the people he created them to be and into a people who would hopefully be a light to the nations and call all people to the relationship with God that they were created for, he very intentionally set up the economic system described in Exodus 16 and even built a safeguard into it (the spoiling) to ensure that it had to be followed. Why do you think the Creator God set things up in this manner and, in light of that, what do you think his call is upon your life in the area of your finances?