EDITOR’S NOTE: J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C.
DURHAM, N.C. (BP) — During the wilderness journey of the Israelites, God covered the ground every morning with bread from heaven. It was like He spread out Krispy Kreme donuts every morning and flipped on the “Hot Now” sign.
There was so much of it that everyone could eat his or her fill. But here was the deal: The manna went bad every night, so if you tried to stockpile to make sure you had enough for tomorrow, it would stink up your house.
So, if there was extra manna, what should they have done with it?
They should have shared it.
They couldn’t save it, but they also knew that God would flip the “Hot Now” sign on again the next day. They could afford to be generous with their excess.
If you had been alive at the time, would you have been a manna stockpiler? I think I would have. I would have thought, “I have to put this in the manna freezer to make a manna-cotti later, maybe whip up some manna-na bread.” (What, too many manna puns?)
According to the Bible, the principle of the manna wasn’t just for the wilderness journey. God doesn’t give us more than we need so we can save it for the future. He blesses us abundantly so that we can take care of the people in our lives and communities who have need.
The Bible speaks prolifically about our responsibility to the poor. In Proverbs, for instance, we read, “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses” (Proverbs 28:27 NIV). Giving to those in need isn’t just a kindness; it’s a requirement so serious that God threatens cursing on those who disobey.
The book of James, in three different places (1:27; 2:14–26; 5:1–5) says that we can’t possibly be people of genuine faith if we have the capacity to help a brother and we choose not to.
Say you are a parent who knows there is a child in your kid’s class who often skips lunch because he is poor. One day, you pack two sandwiches in your son’s lunch box — one for him, one for his friend.
But you forget to tell him why you did it.
So, at lunch, you head down to school, and you get there just as your son is opening his lunch box and discovering the two sandwiches. You decide to watch to see what he does.
If your son takes one of the sandwiches and instinctively hands it to his poorer classmate, what will your response be? Will you say, “Oh no, he’s setting himself up for future financial trouble because he doesn’t know how to save! I better get him into a Dave Ramsey course soon.” Of course not. You are proud of him because he instinctively knew what to do with that extra sandwich.
Your son doesn’t look at two sandwiches and think, “Better hang on to one of these. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?” No, he trusts that tomorrow you’ll give him another sandwich, so he can share his excess today.
How does our heavenly Father feel when we don’t share the abundance we have today for fear we won’t have any tomorrow?
“At the present time your plenty will supply what they need…. as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little'” (2 Corinthians 8:14–15).
The primary reason God gives you excess is to give generously to the needs that are right in front of you.