Simplicity in the Desert

In the last post of this series we saw the Israelites complaining that they were better off in Egypt where they at least had food.

4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I’m going to make bread rain down from the sky for you. The people will go out each day and gather just enough for that day. In this way, I’ll test them to see whether or not they follow my Instruction. 5 On the sixth day, when they measure out what they have collected, it will be twice as much as they collected on other days.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “This evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. (Exodus 16:4-6 CEB)

God answers their fairly-legitimate complaint. After all, they do need to eat. But God doesn’t exactly give them gourmet meals. They’re the chosen people, on their way to the promised land of milk and honey. By the usual ways of thinking about the world, we would expect that these chosen people would get a feast.

Instead, they are given very specific instructions. They could collect only enough to take care of their families for that day. They could not store any for the next day. They could not eat more than necessary for survival. The one exception was for the day before the Sabbath (Friday) when they could collect twice as much so that they would not have to collect on the designated day off (more on the origins of the Sabbath coming soon). If they collected more than they were supposed to, it went bad. Everyone had enough. No more. No less.

One of the biggest hindrances for social justice work is that many of us are willing to give up some of our lifestyle but not too much. As I’ve said before, I am not suggesting you have to give up so much that you then become a burden to others. Yet we have culturally trained to live at or above our means. It is expected that you will spend the majority of that on you and your closest loved ones. It doesn’t even really matter if you make $20,000 or $1,000,000, you’re generally expected to spoil yourself with at least most of your money. Many are living on credit cards because they’ve bought into the cultural demand of buying more than they can afford, sometimes of course out of genuine need but often simply because they can.

Saturday Night Live Debt Skit from ABI Videos on Vimeo.

Traditionally, churches have encouraged Christians to give away at least 10% of their income to the church and/or those in need. I want to stay well clear of legalisms about that number, but as a culture we have definitely lost that principle of generosity. While culture continues to encourage us to try to move up the ladder, Christians are called to move down in order to lift others up. Maybe for you that looks like 10%. Maybe that looks like 80%. Maybe there is no money to spend and your generosity will come more in the form of time and talent. I can’t give a general rule, but I can encourage taking an honest stock of your time, talents, and finances in order to find what simplicity and generosity looks like in your own life.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.