How much is enough? This is no simple question, and yet it is one we are all called to answer for ourselves. God has a vision for our life, a vision that God teaches the people of Israel in the desert wilderness. Day after day, God feeds his people just enough for each day. God gives us enough too, in fact, usually more than enough. Realizing that enough is…enough can be a joyful thing in our lives!
16th Sunday after Pentecost – Sunday, September 28, 2014 – Exodus 16:2-31
St. Jacob’s-Spaders Lutheran Church, Harrisonburg, Virginia
“Enough is Enough” – Pastor Evan Davis
How much is enough? No one knows…
I’ve heard a bunch of stories recently about how a huge percentage of baby boomers are afraid they won’t have enough to retire. I know this is a very real concern for more than a couple people in my life. I know also that many people in our community worry if they will have enough for a place to sleep tonight. I’ve read the stories of people in Liberia wondering if there will be enough doctors, and isolation beds, and medical supplies, to treat everyone with ebola. I’ve heard about the millions of refugees from the war in Syria and Iraq who hope they can get far enough away from the murderers trying to kill them…and that when they finally arrive somewhere safe, they pray there will be enough…food, water, medicine…for all.
How much is enough? It’s not such a simple question.
How much was enough for Pharaoh? How tall did the pyramids have to be for him to feel at peace? How many tons of gold did he need in his palace? How many slaves did he need to work the fertile banks of the Nile? For Pharaoh, I don’t think even a nation full of Israelite slaves could ever be enough.
And what do you hear on TV and the radio, on the Internet? That your house is not nice enough. That your car is not cool enough. That your job is not good enough. That your clothes are not fashionable enough. That YOU are not enough. And so what do we do? We wonder…is $40k enough? $75k? $100k?
God’s Manna Way
It’s a wonderful little story we have today. But it’s not just a nice story, it’s the training program for God’s preferred Way for us to live. It’s how God took a bunch of people who yesterday were slaves in Pharaoh’s system and turned them into a nation with a job to reveal God to the world. God gave them a manna perspective. He taught them a new way to live that could not have been more different than Pharaoh’s way. Here’s what God’s Way is like. Angry, fearful, hungry people are fed. Immediately. God doesn’t impose conditions or ask them to clean up their act first, God just feeds them as if they deserved it, which of course they don’t. Quail meat in the evening and a fine, flaky bread every morning. They had never seen this bread before and so they kept saying, “what is it? what is it?,” which in Hebrew sounds like “man hu”…manna. Whatever it was, manna is that mysterious bread from God.
Every family gathered as much as it needed – an omer a person. [If you don’t know what an “omer” is, at the end of the chapter we learn it’s a tenth of an “ephah,” and surely that clears things up for you…] However much an omer is, it is enough for a person for a day. Big families took more than small families, and small families less than big families, but everyone had enough. Just enough for the day – no more and no less. There was no longer a Pharaoh on top and slaves at the bottom doing all the work. There were just people, all equally undeserving, all equally fed by God, all working to collect their manna, all receiving just enough for the day. Oh, and one other rule – nobody keeps manna over until morning. If they try, it rots. That’s God’s Way.
Now we can understand why someone might want to store some away. They might think, maybe God will forget a day. Maybe someone will steal my manna. Maybe there’ll be a rainy day and that morning’s manna will be ruined. Why can’t anyone build a little manna nest egg? Because God knows what happens when human beings stockpile bread, or any kind of wealth…it rots us. Piles of wealth rot our souls. If you don’t believe me, watch a family that suddenly gets rich. Watch a nation that strikes oil. Because when we have a pile of stuff, our life usually becomes all about protecting that pile. And God would rather it rot than us!
But there’s no need to be legalistic about this. It’s not that we can never save for retirement. God wants us to save for retirement with a manna perspective…thinking of retirement as that great, long Sabbath at the end of our lives when we are no longer going out to collect manna every day but using what God has given us in this part of our lives (like on the 6th day). It’s not that we can never save anything…all of you who can beans and jellies, trust me, God wants you to keep doing that. But we can and preserve with a manna perspective, knowing it all comes from God and that those nice shiny cans in the pantry are not our security….God is.
No Fear, No Hoarding
God has this crazy idea that we should never be afraid we won’t have enough. Why? Because he promises to take care of us. Promises. Promises there will be more manna in the morning. Promises that we will always be surrounded with everything we need to live.
Really Pr. Evan? With so many people hungry, and homeless, and without medical care – how could God really be providing enough? With all the bills I can barely pay? My take is simply this – if somebody doesn’t have enough, it isn’t because God hasn’t done God’s job. The problem is that we still like to make piles. Some people spend their whole lives protecting their pile of more than enough, and so others don’t have enough to live.
But look around. There is clearly enough. And there always will be. So you don’t have to be afraid. You don’t have to pile up your manna like you’ll never see another piece of it in your life. Instead, we can actually use and enjoy everything we need, without guilt, because God has given it to us graciously and generously to meet our needs.
Joy of Living with Enough
But even better than all this, God helps us to realize that enough…really is…enough. What joyful freedom it is to realize we don’t need all this stuff we think we need, that we don’t have to worry about getting enough money for it, or maintaining it, or pining away for all the things we don’t have. We don’t have to acquire things or accomplishments to become a “somebody” in God’s sight. Instead we can look around us and just give thanks for all this abundance. We can turn to each other when we really need something. And we can gratefully and joyfully work to make sure God’s manna gets wherever it needs to go.
And, you know, all this means we can have a day off! Because God wants our lives to be about love, and laughter, and relationships, not just work. God wants you to have a day off to rest, to worship, to reflect, to remember that we are not self-made people. To remember that everything we have is manna – a gift. We can have a Sabbath, to play with kids, to lose ourselves in a book, to take a glorious afternoon nap. It means we can work, knowing that it is an important and hopefully fun and fulfilling and even sacred thing we do, but it isn’t the ultimate measure of our lives. And neither are our bank accounts. Because what God is ultimately up to here is to turn us inside out, to turn our attention from “me” and “us,” what we have or don’t have, who we are or who we’re not, to who God is, who our neighbor is, and what our neighbor needs. We can just say “thank you, Lord” for our daily bread and then turn our gaze to someone other than ourselves, especially to those who really do not have enough.
So how much is enough? I can’t tell you how much is enough for you. If you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, you don’t have enough. If our biggest question is what kind of caviar to buy for the afternoon soiree, we’re probably good. But for all of us in the middle, it’s complicated. It’s subjective. I know that enough for me is probably not enough for a single mother with three kids. One thing I know, I can’t tell someone else how much is enough for them or their family. There is no way I can know that better than them. And I cannot begrudge their understanding.
On a day when we celebrate our commitments to God and God’s mission, let’s first celebrate that God has committed to us. God has given us everything we need – we may need to do a better job of sharing, but it’s all here. And you know what? God has also given us everything we need to be his church in the world. We may not see it, but it’s there. This is a church full of gifted people (I can’t wait to read how you believe you are gifted…). We’re tripping over the manna lying all over the place. And as we go forward, as our needs change, God will give us everything we need to do the ministry God’s calling us to do. We have it right here, or we will receive it at the right time. There’s no need to hold on to a pile of anything, we can pour everything we have and everything we are into ministry, because we can trust that when the dawn comes, we will find what God needs us to have. One morning it will simply be there, and we’ll see that thing we need, whatever it is, and we might say, “what is it?” And then we’ll know, it’s God’s manna, and it’s right on time. Amen.