23rd November 2022

Spirituality of Manna and World Economy

There is a clear difference between God’s economics and the present world’s economics because God’s economics is for all and there is no division. Everybody is welcome to that and each one has an equal share. When the Hebrew people were in Egypt they experienced the economy of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. But when they passed over the red sea and were in Sinai they experienced God’s providence. Manna is thus a “test” to see if Israel will follow instructions on how to “gather” this gift. The people’s first lesson outside of Egypt then is an economic one. Therefore the first lesson that God taught Israelites about bread was how to behave when there are enough resources, as well as how giver share according to their needs. Following God’s instruction gave more opportunities for people to enjoy life without any economic barriers, but the people always broke the rules.

When God gave manna to people everybody had enough food, everybody enjoyed it and there was no complaint about shortages of food (Exodus 16: 16-18). Those who gathered more had no surplus, and those who gathered less had no shortage. In God’s economy, there is no such thing as “too much” and “too little. It is important to understand that God is just and does not discriminate between people, especially in reference to basic human resources. Therefore there should be no gap where some people have much and some little or nothing. In the same way, there should be no room for the power to control the powerless in relation to wealth because in God’s sight there should be no surplus or shortage. The living standards of the people should be similar. There is no need to mistrust each other. Each one has self-respect as a representative of God’s child. Therefore nobody should violate God’s image in relation to wealth. There ought to be no class system based on money or resources. Everybody has to work for a living. There is no master nor servant.

The other significant feature of God’s economy is that there was no provision for storing food (Exodus 16: 19-20) but in Egypt, surplus accumulation was the measurement of wealth and power. Joseph’s instruction to the Egyptian king was to store up and collects all the wealth. Then people became the king’s slaves but in God’s economy, no one owned people as slaves but as free people. Therefore God’s plan was to keep people equal. The one who accumulates wealth 2 dominates the other and he becomes a powerful character in the community. The wealthy become wealthier and is used to discriminate against a fellow human being. When Jesus taught a prayer to His disciples He directed them to ask for their daily bread from God (Matthew 6: 11), because in God’s teaching it is prohibited to accumulate things which can lead to the dehumanization of other people.

The other important thing in the Sabbath economy was that the only day they can keep food was on the sixth day because the next day there will be none (Exodus 16: 26). Therefore only the provision to keep food was when it was known that there may be a shortage of food or none at all in the future. But that also is only for a particular time frame, a certain amount of food only can be stored. The righteousness of God brings manna into the wilderness; there is enough. Therefore Sabbath spirituality of Manna was justice and equality for all and it leads to peace and harmony among people. The righteousness of God always keeps people without any scarcity or famine. If the righteousness of God is not observed, then poverty is hell and people are subjected to death. In that case, some people are poor because others are rich. The God of the poor always does His/ Her duty on behalf of the poor because for a parent God human poverty is unacceptable. The question is why millions of people are dying of hunger and where is God. What is doing God in the midst of all these injustices in today’s world? The problem is not with God but with fellow human beings who are rich and have taken more than their share the reason is that some are poor because others have selfishly accumulated riches. The question was created by human beings and the answer was given by them. Therefore it is the duty of the rich to be concerned about the poor. It is not easy to convince the rich to be concerned about the poor because they are so deeply embedded in making a profit and utilizing it for luxuries of life (rich young man). According to the present economic system, the poor are not at the centre, they are at the periphery, but productivity is at the centre. The poor may be given something if there is a surplus when the rich have all they want of the latest goods and services. But the rich and developed should understand that they growing richer at the expense of the poor. Therefore it is the task of the church as representatives of God to work for the poor and needy, work for justice, challenge the rich, strengthen the poor, identify with the poor for their betterment as well as be an example to society as Christians and followers of Jesus of Nazareth who was the friend of the poor, the needy and the marginalized. In prison towards the end of his life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer came to this later view:

The church is the church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it should give away all its property to those in need.

It is a challenge to today’s church to think again about a realistic ministry in connection to the needs of the people rather than simply maintaining its current ministry because the way the church behaves and how it spends money on unnecessary work is not the Christian mission.