Manna: God's First Economy Lesson

Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. - Exodus 16:18-20

Exodus 16 contains the story of God sending manna from heaven. You have likely heard this story as an example of God’s grace or a demonstration of Israel's childlike obstinance. What if I told you it is actually a divine lesson on economics? Manna was a kind of “training wheels” for Israel to set a foundation for a strong economy and society later. If we listen, we can find the problems of our own economy today, the real meaning of gluttony, and much of our own self-inflicted suffering.

Take Only What You Need for Today

Israel was trained as it wandered the desert to learn to look at resources as a daily provision. Not to try and horde more than it needed. Gluttony is not about eating too much food, it is about taking more of anything than you really need for today.

This isn't just a Christian principle, it is a solid economic foundation. If a whole nation of people live in fear for what tomorrow will bring, they will take more than they need in hopes of hoarding it for future problems. When this happens over millions of people, our economy begins to crash. To take more than you need for the day is to rob someone else of their resources. The more and more people feel safe to only take what they need for the present, the more there is for everyone else. 

Resources Stored are Resources Rotting

When we have more than we need, it begins to rot. Anyone who has cleaned out their fridge knows the wrath of leftovers. Money and resources are the same way. When wealth is hoarded it begins to lose its value. When wealth is invested back into a community, it grows more wealth. Sharing and investing are the staples of a rich and strong society.

It’s OK to Plan

I am not saying that Christians should live paycheck-to-paycheck. Taking enough for “today” should not be seen literally, but as a principle. In Exodus 16, God let Israel take enough manna to prepare for the Sabbath. Planning with our resources is not the same as hoarding them. But we must examine our hearts as not to confuse the two. 

Meditation Fodder

Take this to an extreme just for a moment. Imagine you lived in a great society where everything was free and abundant, where you could leave your bed in the morning, and walk out and get whatever you needed. What would you then decide to store? What would you still need to keep for yourself? Imagine yourself and how you would act if you truly had no fear of tomorrow. What does that look like?

OK, so we don’t live in that world, we live in this one. But now that you have a comparison, just how much of your life is planning vs. hoarding and gluttony?

  • What do you have stored up that, if you are honest with yourself, you will probably never really use?
  • What are you most scared of going without? Food? Entertainment? Clothing?
  • What appetites burden your life the most?
  • Think about your day to day decisions. How many things to you buy, eat, consume, or store because you don’t think you get to have them later?