Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Discarded food on the streets of Brooklyn, New York, Stephen Groves/The Associated Press

And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was.1 And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.
Exodus 16:14-15

For those not familiar with the story, Moses instructs the people to only take what each needs of the gift, and to not take extra. Those that attempted to hoard found the bread rotting and crawling with worms the following morning.

This is a story of enough, a story echoed by Jesus of Nazareth in the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:15-21, captured in a single line in Matthew 6:19-21, Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven...for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. In both stories the message is simple: God provides.

We live in a consumer culture, so much so that the shopping mall has become our temple, the place we worship Mammon. Ownership is an indicator of worth. Those who own houses, cars, jewellery, top-of-the-range electronics, fashion clothing, and a plethora of designer knick-knacks, trinkets and toys achieve high status in this society. But as we know, possession rarely provides happiness, or even satisfaction. It makes complete sense that the verb possess means both to own goods and to be taken over by demons. In the throes of a shopping spree, especially during a black Friday or boxing day sale the demonic is in full view, and thousands appear possessed. Such events are like pagan religious orgies, wild frenzies of worship to the gods of our own creation, borne of our own emptiness.

Moses, the voice and conscience of God, understood this human desire to possess. The manna incident was a lesson in moderation, a lesson in faith. Modern day Christians pray, "Give us this day our daily bread". The spiritual atheist might say, "the universe will provide". We all say the words, but our actions rarely follow. Remember the early lockdown days? Supermarkets stripped of essentials, homes bulging with excess. Little faith is in evidence these days, and much media-fuelled fear. We might even call what is happening state-endorsed terrorism. Staying true in the midst of such possession is a challenge. We can only take it one day at a time, gathering the physical, mental and spiritual resources we need for today and trusting we will be taken care of tomorrow. Thy will, not mine, be done.

1 A curious aside, it is now thought that the word manna derives from the Hebrew term ma'n hu which translates as "what is it?" More modern translations, e.g. Robert Alter, have this expressed simply as "Manna?" rather than "It is manna", which would literally mean, "It is what is it"