Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day…No one is to keep any of it till morning.” However, some of them paid no attention… they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. –Exodus 16:4a, 19-20
Give us this day our daily bread—Matthew 6:11
Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed. — Mahatma Gandhi
When the Israelites in the desert feared that they would starve, God sent them food. And not only that, it was enough food to supply their needs each day; it was enough for everyone. He commanded them to take what they needed for the day and no more. They obeyed about as well as most of us do.
How much waste and suffering is caused by our failure to recognize when we have enough? The 5 percent of the world’s people that live in the U.S. consume 25 percent of the world’s resources, and yet most of us tell researchers that we would be happy and secure if we had just a little more. Perhaps this is because we’re barraged with ads urging us to consume more and simultaneously exhorted to save up enough money to retire on or to tide us over a long time of unemployment or a drop in the stock market. Or perhaps it’s because we try to use money and stuff to sate our hunger for love, work, and meaning.
When we take more than we need, we turn a precious resource, a gift of God, into foul waste. The U.S. produces 33 percent of the world’s garbage. By hoarding and wasting finite resources, we harm people who don’t have what they need to live on each day. We desecrate God’s gifts. We enslave ourselves to fear and falsehood.
I don’t know any foolproof way of deciding how much we need. Where is the line between prudently conserving so we’re more apt to be able sustain ourselves and share with our neighbors in hard times, and greedily hoarding what others need now in a vain bid for security? During this Lent…and probably afterward…I’ll be wrestling with that question.
I pray that I, and all we desert journeyers, may have clarity and courage as we wrestle with the hard questions, and persistence in doing the things that are clear to us. May we slow down and take time to give thanks for what we have. May we reuse more, consume less, and waste less. May we share what we have with those who are in need. May we learn to live in gratitude and freedom.
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