Compared with a few years ago, I would describe my current economic situation as less comfortable but a long way from destitute. Kind of like the Jews when God responded to their hunger pleas with quail and manna as recounted in Exodus 16.
Forty-five days after leaving Egypt finds the Jews on the edge of the Desert of Sin between the lush Elim and Mount Sinai. (Exodus 15: 27 - 16:1). Not very far into the desert, their grumbling begins.
“In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.” (Exodus 16:2, NIV)
Claiming to be near starvation, they whine about missing the ‘good old days’ in Egypt where they had all the food they wanted.
While the situation they claim seems dire, we readers are privy to a lot of the story behind their claims:
- That they were slaves in Egypt – not so good (Exodus 1:11-14)
- That everything God did to extract them from Egypt was still fresh on their minds, such as the 10 plagues and that rather dramatic Red Sea crossing that assured their escape and vanquished mighty Pharaoh and his army
- That they were loaded with plunder (“mula”) given them by Egyptian families (Exodus 12:36)
- That they left Egypt with all their livestock, flocks and herds (Exodus 12:38)
- That God was visibly present to them in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13: 21-22)
- That they just left the oasis Elim noted for its “12 springs and 70 palm trees” and were not likely very far along the thirst or starvation scale. (Exodus 15:27)
Knowing all of this, are their complaints so justified?
Notice a familiar Israelite behavior pattern. 1) God sets Israel up and they are happy and grateful to God for a while; 2) Israel gets comfortable and strays from God; 3) Something they deem as unfavorable happens; 4) Complaining begins; 5) God to the rescue; 6) Repeat step 1.
My view is that God carries out his plans in such a way that any apparent relationship between our pleas and his response is in no way triggered by us as already part of his unfolding program. That way, he is always causing and we are always receiving.
My relationship spectrum comprises mostly white, middle class Americans. I’ve observed that among those I know to be believers, people suffering through trial tend to lean more into God and speak more of him, attributing his hand to guiding their lives. Believers enjoying well-being, on the other hand, may attribute their good fortune as blessing but too often credit themselves as having earned the privileges they enjoy while dismissing the misfortune of others to error, upbringing, poor decision-making or other controllable factors.
Again, this is how I observe the world that I include myself in. Care to offer your own perspective?
Lately, I’ve wondered how much God is really, truly behind anyone’s material prosperity. So often prosperity is more problematic than helpful for followers of God. Look again at the story of the rich young man’s encounter with Jesus. (Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10: 17-27). Unwilling to part with his wealth, he instead parted ways with the Lord.
Was this man’s wealth a blessing from God or something else? Likewise with any of us.
Recall my “Truth Test” post last summer about a test author Jen Hatmaker applies to every truth claim: “If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.”
“If a sermon promises health and wealth to the faithful, it isn’t true, because that theology makes God an absolute monster who only blesses rich westerners and despises Christians everywhere else a sincere believer remains poor..’Theology is either true everywhere or it isn’t true anywhere,’” she reasoned.
What if prosperity, comfort and well-being are not blessings from God at all, but tests?
How much do we attribute our prosperity and well-being to God? How much of our prosperity and well-being do we invest for His kingdom? How do you think God would want us to answer these questions?
This as a test. Thoughts?