“I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.” – Exodus 16:4
In the Exodus story, after crossing the Red Sea, God provided food for the Israelites by raining down bread (manna) from heaven. But there was a rule that they must gather only what they need for that day and no more. “No one is to keep any of it until morning,” Moses instructed them. “However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.”
What happened with the Israelites thousands of years ago also applies to us today when we collect too much stuff. I recall several years ago in our previous home having gone into the attic for something when I noticed a dusty box sitting off in the farthest corner. Curious, I crawled over to retrieve it and discovered it contained a set of dishes from my grandmother’s house. For eighteen years it had been sitting there!
It made me realize how attached we all have become to stuff – myself included – how our need for security has led us to an insane obsession for hanging on to things. Though sentimental, I realized I didn’t need cups and saucers to help me remember my wonderful grandmother. Yet, for eighteen years what could have been put to greater use by someone else sat hoarded away in a dusty box in my attic.
Giving away those dishes, along with many other unused stored-away items, was a liberating event. It was a lesson in the freedom to be found through simplicity. As Richard Foster states so well in his book Celebration of Discipline, “Simplicity sets us free to receive the provision of God as a gift that is not ours to keep and can be freely shared with others.”
As with the Israelites, when we collect too much stuff and hoard things we no longer use or need, it is destined to nothing more than collecting dust, to rust, tarnish, rot, or in our fashion-conscious culture becoming out of style – even becoming infested with rodents or bugs like the manna kept until morning. But when we keep only what we need, then we are set free from our insane attachment to things, and set free “to receive the provision of God as a gift.”