In the Bible, the idea of scarcity first appears in Genesis 41. Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream that in the seven years of plenty Egypt should store up food and resources for the following seven years of famine. In the first year of the famine the Egyptian people gave up their land for food, the following year their cattle and by the third year of the famine they had no collateral but themselves (Gen 47:13-19).
According to Brueggemann, “That’s how the children of Israel [became] slaves-through an economic transaction” (“The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity,” The Christian Century, 1999, p. 343).
When God led Israel out of Egypt one of the first things that He did for them was address their short-term and long-term need for food by raining bread (manna) from heaven (Ex 16:4). Rain in Hebrew is a hiphil participle. A hiphil verb is one of causation and a participle is repeated action. God is the Agent, the one causing the action to occur. God’s raining of manna from Heaven was one that He caused and provided and did so continuously until the day Israel entered the Promised Land (Josh 5:12).
This gift of manna from heaven came with a test to see if Israel would walk in the ways of His Law or not (Ex 16:4). “The people’s willingness to obey the manna-gathering law would show God whether or not they would be inclined to keep his covenant law as revealed at Mount Sinai. It was not just a test to see if they could follow instructions but a test to see if their hearts were inclined to be his covenant people. The test itself required faith for an agricultural people. Farmers know that if one harvests only enough food in a day to meet the needs of that day, eventually one has no food because no crops or animals produce food every day. Now they were being asked to restrain their natural tendency to gather as much as was available to gather in anticipation of the time when no gathering would be possible. God was teaching them to trust him every day afresh, and they were challenged to think about his provision in a way that had never before been part of their planning pattern” (Stuart, Exodus, NAC, 2006, p. 372).
Here is where the fear of scarcity filtered into the minds of the Israelites. On the sixth day, the Israelites were to gather twice as much so to have food for the Sabbath as well (Ex 16:5). “The resulting arrangement provided a weekly opportunity for the emerging Israelite community to be tested by God and to learn about his faithful provision. Every sixth day they would have to discipline themselves to gather twice the usual amount of manna but only that much. Every Sabbath they had to trust that when they woke up, there would be enough manna left to eat and that it would not have spoiled overnight as it might on other days. Thus each week they would see how God provided for them, in a manner counterintuitive to their normal sense of how to gather and store food, and God could see how they were doing in learning to obey him in advance of his giving them his full covenant law over many months following the encampment at Sinai” (Stuart, Exodus, pp. 372-373.
This reminds me of Proverbs 30:7-9 “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (ESV).
Agur, the author of the proverb, knows his weaknesses. Agur’s prayer request is that the Lord would not give him poverty nor wealth, as falsehood and lying “are the deceptiveness of both wealth and poverty” (Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, NAC, 1993, p. 238).
This of course reminds me of Jesus’s Words in the Disciple’s Prayer (the Lord’s Prayer is John 17), “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11). Jesus’s Words here are an allusion to Exodus 16:4 where God will rain manna from heaven. “Just as God provided the wilderness generation with daily bread (i.e., the manna), so Jesus’ disciples, who are also living in a time of salvation, should petition God to provide them with daily bread” (Evans, The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Matthew–Luke, 2003, p. 125).
As I type this post we (at least in the States) are being given a narrative of scarcity. People’s fear and emotions are being elevated as we are being told that meat processing plants are closing due to COVID-19 and that the food may go to waste. While we should be prepared and buy meat, we do NOT need to hoard! Fear mongering is driving the narrative of scarcity. Again, there is nothing wrong with buying meat, we do not need to hoard. People need meat to survive, so if you are compelled to hoard, let it be the toilet paper!
While I have lived in a farming community my whole life, no one in my family farms. What God has really taught me over the years is that the farther one is removed from providing their food, the less thankful they are. I have never had to work for my food. When I sit down to pray before I eat, my level of thankfulness is no where the same as the farmer or the person who is thankful for that specific meal and trusting God for their next.
These are stressful times for all of us right now. We are all dealing with fear in our own way and media outlets know this. When we start to fear the narrative of scarcity over the great abundance of God, may we ask Him to renew and transform our minds by remembering what He has done and how He has provided for us in the past, as well as discerning His Will for our lives now (Rom 12:1-2).
Father God, thank You for the ways that You provide for us each day. Lord, may we NEVER take Your provisions for granted. Lord, I ask that You help those of us in an area of abundance to not hoard. Lord God, thank You that You know our needs and You know exactly how to care for and sustain us. Lord God, may this time of COVID-19 bring us to a greater level of thankfulness and appreciation for You and for community. Lord God, give us wisdom when it comes to being prepared. Lord God, may we come to a place where we can say “we have Jesus, we have today and each other and that is enough.” Lord God, break the strongholds of consumerism that is plaguing society today. Lord God, teach us to trust. Teach us to exercise self-control. Help us to hear Your still small voice in the midst of all the competing noise. Lord God, thank You for this reader. Thank You that You are this reader’s Jehovah Jireh. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.