Receiving His Riches – Joseph or Moses?

Proper 13
Year B

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
Psalm 51:1-13
Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
Psalm 78:23-29

Ephesians 4:1-16

John 6:24-35

In the last year or so, I have read many a message from one Christian preacher or another recommending that we and our churches store up foodstuffs and other necessary supplies against hard times to come. In this way, we will not only be able to care for ourselves and our families but also for our neighbors.

This makes a lot of sense, and is often supported by reference to Joseph’s advice to Pharaoh. If there are seven years of famine to come, then we ought to do as Joseph did and make sure there will be provision for the hard days.  Not only for our families but for the Egyptians too.

It seems that many of the Egyptians around us (non-believers) have decided to get the jump on this process. Spending is down, saving is up. Of course, this contributes to the decline of the economy right now and helps to make their fears into some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, but that’s what Egyptians do.

My question is this, though.

Is this what worshipers of the One True God do?

Did Joseph store up his own goods or advise a non-believer how to store up his? No.

I don’t think we learn much from looking at Joseph if we are trying to find support for basements full of canned food and dried milk.

Joseph didn’t store up his own goods to care for the Egyptians or his own family. He was obedient to God so that Pharaoh in his gratitude took care of Joseph’s kindred. Joseph sought God, heard from God, spoke what he heard, and God took care of the rest. It is interesting to me here that we have no indication in Scripture that any of the Egyptians became followers of the Most High God as a result, either.

As we enter into what may indeed be a time of wilderness and deprivation for the Church and her neighbors I think that Moses gives us a better model to follow. He did not teach the people to store up and provide for themselves, but he also obeyed God and taught the people to rely on the God who had delivered them to feed them as well.

This seems to me to be a way of learning to live without fear. If there is anything that will set Christians apart in the years to come, it will be the absence of fear.

Fear drives most of our economy. If times are good we fear being left behind by the “Joneses” we’re trying to keep up with. It drives the accumulation of debt that the enemy uses to bind us. When times are bad we fear being unable to provide bread for ourselves and our families. This too binds us to the old ways, the “fleshpots” of slavery. None of us has failed to note the way that advertising has changed to play on this new fear in the last year or two.

You and I aren’t called to store up “stuff” so that we won’t be afraid (as we have seen, this only contributes to the crisis) but rather, we’re to demonstrate our confidence in God regardless of the state of our larders.

Moses teaches us to trust God to provide bread for today, and Jesus speaks of the same thing. “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” (John 6:27, ESV)

Pursue Jesus. Just Jesus. He is the Bread we need. I know how hard this is to understand, but somehow I know this is true. If we could just set our hearts on Him and His Kingdom we will find that we have all that we need or desire.

This doesn’t mean we’ll just sit around doing nothing! He will lead us into work that will satisfy, but not in order provide for ourselves. Having Him, we will know ourselves cared for and have freedom to live the lives He planned for us. And the work we do will give us joy, rather than being a means to an end.

Some of us may be called to be Josephs to Pharaoh in the weeks and months and even years to come. I don’t doubt that the prophetic witness of believers to unbelievers will play a role in the future but I believe that for the most part, we are called to manifest the trust of Moses, the trust that Jesus commends in the Giver of all good gifts.

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