Needs vs. Wants

A few years ago, I worked at a school helping teach the three and four year olds. There would be times when a particularly dramatic preschooler would claim they needed that toy that had just been taken away from them. This was usually the precursor to a rather extensive fit for which I had little tolerance or patience. Have you ever tried to reason with a screaming three year old? It’s not fun or productive.

I think we do this same thing as adults, though our tantrums hopefully don’t end in stamping of feet and lots of tears.

This misunderstanding of needs and wants is something that has been part of the human existence since the beginning. This morning I was reminded of this fact while reading through the book of Exodus. This book is incredible! It chronicles the Israelites’ experience in Egypt and God’s amazing provision and protection as he led them out of slavery. If you haven’t read this book or haven’t read it in a while, I would encourage you to do so.

In Exodus 16, the Israelites started grumbling again, as was their custom. They were concerned about the food situation, as they had none. The Lord’s solution was a brilliant and beautiful one: he sent them quail and bread, giving them just enough for that day.

That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’”

The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.

I love these verses because people’s needs were met and there was enough for everyone. How strategic is the Lord?! He provided just enough food for the entire camp, which meant that he knew how many people were there and exactly how much would fill them for a day. This is incredible to me!

Today’s binary system is one of haves and have-nots, but that’s not how it should be in the body of Christ. We shouldn’t be the ones who are scrounging and scurrying to gather up as much stuff as we can. We, of all people, should know the difference between needs and wants and should be able to be an example of that to the world.

In this story, there was no excess, only what was needed, which is beautiful and freeing to me. I currently don’t have a lot, especially when compared to the amount of possessions I used to have, but I still probably have more than I need. I want to challenge you to look around your home and identify at least one thing that you don’t need; I’m sure we all have things that fall into this category. Then I want you to give it away. Or sell it and give the money you got from the sale to charity. Many of us have more than we need while there are people in our own cities who don’t have a place to live or food to eat.

This week, let’s take a step toward making sure the needs of others are met. After all, we give not because others are worthy, but because Jesus commands us to.

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