Holy Things and Unholy Greed

by Elouise

Hoarding Manna
What have I stored up for later in the pantry of my mind? In the subterranean corners of my basement, or upstairs in the attic?

Stuff. Lots of it. Not bad stuff. In fact, the stuff is quite wonderful. Neatly stacked and organized. All my just-in-case emergency provisions and stashes. They seemed wonderful, even wise, when I collected and filed them away, though I can’t always remember why.

Am I a hoarder? No one would look around my house or into my bank account and call me that. But am I? George MacDonald’s sonnet gives me reason to wonder.

August 7

In holy things may be unholy greed.
Thou giv’st a glimpse of many a lovely thing,
Not to be stored for use in any mind,
But only for the present spiritual need.
The holiest bread, if hoarded, soon will breed
The mammon-moth, the having-pride, I find.
‘Tis momently thy heart gives out heart-quickening.

George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
Augsburg Fortress Press 1994

What do I go looking for, or depend upon when the going gets rough? Is it still fresh and lively? Powerful? Challenging? Sometimes. But then again, I might look at it and wonder what the big excitement was all about.

I know the dynamics of this up and down roller coaster of life-changing insights. Especially the part when you’re up on a mountain top and want to live there forever. It began when I was a young teenager and young adult. I never wanted to go home from Bible camps or conferences.

Then came seminary and university studies. It didn’t happen as often, but when it did it was stunning. Moments of shining insight. Everything I need to know as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Next came teaching in seminary. Every week I heard life-changing insights from colleagues, students and preachers. I also made a salary and started building up my retirement fund. What more did I need? My storehouses were bursting with glimpses of “many a lovely thing.”

The holiest bread, if hoarded, soon will breed
The mammon-moth, the having-pride, I find.

Hoarding holy bread breeds pride that weakens dependence on my Creator and on my neighbors. It stokes greedy, self-reliant pride that believes I can reach into my stuffed pantry to pull out what’s needed for this or that situation. Mine or anyone else’s. Take one and be well!

Faithful living feels like walking a tightrope. Whatever I needed in order to stay steady one second ago won’t help me right now. Insights are wonderful. Lists of what-to-do-when are also wonderful. So are passages of memorized Scripture. And savings accounts or retirement funds.

And yet they don’t guarantee anything. They aren’t magic wands or even the foundation of my Christian faith. Perhaps they’re stepping-stones to something new. They aren’t, however, the source or goal of my life.

MacDonald invites me to remember the women and men in the wilderness who tried to hoard manna. It rotted. I won’t survive on rot, or even yesterday’s spiritual leftovers. I want to live.

Life-giving remedies for each moment will appear as needed. Not so I can hoard them for later, but to use immediately or give away. I’m to be watching, waiting and willing. Not rummaging around through my old stuff to see what I might dig up from yesterday’s glory for myself, or give away as though I were a savior.

MacDonald talks about breath-taking life! That’s what I want. Life as a moment by moment, two-way relationship with the One who knows me better than I know myself. The One who makes available what I need right now. No more and no less. All this forms a strong silk thread, a relationship that binds my heart to God’s great heart, and my life to the unexpectedly “lovely things” and people God sends or already sent my way at just the right time.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 February 2016
Image found at themint.org.uk