“Why do you always have to drive?” asked my father as I packed a small bag and gathered my things.
“They all have pickup trucks, Dad,” I quickly answered. “Except for Elkin of course…but his car is so full of trash, he has trouble fitting in there himself…let alone four passengers. One time he accused one of us of stealing a twenty-dollar bill from the garbage heap in his front seat. I’m pretty sure he just sat on it and it ended up stickin’ to his butt when he got out of his car.”
“Yeah…I know!” chuckled my dad. “It’s just sometimes I feel like they take advantage of you. Like they’re just using you for your car. Do they ever pay you for gas?”
I sat down on the bar stool next to the staircase and thought to myself. “Is that really what my friends think of me? If they are just using me, than they would be reluctant to pay for gas…or invite me to come along if I wasn’t driving them around. It just wasn’t true. My friends invited me along even when I wasn’t driving, right? They paid for gas, right? Small fragments of doubt regarding the integrity and devotion of my friends began to infiltrate my mind. Finally, I answered my father’s inquiry out loud, “Sure! They pay for gas…sometimes.”
“Well, make sure that this time happens to be one of those times,” said my father as he finished the conversation and left the room.
“OK! We’ll see.” I said quietly to myself as I finished packing my bag, grabbed my keys, and ran out the door.
Six hours later, five teenagers were crossing the Missouri border. We were on a mission to purchase fireworks for the upcoming 4th of July festivities. Certain fireworks were illegal in Iowa, so every year, thousands of adventurous Iowans would make their annual pilgrimage to either South Dakota or Missouri to purchase bottle rockets, roman candles, and even some big flowering aerials to dazzle and wow our neighbors and friends.
After an hour of rummaging through the large warehouse of fireworks located 6 feet from the Iowa border, we loaded up my trunk, smuggled our illegal contraband back across the border, and started our trek back to Webster City. An hour later, I obeyed my father as well as instigated a small test to determine my friends’ devotion and integrity.
“Hey Guys, could I have some money for gas?”
My friends snickered and some of them started to hand over some cash. Some didn’t.
“You always gotta have the money, don’t you Lugt?” Elkin asked from the back seat—nudging Stroner because he was trying to get a rise out of me. You see, I’ve always been a little parsimonious—financially prudent. My friends would say I was stingy, miserly, tight…and they LOVED to make fun of me. This happened to be one of those occasions. However, my father had planted a seed of doubt in the back of my mind, and now—unbeknownst to Elkin—I was putting him to the test.
My anger escalated. Elkin continued to withhold his contribution and continued to laugh at his little joke from the back seat. I opened the window, and yelled at the top of my lungs, “IT’S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY!” and threw the cash I had received from my other friends out the window. My friend, Rease—who is far more stingy and tight with his money than I was—starred at the blowing money from the back window of my car with a painful look of bereavement and sorrow.
It truly wasn’t about the money…and I believe I made that point obvious. I wanted to know what was in their hearts. I wanted to know if they were my friends…my devoted friends.
While wandering through the desert, it didn’t take long for the Israelites to go from complaining about being thirsty to complaining about being hungry, and then back to complaining about being thirsty. The Israelites complained, grumbled, and whined over and over and over again. On the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt, God answered their complaints and said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them” (Exodus 16:4).
Manna from heaven was not about the bread. In Deuteronomy, Moses explains why God gave the people manna:
“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
It wasn’t about the bread. The primary purpose for manna wasn’t to feed the Israelites “physically,” it was to test their devotion and integrity—to know what was in their hearts and to teach them a spiritual truth.
Do I take advantage of God?
Do I use God for what He can offer me rather than love Him solely because He is who He is?
How devoted am I to God?
Jesus Christ proved His devotion to His calling and His Father in heaven when He was tempted in the wilderness. When tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread, Jesus quoted that very passage in Deuteronomy that provides the reason for manna in the wilderness:
“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Jesus is back on the other side of the Jordan. He’s in the same desert as that of the Israelites 1500 years earlier. He’s being tested and tempted in the same way the Israelites were tested and tempted. Jesus knows that it’s not about the bread. It’s about so much more than the bread. Jesus knows that this test is about His devotion to God, His devotion to His purpose, and His integrity as the Messiah who will someday in the near future sacrifice His flesh—the Bread of Life—for the forgiveness and redemption of many.
Over two years after His temptation, Jesus’ followers bring up the manna in the wilderness again asking, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:30-31).
Jesus answered them saying, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:32-33, 35).
After saying this, Jesus placed one nail in His cross by saying something that caused several of His followers to desert Him because they thought He was propagating cannibalism:
“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
It’s not about the money…it’s about devotion. It’s not about the bread…it’s about devotion. It’s not about the flesh of Christ…it’s about devotion. Jesus devoted His life to the cross…to His purpose, and He calls us to feast on Him. He calls us to devote our livelihood, our wealth, our families, our reason for survival on Him and on His sacrifice for us…for our redemption…for our eternal life.