Scripture: Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29
How often do we want things that we do not have? I’m guessing most of us have participated in this at least once today. I wanted steak bu instead I had a burrito (not a bad tradeoff since I had a very good burrito from my favorite Mexican restraunt in Kansas City). Well I also wanted to purchase a wireless router for my mother-in-laws computer so I could use their internet when we are at their house, but alas I did not purchase it.
Why not, don’t think it was not because I have amazing skills in the area of self discipline because that is not the reason. The truth is I did not purchase I because my wife gave me a look. If you are a married man you know the look. It is that look that says…well it says many things but in this case it was if you buy it I will be very disappointed.
This passage starts with Israel, as the wandering tribes, longing for meat. Meat was something that a wandering tribe has a hard time obtaining. There were thousands of people so if you were able to find a bunny running around you were lucky. (Did they have bunnies in the wildness?) So they thought back to their wonderful times back in the land flowing with milk and honey, Egypt…wait we got that backwards they were slaves in Egypt. It was a land of bondage, poverty, hard labor, and racism. Who in their right mind would be longing for a time when they were held under the harsh thumb of tyranny?
That is the point we need to ponder. When we live in this lifestyle of longing for things we cannot have we are actually longing for slavery. This is a sin. “Thou shall not covet you neighbors…” Covet is such a dirty term, it just sounds wrong, which is probably why wedo not hear it outside of church. We try to avoid these terms that point out sin. Which leads us to another point, we avoid reminding ourselves of sin. This in itself I sinnful.
Sin is a form of bondage. I say this because when we are living in sin we are longing for things. Longing for things that will satisfy our own desires, many of which are selfish. Not all desires are sinful, in fact many of them are leading from the Holy Spirit. Desires become sinful when they are acted on in a manner that is focused only on our own personal benifit. Even some really good activties can become sinful if we enter them with a selfish intent. For example, to become a medical doctor is an honorable and needed pursuit, but if you only pursue the medical arts to recieve a big salary then we are probably leaning toward sin. Of course, if people are only trying to become a doctor for the money they may probably would not be able to finish medical school. Sin is bondage, and in this story Israel is showing us just how easy it is for sin to turn our hearts to long for the bondage.
We want meat. We had meat back then, so I want to go back. The sin is not in the desire for meat but what we give up in trying to obtain it. They are willing to go back to a life of bondage for fish. When if they stay with God and kee walking to the promised land the will be able to raise as much meat as they want. Sin steals from our future and puts us into bondage. This sin, the sin of wanting something now instead of going through the struggle to obtain something better, literally puts us into bondage.
This leads us to a life of simplicity. The simple lifestyle ecourages us to give up our selfish desires so that we can obtain a better life in the future. If we give up meat for now while we wander through the wilderness we will have more opportunity in the future for something even better. In a culture of materialism this seems pretty crazy. Why live a simple life? It frees us to do something greater. If we are not bond by sin, or debt we can change directions quickly. We can enter into ministry without worrying if we may have a conversation with a collections agent. We can support ministries freely because we already know our bills are covered in our budget.
The simple life is crazy but amazing. Monks, Mennonites, and Quakers have tried to live this lifestyle. Some live it well and others actually live this lifestyle in a sinful manner. We should live a simple life not to look holy, but so we are free to answer the call of God in our life. It was a command from Jesus when He sent out His disciples, yet often we forget it. Why? Because we want meat. We want what we want now and do not want to wait for an amazing blessing in the future. As we pray today let’s consider why we are living the way we are and if we are honoring God in it, or if we are honoring ourselves. If you are under the tyrant of debt guess what there is a way out. Be warned it is a vast desert that you must cross and along the way you may not have much meat to eat, but on the other side of that desert is a promised land. If you cannot see the land across the desert, talk to the countless groups helping people out of bondage. They are all over you can hear them on the radio and buy their books at most places books are sold. This is just one step and it is not the whole story of why we should live a life of simplicity. It goes way beyond the financial aspects of life. It enters the spiritual as well. Do we trust God or do we long for the world? Do we seek to be citizens in the Kingdom of God or slaves in the land of bondage.