by Carole Duff

During our three-year, long-distance courtship, Keith visited me on weekends. He lived south of Washington, D.C. and I lived north of Baltimore. Keith always came with groceries when he visited, including specialty breads. Someone at his workplace had a bakery connection and brought the extra bread to work so it wouldn’t go to waste. With my daughter recently graduated from college and my son just starting, I was extra careful with my resources. I worried almost constantly—sometimes obsessively—about money, having gone through the emotional and financial disruption of divorce some years before. So, I froze the fresh baked bread Keith brought and ate the old—cutting any mold off first, of course.

Keith laughed at my foolishness. “Your ‘wise’ frugality means you will never eat fresh bread,” he said. Set in my ways, I froze the new bread and ate the old, when he wasn’t looking.

During their exodus from Egypt, the Israelites received manna from God as they wandered in the Wilderness of the Sinai. Manna gathered daily is sweet, but leftover or hoarded manna is wormy and stinks, like moldy bread. Yet some Israelites, not trusting God’s bounty, insisted on gathering and saving more than they needed. By hoarding what Keith brought me every weekend, I had fallen into the same trap as a rich man who can never have enough money to feel secure. In a world of plenty, I made idols out of the bread—money—I was given.

Timothy in his first letter wrote, For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil… (6:10). The evil I discovered in myself was my lack of hospitality. I’m ashamed to admit that it was only much later when I thought about it and realized I’d missed an opportunity to serve others. I’d greedily hoarded my rich bounty of fresh breads that I might have shared at my workplace. As Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) In other words, I could not serve God or others and hoard bread or anything else. And another point Keith was making by laughing at my foolishness: I could not add a single hour to my life by worrying (Matthew 6:27) or accumulating.

Old Testament wisdom provides the guideline for giving: Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops… (Proverbs 3:9) Today, Keith and I look for opportunities, large and small, to share what we have. One of the easiest ways is to donate time and/or money to the charities that do good, including our local food bank, and to be generous with others who have less or are less able than we are.

For instance, whenever we eat out for lunch, Keith studies the bill at the end of the meal, pulls out his wallet, and places cash on the check. “That should do it, with a generous tip,” he says. I always thank him for the meal, and for his generosity. A few dollars one way or the other can make a big difference to wait staff. How well we remember the days when we were first on our own, counting every dollar, figuring out how to make rent, and later how to pay the mortgage, feed our growing families, and save for college and retirement.

Though Keith and I in retirement are not rich by U.S. standards, we have more than many people. Unlike the poor widow who gave everything she had (Mark 12:41-44), we give out of our abundant blessings. First fruits, sharing the manna we’ve been given—I’ve learned my lesson—and using our gifts to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10) 

Per Gen regular contributor Carole Duff is a veteran teacher, flutist, and writer of narrative nonfiction. She posts weekly to her long-standing blog Notes from Vanaprastha, has written for The Perennial Gen, Streetlight Magazine’s Blog, and Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog. She is working on a book titled Wisdom Builds Her House: A Memoir About Finding Grace in the Third Stage of Life. Carole lives in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband Keith Kenny, also a writer, and three overly-friendly dogs. You can find her website here, and her Twitter feed here.