Kick those cans!

Bold statement of the day: storing up too much extra food can be theologically dangerous.

I’m talking about those cans and boxes in your pantry. Yes, you. Your little Annie’s Mac & Cheeses, lentil soups, refried beans, ricearonis, whatever it is you store up. Theologically dangerous. Yes, I said it. Watch out.

I wouldn’t counsel utter foolishness, of course. I know a good deal when I see one. As a matter of principle I won’t say no to 75% off. And certain places can really get me going. When I’m house shopper (we divide it up – one person to the farmer’s market, one to TJ’s, one to Safeway) I find it much harder to shop at Safeway than the farmers’ market. At the farmer’s market, you look around and see what’s good, and guess how much a hungry household will eat in a week, and I almost never have a problem with going over budget. We can only eat so much in a week. At Safeway I’m constantly tempted. They know how my brain works. They offer 50% off sales, or even worse, they say “buy one get one FREE” and my brain sees “free” and says “well it would be a sin to leave that to go to waste, I’d better help them out here.” I end up spending way over the weekly budget and we end up with stacks and stacks of 60-percent-off pasta. We eat it, eventually, of course.

There is a theological side of this story. Ellen Davis talks about the “manna economy” of the desert, and the “empire economy” of Egypt. When the Israelites were enslaved, they looked around and saw silo after huge silo of stored grain. They may not have had direct access to it, but it was there in case of famine, courtesy of Pharoah’s food policy programs. In the desert it was the polar opposite – their manna was not physically capable of being stored. It would rot overnight. Forget building a silo – you’d have to live day to day. The manna story shows the economic implications of relying on your food directly from the hand of God – if there is no storing it up, there is no taxing it either, or running an overpriced supply chain out of Pharoah’s silos. Everyone gets what they need – no more, no less.

The manna economy does not come easily in the real world. We are keepers, storers, hoarders – and recently TV shows have shown us the dark underside of that strain that runs through our culture. It is not that unusual for people to have cans in their closet that end up expiring before they can eat them all – because so many sales have convinced them they absolutely MUST take this cheap little can of food home with them, store it up, feel secure against potential disasters.

It’s a funny philosophy… to think that God would somehow love the perishable food more than the imperishable… and might even want us to face the world without a prudent reserve… but it must come from something like the same theology that says “blessed are the poor” and other such backwards things.

What is your personal food theology? What does your pantry or fridge say about your relationship to God? Or have you intellectualized it out of that realm completely?