Introduction: There is an old saying that if we give a person a fish,
that will help for one meal. If we give them a fishing pole and
tackle, that will make the person self-sufficient. How does God take
care of us? Is He handing out fish all the time, or has He given the
universe a “fishing pole?” Although I think we can only scratch the
surface of this because of limited human understanding, God has
shared some information with us. That information guides us as we
carry on God’s work of provision for those less fortunate. Let’s jump
into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!

  1. Provide and Sustain

    1. Read Colossians 1:16-17. This text is about Jesus. What
      two roles do you see Jesus playing in our world? (He
      created it – even things we cannot see. And, He continues
      to “hold” the creation together.)

    2. Read Hebrews 1:3. This adds some detail about Jesus
      “holding” the creation together. How is this done? (By
      “His powerful word.”)

      1. What do you think of when you read about Jesus’
        “powerful word?” (Genesis 1 – where we read that God
        spoke the creation into existence.)

    3. Read Genesis 1:29-30 and Exodus 16:14-18. What do you see
      as different in these two ways God devised to sustain His
      people? (One was self-sustaining. The specific reference
      to “seed-bearing” highlights the means of reproduction.
      The other required God’s daily provision.)

      1. Our first two texts introduced the idea that Jesus
        has a continuing role in holding the universe
        together. Part of this is sustaining the creation.
        What do the creation of plants and the provision of
        manna teach us about God’s current role in providing
        for us? (It appears to have two sides. One is a
        system that is self-sustaining, and the other is a
        system in which God is more actively involved.)

        1. Is the self-sustaining idea an illusion?

  2. Nature of the Provision

    1. What do Genesis 1:29 and Exodus 16:17-18 teach us about
      God’s generosity towards us? (In both situations humans
      had all they needed.)

      1. Look again at Exodus 16:17. What is your reaction to
        the fact that every person had as much manna as that
        person needed – regardless of the amount gathered?
        (It appears that God supernaturally adjusted the
        manna to the amount the person needed.)

    2. Read Genesis 2:15-17. We discussed that the Eden approach
      was self-sustaining. Is that completely true? (It
      apparently required some maintenance. God gave that task
      to humans.)

      1. Why? (God wants us to participate in our support. God
        has a role for us.)

        1. Consider the implications of this. Should we
          sit around and wait for God to find us a job?
          Should we ignore the quality of the food we
          eat? Should we be actively involved in the
          state of our health?

      2. Read Matthew 6:25-27. Does this contradict the idea
        that we need to be co-laborers with God in providing
        our food? (No. The point is that we should not worry.
        Consider what you know about birds. They are
        constantly looking for food. They clearly are co-laborers when it comes to food.)

    3. Read Genesis 3:17-19. How did God’s role as provider and
      sustainer and our role as co-laborer change after the
      introduction of sin? (Our part of the job became more

      1. How can you reconcile our “painful toil” obligation
        with Jesus’ assurance ( Matthew 6:26-28)that He will
        provide for us just like He provides for birds who
        don’t sow or reap and lilies who don’t labor or spin?
        (It seems a contradiction on the surface. However, I
        think Jesus was making a point about worry, not a
        point about whether we are obliged to work. Neither
        lilies nor birds have hands.)

    4. Read Leviticus 19:9-10. What is God’s plan for us when it
      comes to feeding the poor and the aliens? (It seems that
      we are co-laborers with God not only in providing for
      ourselves, but also providing for the poor. The poor also
      have an obligation to be co-laborers.)

      1. Anyone have a farming background? What is the nature
        of the crop at the “very edges of your field?” (It is
        not as abundant. When I was a child, my folks let me
        pick berries to earn money. The person in charge of
        the berry picking would put me at the edge of the
        field, where the yield was less, so I would not
        interfere with the people who were picking berries to
        make a living.)

      2. What point do we find here about co-laboring and the
        poor? (God’s plan for the poor requires them to

      3. How is the “golden rule” ( Mark 12:31) applied here?
        (This is eye-opening. The poor did not have access to
        the best part of the crop. That was reserved for the
        farmer who owned the land, planted the crop and
        harvested it. Loving your neighbor as yourself is not
        (as illustrated here) putting everyone on the same
        economic level. Rather, it seems to say, “What would
        be appropriate for me if our roles were reversed?”)

        1. How have we seen that God treats His people?

        2. Read Colossians 4:1. Is this something to keep
          in mind when we consider how to treat the poor?
          (Yes. God is generous to us, and the suggestion
          is that we need to keep in mind that the poor
          and rich have a common master – God.)

    5. As we review the Garden of Eden, the provision of Manna
      during the Exodus, and the rules for aiding the poor, what
      common elements do we see? (1. God is the source of the
      provision. 2. Humans are co-laborers in this provision.
      God places an obligation on us to work, and this
      obligation has increased as a result of sin. 3. God is
      generous. He provides what we need. 4. God is trustworthy,
      while we need to work, we do not need to worry.)

  3. The Provision and Evil

    1. Read Genesis 3:21-23. What is Adam’s task? (To work the

      1. Has God’s role as provider changed?

    2. Read Genesis 4:1-2. Is Abel violating God’s rule? He is
      not working the ground, his brother Cain is working the

      1. I don’t raise any of the food I eat. Few people I
        know do. Are we violating God’s rule?

    3. Read Genesis 3:18. What is Adam’s diet? (Plants. He is a

    4. Read Genesis 4:3-4. Is Abel a omnivore? If he is not
      eating his sheep, what is he eating? (In Genesis 9:1-3 God
      gives permission to humans to eat meat. If we did not have
      that information, it would seem that Abel was a meat-eater.)

    5. As I look at God’s command to Adam (about working the
      land), and the chosen work of Cain and Abel, it seems that
      Cain is the one who is obeying God. Do you agree?

    6. Read Genesis 4:3-7. Why is God telling Cain, the son who
      is apparently most obedient, that he is not doing what is
      right? (Now the truth comes out. If Abel were disobeying
      God by his line of work, God would say it. However, Abel
      is working to create sacrifices to God. Cain is working to
      feed himself.)

      1. What does that teach us about the nature of the curse
        that we must work hard for food? (God is not
        literally commanding that we all grow food. Rather,
        He is telling us that our work, as a co-laborer with
        Him in providing for us, is more difficult post-sin.)

      2. Would this rule of difficulty apply to other aspects
        of life? (Review again Genesis 3:17-19. God tells
        Adam and Eve that they are going to die – return to
        dust. That would not have happened if they had
        trusted God and obeyed. While they live, life will
        be much more difficult than it was in Eden. I think
        God used work to illustrate the greater burden we
        face in living.)

    7. Friend, sin has made life more difficult. But, the good
      news is that our generous God is still our Provider and
      Sustainer. He demands that we be co-laborers with Him, and
      the extend of our part of the labor has greatly increased
      after the entry of sin. However, He asks us to trust Him
      that He will meet our needs. Will you trust God today?

  4. Next week: Marriage: A Gift from Eden.