Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Daily Bread?

“When hunger becomes anger,

people will fight.”

— Kenyan Church Leader Tokunboh Adeyemo,
Christianity Today, November 2008, p. 29
“Give us today our daily bread....” — Matthew 6:11

“Give us each day our daily bread....” — Luke 11:3

Some have suggested that Jesus meant spiritual bread and not real literal wheat flour. If anything, “bread” is a metonym for food in general, just as today we speak of being the bread winner, or bringing home the bacon, to refer to all that is basic for living. But there is no basis in this text to spiritualize the meaning of the word “bread.”

What more universal need could there be than daily sustenance? And so Jesus is showing us that God cares for our every need, and that we can turn to our Father for even the most basic elements of life. In fact, where else would one go? It is, as someone once said, a prayer “for our needs not for our greeds.”

Even the wealthiest among us should pray this petition. Our health, life, and livelihood all depend each day on God. Let's hope we don't need a stock-market crash to teach us that! Yet most of us in the middle class often take for granted that we will have food to eat. The economic circumstances the world is now facing, though, may have new lessons to teach us regarding our daily need to depend on God.

For much of the world this request for daily bread is to request a true miracle! We may yet have to learn that kind of dependence. Will our hunger become anger? Will our anger result in things like outrage and fighting? Or will we learn contentment and come to cherish the words “Give us this day our daily bread”?

Matthew Henry claimed that every word in this petition has a lesson in it:
  1. We ask for bread; not dainties..., that which is wholesome.
  2. We ask for our bread; that teaches us honesty and industry;
  3. We ask for our daily bread; which teaches us not to take thought for the morrow (v. 34) but constantly to depend upon divine providence.
  4. We pray, “Give it to us,” teaching that the greatest of us is dependent on God's mercy for our sustenance and the means by which we make our livings.
  5. We pray, “Give it to US” not to me only, but to others in common with me. This teaches charity and concern for the poor.
  6. We pray it for “this day,” which teaches us to renew our souls and our bodies regularly. “We could as well go a day without food, as without prayer.”

I cannot help but wonder what it would be like to have to pray this request while struggling to believe it might be answered. And yet that is the challenge most of the world faces each day!

If we continue to remember that each request in this prayer also enlists us in an aspect of the Messiah's mission for the Kingdom, then:
  1. What should WE be doing to live out our commitment to the fulfillment of this petition?
  2. How might we be part of the answer for others? And,
  3. Can we pray this without being willing to participate in its fulfillment for others? If not, then what form should our action take?

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