“Three Squares and I Don’t Care: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread” Mt. 6:25-33; Ex. 16:4,19-24; Pr. 30:8,9
Have you ever thought about how much we talk about eating in our culture? We talk about recipes, we talk about restaurants, we talk about diets— and what you’re supposed to eat and what you’re not. We talk about what’s good for you and what’s bad for you. We spend about and average of three hours of every day of our lives around food if you live until you’re 72, then that means you have spent 9 years of your life on food. God who made us, God who cares for us, is not about to leave this important aspect of our lives out of our prayer life. Besides, God wants us to recognize how dependent we are on Him for our daily needs.
I. A PRAYER FOR MATERIAL NEEDS?
I have heard some people express that God is not interested in the material side of life. They would see the first three petitions for the honor of God’s name, the kingdom and the will to be done as so important, and this petition for daily bread as kind of a low-grade prayer. I don’t see where they get this. Jesus spoke so much about money. There has always been a heresy hanging around the edges of Christianity that God simply cares about the spiritual stuff and nothing about the material. But Jesus healed people’s bodies. Jesus provided food for the 5,000 and the 4,000 who were hungry. He said if you give a cup of cold water in his name you have given it to him.
Some would deny that God cares about their financial state at all. They would deny that God cares about their business, their job hunt, their promotions, their spending, their saving. What’s mine is mine, and what’s God’s is God’s. But what they don’t know is that every atom that we claim as our own is not really ours. It was here before we came, and will be here after we are gone. What God cares about is not how much we have as much as what we do with what we’ve got. To deny that our possessions can or do effect our spirit is like hiding our head in the sand. To deny our spirit effects our possessions is also short-sighted. God is not a killjoy in the sky, rather a loving father who enjoys hearing His children laugh and enjoy His provisions.
George W. Caryoll- was a great Christian philanthropist who gave away millions- what would be the equivalent of hundreds of millions today to the church. When the Great Depression came he lost all his investments. Someone asked him was he sorry for giving so much away. He said not at all- because what he gave away is what lasted- the churches built, the lives changed. In the end, the investments that last are God and people- we should give ourselves to what will last. What he saved for himself is what disappeared. I have heard that echoed through several of my charitable friends who lost so much in the wall street crash of 2008- what they gave away is what lasts. God cares that we not hoard the blessing He has given us, but seek to be a blessing to those around us. Those who give will find, like Mr. Caryoll that giving is indeed one of the greatest blessings in life.
This prayer is for bread which is a symbol of our daily needs. It is a prayer for our farmers, but it is also a prayer for the people who make our clothes. It is a prayer for our grocers, but it is also a prayer for those who build our houses, and care for our bodies. Luther said that this petition more than any other lifted up those who were rulers and in the government.
II. A PRAYER FOR CONTENTMENT
There are two problems with this prayer in our culture. One is that we have an abundance. On the whole we are not like North Korea, Sudan, Ethiopia, or Haiti where starvation are real possibilities. The books on our bookshelves are not books about “How to Avoid Starvation” but “How to lose Weight.” So praying to God for daily provision almost seems like prayer time spent poorly. But this prayer is a reminder to us all that even though we have an abundance, the source for our abundance is God’s hand. Today, with many looking for work, it is important to call on God and not leave Him out of the equation of our lives.
The second problem for us is that we are so far removed from the food process. Some of us have gardens, but they are not so much for survival as for enjoyment. But when we talk about getting food, most of the time we don’t think about sun, rain, and the fertility of the soil, but we think about whether we want to go to Food Lion, Bi Lo, Publix or Walmart in the rain or wait. We usually think of God as more involved with sun, rain, and soil than we think of His involvement with grocery stores.
What does this prayer mean for us? Perhaps the meat of this prayer is found in Proverbs 30:8-9 “Give me enough food to live on, neither too much nor too little. If I’m too full, I might get independent, saying “God, who needs him?” If I’m too poor, I might steal and dishonor the name of my God.” We don’t want to fool ourselves into thinking we have so much that we are self-made or self-sufficient. Nor do we want to fool ourselves to the point that we feel we have so little that we must take matters into our own hands and break God’s commandments. This is a prayer asking God for enough. Perhaps even more, the prayer is asking God to help us to be content with his provision, and trust in Him.
Enough is not a matter of quantity- it is a matter of perspective. Someone asked the richest person in the last century- Rockefeller- when would he have enough- he said before his death- “just a little more.”
Daily bread gets its image from the manna the Israelites received in the desert before they entered the promised land. They complained that God had led them out into the desert to die. God miraculously poured food on them every single day. They called the food “manna” and it met their dietary and food needs. However, if they tried to keep it for more than one day (except for the day before the Sabbath) it would go bad on them. They had to trust that God would provide for them every single day. This was an important lesson for them and an important lesson for us. God is the source of our life not only in that He has made us and made the world, but He also sustains and helps us. Today there is a great fascination with fear movies- 12 come out in 2012. There’s “Contagion” “Battleship” and a few years ago: “Twister”, “Deep Impact”, “Meteorite”, “Independence Day”, and “Earthquake!” It seems that every disaster that could possibly be brought to the imagination is being brought to the big screen, and people are flocking to see them. What we don’t seem to appreciate is the norm of God in that we have been blessed with God’s protection, provision, and mercy. We should learn to live fearless in the midst of that blessing, but more than that learn to trust the hand of the Sustainer.
III. A PRAYER OF TRUST
This is not a prayer for desert, nor is it a prayer for crumbs. It is a prayer for our needs. God knows our needs perhaps more than we recognize. He answers our prayer accordingly.
Tony Campolo tells of the time he was seven and had watched a cowboy show. He told his father he wanted to be a cowboy just like Hop-a-long Cassidy, and asked him to help him become one. His father said, “Let’s wait and see.” Later Campolo was glad that when it came time to ask his father about going to college, his father didn’t say, “College! You told me when you were seven you wanted to be a cowboy, so I have been saving up and bought you this ranch and fifty head of cattle.” The great blessing of God, is that he knows our needs better than we are able to express them, and like the Father he is, he answers our prayer according to our needs.
Alan Redpath translates this phrase, “Give us this day bread suited to our need.” Sometimes our plate runneth over, and there is a promotion; a friendship; a time when we (as Max Lucado says) “push ourselves back from the table amazed at God’s kindness.” Then there are times when we must eat our broccoli. There are tears; there are tough times.
One element that is in this prayer that I do not want to neglect is that this prayer says, “Give US this day our daily bread.” The us reminds us that we are in this together. This means we need to care for the needs of others and not simply for ourselves. But it also infers to the joy of eating together. How much of Jesus’ teaching was given when they ate together– the feeding of the 5,000, the last supper, eating with Matthew and Zaccheus. Tony Campolo in his book Following Jesus without Embarrassing God, points out how you can trace the disintegration of the family to the lack of time spent together eating. He points out that for many cultures, eating together (with the TV off, the text messages and cell phones off) was a time when the family bonded and told family stories. If you take away the family altar (or devotional time) and take away the time we spend eating together, there is not much left. Some of our best theologians (Hendrikus Berkhof and John Leith) say that fellowship around the table is a means of grace. Give us, O Lord, this time. Give us, O Lord, peace. Give us, O Lord, daily bread. Amen.