GIVE US TODAY OUR DAILY BREAD
I love bread. I’m the one that at a BBQ chooses the task of cutting the bread just so that I can already eat some of it when no one is looking!
I know, I know.... Cutting down on gluten will make me a healthier person, but I am one of those people that grew up on two bread meals a day like all other Dutchies, and I cannot imagine life without bread. I’ve tried for a while, and managed to replace bread for yoghurt most of the mornings, but there is not a day that goes by when I don’t eat bread.
Right in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer we find this one phrase saying: give us today our daily bread. This seems like a simple request for providence, but I believe that
it speaks deeply into how we see God, life, and the people around us.
The time in which Jesus taught this prayer was a time when many people did live from day to day. Many worked as dayworkers and so being able to provide for their families was a daily prayer for them. Sickness, whether it was a simple flue or something more complicated would have big consequences.
Also, if the weather didn’t cooperate and there was a long draught, it would have direct effect on the food supply. And so there were many things to be concerned with in the short term.
In the Western World, things like this usually don’t affect us directly. Our society has provided many ways, like insurances or benefits to care for people who cannot provide for themselves due to circumstances. And if a harvest fails – who cares? It only affects the farmers, not the consumers.
Of course, in every country in the Western World including the Netherlands, there are people with deep financial struggle and children that are sent to school without breakfast or lunch. But the difference with the world Jesus lived in is that in general, people in this country are less concerned when it comes to our daily needs.
The beauty of this prayer is that, whether you have little or much, this is a prayer for you! We all need to learn to fully and completely depend on God. I think that, especially in a time and in a country where we are taught to be independent and self-sufficient, it is important to recognize that everything that we have, we have received out of the gracious hand of God.
We need to re-learn to truly depend on God. Because even though, most of us don’t worry about daily needs – our high level of self-dependency does lead us to worry about the long-term issues a whole lot. Will I be able to find the perfect job? Will I be able to accomplish all that I want? What if something unexpected happens? Will I be happy in 10 years from now?
We try to control things we have no control over - and the result of that is… stress.
Through this simple sentence, give us today our daily bread, Jesus is teaching us that we need to depend on God for the short-term stuff and the long-term stuff and whether we have little or we have much.
Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
There is a peace that you can only experience when you have given up all your independent, self-sufficient, I-don’t-need-anyone-or-anything attitude and learn to rely on God’s provision. And the simple phrase: give us today our daily bread will help us to do so. Because we recognize that, even though we bought that bread with our own money, that we worked hard for – we see that bread as a gift from God who put breath in our lunges, strength in our bodies and brains in our heads. Life itself is a gift from God.
As I said, I love bread. I love toast with cheese for breakfast. I love a club sandwich with smoked salmon and cream cheese for lunch and pizza with salami, mozarella and rocket for dinner! I love stuffing bread with meat, or with healthier stuff ;-). But the prayer teaches us a sense of contentment with just bread. What if you don’t have the means to stuff the bread with meat, or butter it up, or dress it with tomato sauce and cheese? What if the bread you receive today is just plain bread?
What if you are not getting everything out of life that you dreamed of, hoped for, prayed for? What if your life is on hold for a while? What if you are walking through trials, and uncertainties? Will you still be able to thank God for the gift of life?
Don’t postpone being content until you have everything you want. This type of satisfaction will always be a moving horizon that you can never reach.
John D. Rockefeller, started Standard Oil. He was at one point the world’s richest man. When a reporter asked him, “How much money is enough?” He responded, “Just a little bit more.”
I think that this is a brilliant answer revealing that true joy is never found in our stuff.
Our daily bread doesn’t only speak about physical bread, but also has a spiritual connotation. Jesus speaks of Himself as the bread of life. And at the Last Supper He compared the bread in that meal to His body being broken, so that we could receive forgiveness and our relationship with God would be restored.
Matthew 6:33-34 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
We will never be able to find true satisfaction until our relationship with God is restored. And so, when you find yourself jealous of people with smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches while all you have is plain bread – the problem is not your bank account, but your spiritual life! That sandwich is not going to satisfy your true needs!
Only when you have found fulfilment in your relationship with God, can you truly enjoy the gifts of God that go beyond the essential needs and will you be able to share from your abundance.
Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Now this might surprise you a little bit. We usually see give us today our daily bread purely as a prayer of petition for our own needs.
But note that it says our daily bread, not my daily bread. It’s not just about me, but about me and the people around me. The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer given to the community of Christians. It reminds us that in this community of believers, we have to care for each other.
There is a French word that shows that bread and community are closely related. It is companion:Com-pain-ion / someone you eat bread with
It might sound like a joke, but etymological dictionaries confirm that the word companion goes back to the Latin work panis, which means bread.
And so, I would encourage you, eat together. Break bread together, share life. Look out for each other, and pray for each other’s needs – and where you can: care for each other’s needs.
Three things to remember
1. Recognize that all you have is from God
Again, there is a peace in surrendering your mindset of self-sufficiency to God. Admitting that we need Him to provide for our daily needs, which go much further than just bread.
We need to learn to trust God with all that we have, with all we need and all that we would like to have – so we can experience the joy of His provision.
Remember how Jesus spoke about the rich after his encounter with the young rich man that couldn’t let go of his riches to follow Him. He said: it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the Kingdom of God.
Don’t let the stuff you have keep you from the life you want.
2. Learn to live in the circle of enough
True contentment starts with learning to live with enough. It means setting the boundary for yourself what is enough. And everything that you get beyond that is available to give away. Make the decision: more is not going to make me happier.
Being content with what we have received is also our way of rejoicing more in the Giver than in the gifts. Do you consider people that only connect with you because of what you can do for them as close friends? In the same way, our prayer life also needs to move much further than just dropping of a wish list.
3. Generously share from what you have
When we learn to be content and to live with enough – a whole world of generosity opens up. Because we are not attached to our stuff, we can freely give it away! My daily bread then becomes our daily bread!
In my life, I have been able to be both on the receiving and the giving side of generosity. I’ve discovered that being on the giving end of generosity is so much more fun!
Let’s live with a heart of thankfulness, being content with what we have and generous in all aspects of life.