In the “Lord’s prayer,” Jesus is said to have taught his followers to ask God to “give us this day our daily bread.” (Mat. 6:11) These days, many who repeat this prayer, have few, if any, concerns about the necessities of life. But for more and more, this prayer represents a very real daily need.
In Jesus’ day there was also a wide disparity between the rich and the poor, which was a subject of his deep concern. Then, as now, many of the rich had turned their back on the plight of the poor. But Jesus had wealthy followers as well as poor, and his words were directed at each one of them. Since the rich were not taught a different prayer, what did he mean by “our daily bread?”
Bread was often used in the Bible to symbolize the necessities of life, but this request also speaks to deeper questions: who are we relying on to see that we get what we need? Do we think of receiving our needs on a daily basis, or do we focus on long range security?
Bread that we buy ready-made at the store and preserve in a refrigerator doesn’t hold the same importance it did in Jesus’ day. Fields had to be prepared, planted, tended and harvested. Grain had to be separated from the chaff, and only after it had been ground could the daily chore of making and baking the bread take place. During any phase, disaster could strike and hunger become a reality.
But instead of being anxious over necessities, Jesus encouraged a direct relationship with the Divine that would allow his listeners to put their full trust in the process of receiving what they needed each day. Although this message might sound like pie-in-the-sky to many, as an itinerant sage, Jesus lived as a model of his trust in the Divine. He was well aware of the very real problems that people faced, so he offered the only remedy he knew would succeed.
When a young man told Jesus he would follow him anywhere, Jesus explained what that meant when he said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9: 58-61) Another man who had heard Jesus’ remark said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
It wasn’t that his father had died, or was even near to death. He wanted to go home because he was unwilling to live a life based on trust. Instead, he wanted the pseudo-security that came from necessities (and perhaps luxuries) that his family had stockpiled in advance. Jesus’ message of living simply, sharing with others and trusting the Divine to provide what we need hasn’t changed, but many have regularly twisted its meaning to suit their own desires and comfort level.
Jesus realized that when some hoard life’s necessities, others inevitably go without. And he also knew that it’s impossible to focus on self-interest and BE love. But the brain is expert on figuring out how to rationalize anything it, or the body, wants. This has become increasingly obvious as churches that preach a “prosperity” message grow by leaps and bounds.
“Prosperity Christians” feel sure that God is ready and waiting to fulfil even their most elaborate dreams of wealth and security. And when material success comes, it’s considered a blessing that demonstrates God’s special favour. Other Christians disagree, and of course both sides are armed with scriptures to prove they are correct.
But an important issue that’s affecting Christian countries was made in Time magazine in September 18, 2006. Among a wide range of Christians who were polled, 61% felt that God wants them to be wealthy and uses wealth as a way to bless and show favour.
What was surprising is that 63% thought that if they gave money to help the poor, God would not replace it. Using these figures, we could conclude that many Christians must feel if God blesses them with wealth, they need to hang on to it rather than share it with those in need.
Praying for our “daily” bread is very different than praying to stockpile bread, or money to pay for it, far in advance of our needs. And yet, stockpiling and trusting in ourselves is what we’re taught to do. Of course our form of stockpiling more often takes place in banks, but amassing piles of material things also attests to our belief in the need to secure ourselves by stockpiling.
Many Christians have somehow come to the conclusion that capitalism and Christianity are synonymous. As a result, many professed Christians feel completely justified living very well while turning their backs on the poor. In their sight, those who have not prospered in the capitalist economic system deserve their plight since they apparently don’t have God’s favour.
But in Luke 12: 13-31 a man approached Jesus and asked him to tell his brother to divide their inheritance. Instead of getting involved, Jesus told the story of a “rich fool” who was so greedy for more, he decided to pull down the storage barns he already had so he could build bigger ones and stockpile an even greater supply.
But God told him, “Fool, this night your soul will be required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” Few of us think that this parable applies to us, but the real questions we need to ask ourselves is: how anxious are we over our own security? Who do we trust to supply our needs? How hard are we working to make sure we have more than our daily bread? Jesus made it clear what his priorities were when he said:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in a steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mat. 6: 19-21)
~ by Lee & Steven Hager, 2012. For more: Click Here