7/29/2019 9:23:10 AM
Give Us Today Our Daily Bread
Pastor Joel Leyrer - The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost - Sunday, July 28, 2019
Dear Friends in Christ, We’ll begin with very little introduction other than to say today we’ve reached the mid-point in our examination of the Lord’s Prayer. We’ve looked at the address and the first three petitions thus far, and after today we will look at the final three plus the closing statement (referred to as the “doxology”). But our focus this morning is on this middle petition, where Jesus directs us to present this request before our Heavenly Father:
“GIVE US TODAY OUR DAILY BREAD”
So, let’s talk about the Fourth Petition.
The very first thing we should note is the significant shift in pronouns that takes place. Up until now Jesus directs us to make God’s name and God’s Kingdom and God’s will the primary emphasis of our prayers. So we pray, “Hallowed be YOUR name… YOUR kingdom come… YOUR will be done.” By this we are reminded that first and foremost our purpose as God’s redeemed and blood-bought people is to employ ourselves in his service and pray for the furtherance of his will and work in every way. Which is a very important lesson, because by nature we are enormously self-absorbed and have the tendency to think that the world (and perhaps even God himself) revolves (or at least should revolve) around us and our needs. The first three petitions put things in their proper perspective and steer us away from such self-centered thinking. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus impresses upon us that it’s all about God, not us.
However, that doesn’t mean we as individuals with our own personal and physical needs are not important to God. Because we are – thus, the pronoun shift. In this petition the focus does become us and our needs as we pray “Give us today our daily bread.” You may have heard it stated that the Fourth Petition is unique from the other petitions in that it is the only one dealing with physical and earthly affairs. This is true. The six others deal with exclusively spiritual matters. That should tell us something and provide a useful blueprint for way we structure our own prayers. Nevertheless, the very fact that Jesus instructs us to include this concern about our physical life in the Lord’s Prayer also tells us something. It speaks volumes about how well he knows us and how much he loves us. As one Bible commentator put it, here in the Fourth Petition “He occupies himself with the trivialities of humankind.”
In other words, here Jesus meets us in the midst of our everyday life. He knows us. Not only that, he accepts us. He knows that for the most part our minds are not preoccupied with lofty spiritual thoughts and goals; that we are not always entrenched in the eternal, but more often tethered to the temporal. He knows that, realistically, we spend far more time thinking about a variety of earthly matters like our finances or our relationships or our health or our future plans than we do about the world-wide march of the Gospel. He knows the frail creatures that we are and that so often we can’t move or think past our immediate circumstances. So, he meets us on our own turf. There is no scolding here. Jesus doesn’t lecture us or belittle us because of our fearful and anxious nature. Rather he directs us to simply ask him for the things we need. Therefore, we pray with gratefulness and confidence:“Give us today our daily bread.”
Which leads us to ask: what exactly is meant by the term “daily bread?”
Some early Bible Scholars (Augustine, for example) felt that “daily bread” had to be a reference to something spiritual, rather than physical. Based on other portions of Scripture that use this kind of analogy, they thought Jesus must be referring to the need for daily contact with the spiritual food (or “bread”) of his Word. That, of course, is true. The Word of God is indeed the Staff of Life for us. We need to be in daily contact with it to be growing ever stronger and healthier. We need daily rations of sin and grace, law and gospel, comfort and direction for the vitality and well-being of our spiritual lives. The Fourth Petition certainly calls this to mind. But there is a less deep, more common understanding. These words of Jesus apply also to our physical lives. Consequently, the “daily bread” Jesus tells us to ask for can be defined as the basic necessities of life.
That’s obviously the way Luther understood it, because in his explanation of the Fourth Petition he expands the meaning to include “everything that we need for our bodily welfare, such as food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home, land and cattle, money and goods, a godly spouse, godly children, godly workers, godly and faithful leaders, good government, good weather, peace and order, health, a good name, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”
However, a warning is in order. As we ask our Heavenly Father to provide us each day with “daily bread” and reflect on how he has, it’s also important for us to understand the difference between necessities and luxuries. Sometimes we get the two mixed up. And when we do, we can actually find ourselves becoming disappointed with God. So, let me give you a Bible example of someone who understood this difference…The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah lived through a very trying time in the history of God’s people. He watched his people turn away from God. Finally, after receiving warning after warning by prophets such as himself, he watched God’s disciplining hand come down on them through the destruction of their beautiful capital, Jerusalem. The Book of Lamentations tells the whole sad, sordid story.
But here’s the point. It was under these circumstances – when every stitch of clothing, every sip of water and every crust of bread was at a premium – that Jeremiah penned these words: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Jeremiah recognized that God provided for his people, and he was grateful. This is worth mentioning because one of the pitfalls of living in a materialistic, affluent society is to take for granted the abundance of physical blessings God bestows upon us; to buy into a culture which gives the impression that the inability to go on dream vacations or have the latest smartphone or the discretionary income to eat at a nice restaurant once in a while is a denial of basic human rights. Truth be told – and in our heart of hearts we all know this – we all enjoy a standard of living that far surpasses all but the tiniest fractional percentage of the rest of world.
This is not to say that we should feel guilty. But it is to say that we should feel blessed. Because we are. Without even praying for it, our Heavenly Father gives us each day “our daily bread.” Which cannot help but move us to a profound sense of gratefulness.
But there is another wonderful dimension to the Fourth Petition that we must talk about. Embodied within it is a single, grand invitation. When this grand invitation is understood and applied and, with God’s help, accepted, the result will be what Paul refers to as “the peace of God that passes all understanding” taking residency in our hearts.
What is this grand invitation? It is the invitation to trust. In this petition Jesus asks us to trust God.
Once again, we are struck by how well our Savior knows us. So often our lives are shrouded in worry. We worry about the future. We worry about the past. We worry about this or that. Sometimes our worries have a negative impact on our loved ones. Sometimes our worries become obsessions and suck the very joy out of life. Our text for today tells us we don’t have to do that. “Look at the birds of the air,” says Jesus, “they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” He concludes: “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Think deeply about this. Here we have Almighty God – he whose timeless eye surveys all eternity and sees our lives as accomplished facts; he who set the stars in the sky and the planets in their orbit; he who calmed the raging sea with a word and with another word raised the dead – telling us not to worry. When it comes to adequately providing for our lives, Jesus tells us to trust that he will “give us each day our daily bread.”
As if this pronouncement from Jesus is not enough, added to it is what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8. He takes us to the cross of Christ and asks us this question: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
The message is clear. Since God has provided us with the greatest thing – the forgiveness of sins through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – can we not count on him for the smaller things, such as “our daily bread?” Let’s not misunderstand. Certainly, when it comes to “running our lives” we have a responsibility to make good, thoughtful decisions based on the wisdom and knowledge God gives us. The invitation to “not worry” doesn’t give us the right to be reckless or nonchalant or irresponsible or inattentive when it comes to caring for our lives and the lives of those who depend upon us. “Do not worry” does not absolve us of personal accountability. What it does mean is that after we have carefully and prayerfully acted as responsible children of God, we can then turn things over to him with his promise that “I’ll take it from here.” That allows us to face the issues we deal with – especially those shrouded in uncertainty – not with fear or dread or anxiousness or apprehension, but with the quiet confidence that God knows our situations and our needs. And he promises to always have our backs.
As King David put it toward the end of his life: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Psalm 37:25). In other words, the general truth is this: we can rely on God to take care of his children. And by his grace, we are his children.
So mid-way through the model prayer Jesus gave us a shift takes place. In his grace and mercy and intimate knowledge of the needs and concerns of his people, the Lord moves the emphasis from him to us as he instructs his followers to pray: “Give us today our daily bread.”
And that is what we do. Mindful of his providence. Secure in his promises. And grateful we have such a loving Heavenly Father who is so vitally interested in our lives both for eternity and the present time in which we live. Amen.