Sunday, January 6, 2019

"Our Daily Bread" (Matthew 6:11)


Last week I commenced by suggesting that we should leave our frustrations and disappointments with last year in last year. This is because there is so much to embrace this year … that will contribute to the work of art that God is seeking to paint – both in our lives individually, and in our lives together in the church. If we only look back, we don’t clearly see our way forward. As Nancy Guthrie writes, “Do you want to settle for staying where you are, or do you long for more faith adventures with God”?


Here is my verse for the new year – hear my prayer for this new year – “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). This is part of Jesus’ model prayer, part of the answer Jesus gave when he was asked by his disciples to teach them how to pray. As such, this is NOT so much a request for actual “bread”, but more so a statement of trust that God will provide for our needs. In praying these words, we feel secure in God’s level of care for us.

Yet we don’t take this for granted – making the request, knowing that God will supply our needs, opens the path toward further expressions of gratitude. In this, as this is a daily attitude, we see each new day as an opportunity for some fresh experience of God’s goodness to us. "Give us this day our daily bread": this is the prayer of someone who wants to live simply, one day at a time, and depend upon God in the same way as Jesus depended upon God.

For those of us who have the resources to begin to think they are self-sufficient – here is a challenge. This is a prayer to help re-ground and re-focus us … in an understanding of the real source of all life’s resources; and, as we shall see, our responsibility to share them. We shall also see that the ultimate “bread” is NOT the bread we eat, but rather, actually, the words that come from the mouth of God.


This verse could be translated, “Give us today our bread for tomorrow”. This reflects the Palestinian practice of baking tomorrow’s bread today, but NOT being concerned beyond that (because God will have that covered). As God has surely provided our “bread” each day, our simple request is for that to be repeated on a daily basis – no more than that! This also represents the real life precarious situation of many people in Jesus’ day, who would need to gain work … if they were going to put tomorrow’s bread on the table.

This again shows that all blessings including employment (and, in our time, social welfare) have their origin in God’s bounty. For those with 'plenty' … for those without such material concerns, with ample supplies in their pantry - Jesus criticised (on another occasion) stock-piling of goods as faithless, preferring that any excess resources were given away. [It is in this giving away of excess, that the outcome of everyone receiving their daily bread can be achieved.] This all is intended towards us building our surety in God on a day-to-day basis, rather than only calling on God when certain needs happen to occur.

God wants us to be free from worry on the one hand, and free from alternative points of reliance on the other. God wants us to be free from all complications that would block us from trusting Him, growing in relationships with others, being involved in community-building activities, and serving the needs around us. We need to develop a good and healthy balance between wise planning and trusting God (in the unknown future).

Nancy Guthrie writes, “God wants to change what we want; [God] wants to free us from the tyranny of wanting what will never completely satisfy us”. 

So, with all this in mind, how can we fairly define or understand what is meant by “bread” here?

“Bread” itself, being a staple food, represents basic everyday needs or necessities, rather than luxuries or simple desires. So we might extend the word “bread” here to also represent: shelter, basic clothing, and access to health-care, and then adequate employment, and the level of education that makes gaining work possible. Where work isn’t possible, for a variety of reasons – to other means of financial support. This definition of “bread” could extend to some access to transport – but NOT too much further.

Yet, if we think about life ‘staples’ … we could also fairly add: companionship, encouragement and friendship – being necessities to a life with well-being. Dr Allan Meyer teaches, in Careforce Lifekeys programs, that the most important things human beings need are: acceptance, value and belonging. I will soon go on myself … to include the things of the Spirit … as the most important understanding of the “bread” we need every day.

The Shared Loaf

That the prayer here is about “our” bread, again reminds us that we don’t live as disconnected individuals, but rather as families, churches and communities, where resources, especially the necessities, are (or should be) shared. God is often blamed for the starving masses, where we actually know that, in this world, there is NOT a supply problem, but rather a distribution problem. The request for “our” bread, means that we are equally concerned for everyone else’s need for particular forms of “bread”.

Spiritual Bread

What I have been leading up to, is … I think we can fairly extend “bread” here … to ‘spiritual bread’. The things of the Spirit are just as, if not more important than, physical sustenance. After all, when famished in the desert, Jesus was offered physical bread by the devil – Jesus said, “Man shall NOT live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). And when Jesus is teaching about who he is (in John’s Gospel), we hear him say, “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35).

So actually, God himself is the destination of our search for “bread”. It’s NOT so much that God gives bread – but that God IS the “bread”, and offers us Jesus. Jesus is WHO we need most! So now we read and pray these words a bit differently – “Give us this day our daily BREAD”!! "Give us this day our daily JESUS!! We need to be open for what God has for us today. What can we learn? How can we grow? Where can we be healed? John 6:35 … “I am the Bread of Life – whoever comes to me will never be hungry”. Lovers of good bread … may appreciate this analogy. 

“Jesus is the answer to all our needs – our calling is to know him, explore him, enjoy him, experience him, and then share him” (Frank Viola via Bob Dudley). This is all about engaging with Jesus, and engaging with everything that happens in a day … as if there is something to learn. Each day affords an experience or two that we can grow through and take forward. God is wanting to show us something.

A False Reliance

Just like we might improperly rely on that over-full pantry, we too often might rely on the things we have learnt in the past, as if there is nothing more to learn – thereby missing a whole lot of new insights. We should be on that daily routine of seeking today’s bread for tomorrow’s use! Are we only relying on old (sometimes outdated) information? This is like the food that is stored for too long, or under the wrong conditions, and it just goes off! That’s why we only want the food for the next 24 hours!

Are we only applying failed old solutions to our old and ongoing problems?! We need new solutions! Are we relying on certain old rituals or routines or retreats … that are actually powerless to work well for us today? Do we fail to interact with the new and exciting, because we are stuck in the old and worn. As Jesus says, new wine … requires new wineskins. Is the reason why we find life so challenging … is because we are seeking the answers in the wrong places?! In so doing, we would likely miss what God is saying to us today – to nourish us in light of today’s problems.

We “daily” need the truth that comes from “the mouth of God”. This might be exactly the ‘word’ we need to sustain us. Someone, especially a good trustworthy truth-teller, may have something we need to hear – maybe helping us with a ‘blind-spot’. Or, if our eyes are sufficiently open, we will likely see something that turns a particular difficult situation right around! “Give us this day our daily bread” – that which interacts with today’s problem … for tomorrow’s benefit!

The Mouth of God

God speaks most assuredly and most often through the Bible – that why is we call it God’s Word. There are so many resources for today’s living in the Bible – and God continues to speak freshly through it each day. There is much more light and truth to emerge from God’s Word … as we give ourselves to it, and spend time in it. And we don’t want to be blocked by how we have always understood a particular passage – there may just be something new to be seen and applied.

We need to dig deeply below the surface. Yet, sometimes our bible study is fairly minimalist – maybe just a dutiful surface reading – maybe only for reassurance, thereby missing the challenge or the full impact. But the answers are there to the biggest problems, counteracting some of the lies we may have previously accepted. You can actually break down the teaching of Jesus into very practical ways of going about life – giving us the basic forms and patterns for living … in the most satisfying and productive of ways.

It’s amazing how you can read a passage, even one you have read many times before, and discover a new way that it speaks, seemingly uniquely, into your life right now. Yet this opportunity is too often sadly ignored. When Jesus looked down at Jerusalem from a distance, he wept over this city, because they had ignored and missed their opportunity of feeding from the ‘Bread of Life’ (Luke 19:41-44). We can carry on endlessly talking about our problems and get nowhere, or, we can delve into the Word of God for significant life-changing answers.

Nancy Guthrie again: “Most of us come to the Word of God looking for advice to help us fix ourselves up a little, only to discover that God wants to do something far more dramatic and intense. [God] wants to penetrate the dark corners of our inner lives, and deal with the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts – to transform us into a people who radiate his beauty and grace”. {The One Year Book of Hope}.

The Bible is a living guidebook … that travels our journey with us!!! Again, because we are concerned with “our” bread, we are equally concerned for the spiritual needs and growth of those who we are in community with in the church. That is why the most important dynamic in the church is … ? … encouragement, which when combined with forgiveness, can make for a pretty special community (full of light and transformation).


“Give us this day our daily bread” – this means dwelling in the day with God, recognising God’s presence in certain happenings, seeing each day as a gift, and, looking to see how this day brings good fuel for the next day. Let us never get stuck!! Every day we need something new … to keep us moving forward toward healing, and maturing into the image of Jesus. God is waiting to give you what you need to enter your best future! Amen!!

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