Our Daily Bread
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 104)
by Bob Burridge ©2012
As humans we have three most basic survival cravings.
We need oxygen, water, and food.
The most powerful is our craving for Oxygen. When it is cut off we start gasping and struggling for air. We can only last a few minutes without it. After that the brain cells and other body parts stop functioning, and will not be able to recover.
The next strongest survival craving is for Water. It makes up about 62% of the body’s mass. It is needed for the chemical processes our bodies perform every minute. Water gets used up in these reactions, and some evaporates. If it is not replaced in time, we dehydrate and die. That is why thirst is such a powerful craving.
The third most important need is Food. Depending upon our health, we can probably go a few days without it. During that time the electrolytes in the body’s system start to run short and we feel weak. After our bodies use up the stored fats, they begin getting nutrients from more vital tissues. Some organs are weakened and shut down. When the body can no longer keep up with the energy demands, it dies from starvation.
When I was in Scouts I liked taking long hikes with friends in the forest-hills of Western New York. We each took a canteen of water, and learned how to get safe water out in the wild. To keep up our energy on long hikes we learned some helpful hints from the native Americans of long ago. My friend Gary and I would make up a batch of Pemmican. It is made from dried meat, rendered fat, and seeds, nuts, or berries depending upon your preferred taste. We wrapped individual servings in waxed paper were it would not spoil for weeks. One Chippewayan Indian guide’s recipe reportedly would last for several years. We were never thirsty or hungry and could explore the woods for days.
God did not just give us cravings. He also gave us a commission to labor for our provisions. He enables us to work for what we have. We also need to remember that without his provision of the basic materials and his care for us, we would have nothing. So Jesus reminded us in his model prayer that we should pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
The Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 104 asks, “What do we pray for in the fourth petition?” The answer it gives is, “In the fourth petition, which is, Give us this day our daily bread, we pray that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.”
When we pray “Give us this day our daily bread”
we ask God to provide for our regular physical needs.
The word bread is not just limited to what we make by baking ground-up grain. The Hebrew word is lekhem (לחם). It is a general word commonly used for “food”. Bread is so basic in our diets that it is often used in that more general way. In the time of Jesus, Greek was the common language. Their word for bread is, artos (αρτος). It was often used the same way. We sometimes call someone who works to support a family the “bread winner.”
In this model prayer, Jesus teaches that we should pray for our basic daily needs. But what about praying for specific kinds of provisions? There is a danger here. We should not become dissatisfied with what God provides to meet our needs. This prayer should not become an expression of covetousness for getting the best, or for expecting luxuries.
When Israel became dissatisfied with manna and asked for better food, it was treated as rebellion against the Lord in Numbers 11:6. We need to ask that our needs will be met. If God blesses you with more, be extra humbly thankful. This is what Proverbs 30:8 teaches. The wise call out saying, “… Give me neither poverty nor riches — Feed me with the food allotted to me;” While it is proper to ask to have our daily needs met, we should never become covetous of what the Lord has not chosen to give us.
This does not mean that luxuries are evil. God in his sovereign pleasure may provide you with abundance and rich material blessings. However, to covet that, and not to be willing to simply have your needs met, is very wrong.
Psalm 62:10 gives advice to those who are blessed with riches. It says, “… If riches increase, Do not set your heart on them.”
This is one of the dangers that have plagued the rich all through history. If you become covetous rather than humbly thankful, you forget that God is the source of every blessing. No one should say grace at meals, then live pridefully as if what you have was deserved aside from God’s care and mercy. That would reveal a horrible hypocrisy in your giving of thanks. No one should expect that he deserves more than others. We should not let our blessings make us look down upon the less fortunate, or to become arrogant.
Pray for your food and daily needs, but enjoy and appreciate whatever the Lord provides. All God gives you beyond your actual needs should be managed responsibly for his glory.
The real issue is the attitude of the heart. Whether you have inferior or superior things, remember that (assuming you have worked faithfully) what is alloted to you is God’s gift to be thankfully received and used well for his glory. Dissatisfaction or pride expose an unthankful and unsubmissive heart. As Job said in
Job 1:21 “… The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Paul reminded Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:8, “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”
Sometimes God might withhold some things we are convinced we need. However, we know that God is all wise and always good. He knows what is best for us to have at each moment, and when it is best to go without.
There are times when there is a good purpose in not having all we think we need. Our duty in those times, is to work hard for our provisions, but to trust that the Lord does what is best for us and for those we love.
By this we learn contentment in God as our Provider. Even in prison Paul could write in Philippians 4:11 “… I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”
Therefore, this is how we should pray for God to provide us with our regular physical needs.
When we pray “Give us this day our daily bread”
we confess that our provisions come only from God.
We should keep in mind that he provides for our needs through ordinary means. Asking God for bread does not mean that we should wait for it to magically appear on our door step. There were a few special provisions in ancient times where God provided supernaturally.
- God miraculously provided manna and quail in the wilderness (Exodus 16:4 Numbers 11:31)
- He fed Elijah by sending food by Ravens at Cherith (1 Kings 17:2-6)
- At Zarephath miraculously increased the flour and oil for Elijah (1 Kings 17:10-16)
- The Lord increased the widow’s oil to pay her debts (2 Kings 4:1-7)
These were exceptions. Even in biblical days, such special provisions were very rare and unusual events. The prophets and people did not expect their provisions to come that way.
Supernatural provisions were part of God’s special revelation. They took place, like all the physical miracles, at specific times to teach lessons about God. Now that the Scriptures are completed there is no need for special revelation like that.
God ordinarily and regularly provides for his children in natural ways. Even before the fall into sin, God did not give Adam his food by miracles. The Lord created things in nature to be his food. God told Adam to subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28), and to cultivate and care for his garden (Genesis 2:15).
God’s diet for us includes: vegetables, fruits, grains, and the milk and meats of various animals. We are to grow the plants and tend to the animals. God calls some of us to other kinds of work to provide for other needs beyond just food. We use what we earn to pay those who produce the food for us.
We are created to work for our daily bread. Work is honorable and good. Sin did not make work necessary, it made work difficult.
We are also commissioned to care for the true needs of others who are not able to work. Ephesians 4:28 says, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.”
God provides opportunities to work, but he is the one who blesses our efforts. It is good to begin all your work with prayer. Ask God to help you to do your best. Keep this in mind when you pray, “give us this day our daily bread.”
There is a work ethic which God built into the world.
Working to the best of our ability, and for God’s glory, is a moral obligation. It is part of the way things were created so that God’s nature and love are displayed in us to the world.
Everything is God’s. Ownership is the responsibility to personally manage some piece of God’s world he has providetially given to you. There are three particular ways by which we humans get to own things:
- You own what you earn by legitimate labor, and by the use of your talents.
- You own what you inherit. What families earn remains theirs from generation to generation.
- You own what you are given as gifts, or as benevolences in your times of need.
In each case someone worked, or gave what they earned to someone else.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 challenges Christians to practice this work ethic. “that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.”
There’s a sobering warning in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “… If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” This doesn’t say that those who are not able to work should starve. It means that those who refuse to work should not be supported in an irresponsible life-style.
Fallen human hearts held in the chains of sin
will pervert God’s principles.
In that fallen condition people try to get things in other ways than what God provides. Theft and fraud are obvious violations of God’s moral law. If you take something God has entrusted to somebody else, that does not make it yours. It makes you and open rebel against God’s care and wise provision for others.
Another violation of this principle is entitlementism. This is where people feel specially privileged, and believe they should not have to work. Sometimes people who are very wealthy get the idea that work is beneath them. Rather than care for God’s world and work to make it better, they expect others to make the sacrifices of time and energy in their place.
At the other end of the economic scale some of the poor believe others should support them. Many people go through struggles at one time or another. Some want to work but are unable. However, no one should ever become content to be lazy and let others do the work. They should not let support from others rob them of their incentive to work, or take away their God-given drive to be a part of the working world when they are able.
Some try to get more things by gambling. They risk some of the provisions God gave them, hoping to get things they didn’t work for. The word gambling is a little undefined because it could include legitimate investment risks, and the rewards or prizes of innocent recreations. However, it violates biblical ethics when the risks become an expression of coveting things not earned. Tragically some have become a burden to society and to friends because they foolishly risk what God entrusted to them, buying lottery tickets, betting on races, or games of chance, hoping to gain more things without having to earn them by working. In most cases gambling has a greater likelihood of losing what you have, than of getting more. There is a real danger if it is an attempt to gain things in ways God has not set up for gaining ownership.
Lawsuits have become another way people try to get around God’s work ethic. There are times when legal action should be taken to hold people responsible for damage they do. For some it becomes a business, or a way of taking things from others. They sue to get huge financial rewards, sometimes for their own negligence. Frivolous law suits cost society by raising insurance costs and strangling legitimate business.
We’re all familiar with case of the woman who spilled hot coffee in her lap and sued McDonalds for $2million. There is that wrongful death lawsuit of an oil company for simply giving out free tickets to the Great White concert where pyrotechnics caused a deadly fire. The courts should not take money from those who earned it, and give it to those who did not, unless there is real evidence that something criminally irresponsible was done.
Illegitimate ways of getting things cannot make a person the rightful owner of what he gets. They mark him as a thief who takes what is not properly his. A person only become a rightful owner of something by earning it, inheriting it, or by receiving it as a gift.
Prayer is commanded as part of how
you get your regular needs.
God made prayer to be one of the means by which he provides for his people. In Matthew 7:7 Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you.” Also, here in the Lord’s Prayer we are told to pray for our daily bread.
We pray because we know that we depend upon God for every blessing. We should never forget that, or take what he give us for granted. As Moses warned in Deuteronomy 8:17-18 you should never say in your heart, ” ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
Prayer should be offered with the humble awareness that everything good comes from God. He provides all the opportunities and abilities we have. He makes the food to grow, and makes it available to us.
Every day we need to confess to God in prayer that our provisions come only from him. We ought to show that we are sincere by obeying his rules for managing what he gives us.
- We should understand the difference between the things we truly need, and the extras he blesses us with.
- We need to manage as a faithful and responsible child all our Father entrusts to our care.
- We should not use his blessings for things that displease him.
- The tithe or our earnings which we bring to the church is never ours to spend. That is God’s budget for his children so that his kingdom on earth can do its work.
- We need to look for ways to use that 90% that is ours, so that after our basic needs are met we can responsibly help others who might not be able to meet their needs at the moment.
In all things, we need to show our trust and gratitude to the Lord for our daily bread. Our duty is to work to the best of our ability, to pray for God’s blessing upon our labors, and to manage responsibly all our Lord gives us so that it maximizes the Glory of Jesus Christ and advances his Kingdom.
(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)