By S M Chen, posted Nov 4, 2015
“Give us this day our daily bread.” – Matthew 6:11
I’ve wondered, even pondered, from time to time what this part of the Lord’s Prayer meant. I think that perhaps I now know.
Humanity, we are told, was created a little lower than the angels. How much lower we don’t know. What we do know is that we’re born, we live, we die. We require certain things for existence, including food and water. We can survive over a month without food (certain individuals, including Moses, Elijah and Jesus, went 40 days), but only about three days without water.
Being in the present has become a popular notion, extolled by various philosophers, thinkers, and writers. It doesn’t necessarily have anything directly to do with spirituality or religion. The notion goes something like this: the past is gone, the future isn’t guaranteed; all we have is the present – which is why it’s called a gift. Remembering that helps us stay focused on the moment, on the here and now.
In fact, divinity has often related to humanity is this time-limited manner.
After the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, how to feed over 600,000 people? It’s been said that human extremity is God’s opportunity.
This unusual compact substance, which presumably contained all nutrients essential for health, was provided daily for close to 40 years. If a person collected more than the predetermined proper portion – an omer per person (one omer being a tenth of an ephah, or about 2 quarts), it went bad overnight. Except what was collected on the 6th day. That kept for 2 days. In fact, there was no manna on the ground on the 7th day. None.
During the multi-year drought, Elijah was fed daily (actually, twice a day) by ravens by the brook Cherith before it dried up (I Kings 17).
Thereafter, he was directed to go to the house of the widow of Zarephath, who lived in poverty. The drought and famine had spread across the Phoenician border. The widow was in such straits that she was on the brink of starvation when Elijah asked her to prepare him some food.
She might have well wondered, who is this man who asks this of me? Does he not know that what little I have left isn’t even enough for my son and me?
When her son took ill and died, she linked his death with sins of her past. (This is a natural tendency. When my eldest brother was young, my father went off the road in the family car. Broken glass lacerated my brother’s lip. After being sutured, he somewhat resembled a catfish. My father wondered if they were being punished because some time earlier he had eaten catfish, an event which caused him some guilt).
Later, after Elijah brought her son back to life, the widow no longer wondered. Instead, she marveled, and was likely thankful that she had responded to his request for food with grace rather than churlishness.
Elijah assured her that her meager barrel of meal and cruse of oil would last until the drought ended.
Did she suddenly find that her barrel was full to the brim with meal, and her cruse overflowing? We are not told, but I think it more probable that, every day, when she went to the containers, there was always something there. Not a surfeit, but enough for the day.
By and large, the animal kingdom, whether it be beasts of the air, land, or water, forages for food at least daily. Many species spend much of their waking hours seeking and consuming sustenance.
Exceptions include the storing of extra by animals, such as bears, that hibernate, and of preparation for the lean months of winter by storage of nuts, including acorns, by squirrels and chipmunks.
People, too, have historically been hunter-gatherers. Ever since the Fall, we have eaten only by the sweat of our brow. It is true that Joseph had the Egyptians store food in preparation for the 7 lean years, and today there are a variety of methods of food preservation, but throughout much of Earth’s history humans have had to seek food daily, or nearly so.
Christ Himself was a proponent of living in the present. He counseled, “Take no thought of the morrow.” We have our hands full just living one day at a time.
He distilled the Decalogue (simplifying it in the process) into two great commandments: love God and love our fellow beings.
I used to have this word posted on a small blackboard at home: KISS – an acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid. It is when I have strayed from that admonition that I have gotten into trouble.
For, despite our comparatively exalted position in the order of animate objects on Earth, and the wondrous complexity of the human body, we are rather simple creatures.
I think the Almighty recognizes that (and, having made us, He would, would He not?) and deals with us accordingly.
We are instructed in the Lord’s Prayer to seek physical sustenance on a diurnal basis. We could seek it on a different timeframe, say weekly, and endeavor to store the surfeit, but, like manna, the bread might not last, even till the following day.
So, in all aspects of life – material and spiritual, that of the seen world and the unseen, in relationships with those we can touch and those we cannot – we seek renewal day by day.
I like these words of Lord Chichester: “Day by day, dear Lord, three things I pray: to see Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly.”