The Song of the Mountains 37
According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), roughly 10.7% of the worlds 7.6 billion people, 815 million, are undernourished; leading to one in three to suffer from malnutrition. There is a global need for the basic necessities of life, particularly daily bread. Many of you, including this author, do not face the level of food insecurity experienced by those in third-world and developing nations. How does this disparity in experience effect how we pray? Especially with regard to the basic necessity of life? Food.
In Matthew 6:11 Messiah Yeshua/Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Before we pray for forgiveness, protection from temptation and the enemy, we pray for the most basic, and relatable of needs, daily food.
There were debates among the fathers of the early church as to whether or not the words of Messiah were speaking of spiritual bread or literal bread. The bread prayed for in this prayer, they seemed to conclude, was spiritual, not literal. The bread from heaven, manna, that the Lord provided in the wilderness was spiritual in origin, therefore, Matthew 6:11 must be a prayer for spiritual sustenance. Yet, that miraculous six day a week provision of manna fed the physical bodies of the children of Israel.
Yeshua, speaking within an agrarian culture with its own food insecurities, was speaking to the immediate needs of His audience. In ancient times, food was collected and prepared on a daily basis. People often ate more infrequently, and survived on what might be considered a sparse diet by our modern standards.
To western ears, this would seem unusual. Many of us, particularly in the western world, have enough food in the house to survive several weeks if need be; freezers and pantries are stocked, and food is readily available at the nearest market.
The reality of how unusual my personal food habits, and expectations were, set in while on a five week missions to Kenya in 2011. My host family provided breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is not their normal routine. The food set out for me was usually bought that day, or the evening before, and prepared specifically for that meal. Many of their immediate neighbors lived on one meal a day. In Kenya, as in the majority of the world – even here in the USA – people still worry day by day about what they will eat.
As we pray “give us this day our daily bread” we are not only praying for ourselves, but also the global Body of Messiah, and those outside of the faith family as well. With this single verse, Matthew 6:11, Messiah Yeshua turns our attention from heavenly considerations, to very real earthly one, food.
Why would the Lord first direct us to the considerations of the body and not the soul? The founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, once said, “It is hard to preach the Gospel to someone with an empty stomach.” It’s hard to preach forgiveness, love and blessing to those who feel accursed. Further, it is hard to expect hungry people to act in an ethical manner when basic survival is dependent on the next scrap of food, which snowballs into other daily physical and emotional struggles.
It is hard not to feel compassion for those who do steal out of genuine hunger; and it is an ethical dilemma that needs to be addressed, not ignored.
Someone is hungry. They steal (the 8th commandment) a bit of food to preserve life (the 6th commandment). Yet, in order to preserve life (the 6th commandment) they break the 8th commandment by stealing. How can we legitimately resolve this issue? Theft subjects them to judgment. Judgment for attempting to preserve life?
Resolving the issue.
The Word of God commands “you shall not steal” (Normative behavior). The existential motive of the person committing theft, in this case, is hunger. How is this resolved teleologically?
The dilemma has to be resituated. Rather than expecting the person who is not completely in control of their senses to resolve the matter ethically, those who are, must.
Deuteronomy 15:7-8 reads, “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.” This is but one example of the many commands in the Torah directing ethical behavior on behalf of the poor, the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the Levite.
If the Torah, the Law, is not clear enough on this matter, the apostle James writes, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can such faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,’ but you do not give the what the body needs, what good is that? So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself” (James 2:14-17).
Still, it is important that to stress that it says “need” not “want” or “desire” or “habit.”
These simple words, “give us this day our daily bread,” should produce gratitude when our need is met, or by the recognition that it has been continually met. It should cause us to be more aware of the needs of others, and remember that the essentials in life are not luxuries.
This prayer for daily provision also guards us against greed.
Human essentials are not only food and bread, but also: shelter, clothing, family, friends, job, career, mental and emotional strength and clarity, etc…
Therefore, Yeshua is encouraging us to pray for our needs. Then, in Matthew 6:31-32, tell us not to worry about what our Father knows we have need of; He is inviting us to participate in His active care for us, and have faith in that provision.
I recall hearing a story about a farmer in Kansas in the early part of the last century. After some weeks of drought conditions and he was in danger of losing his wheat crop. In an attempt to save some portion of his crop he began to take water from his well and pour water on his crop bucket by bucket, until his well was nearly dry. He prayed, “Lord, unless You send rain immediately, all I have is gone.” The following day rain clouds developed, and soaked his crop in a matter of minutes. While the rain was falling, he took a chair and sat out in his field. Seeing this, his wife asked him if he had lost his mind. He responded, “No, I am just enjoying seeing God do so easily what was so hard for me to do.”
In times past, prayer for daily provision resonated more readily. Yet, it still does in the lives of millions of people around the world not as fortunate as you, or me. When I pray these words, often with a full belly, I pray not for my own need, but 815 million not as fortunate. Still, it must go beyond words, and into action. As the apostle Paul wrote, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Messiah Yeshua.” He might just use you to be the distributor of that supply to fill that need, and I believe Paul would agree.
Shalom. Be well.