Monday, March 25, 2013

Give us this day our daily bread

“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). There it is, right there amidst what is affectionately known as the Lord's Prayer. All I've really ever heard in explaining this verse is to trust the Lord to meet our needs. I've always been the special child though … the one who needs just a bit more information before I will be satisfied.

What did Jesus mean by this statement? I believe every word spoken from His mouth is important, therefore it really jumps out when He repeats Himself twice … in only seven words. “Give us THIS DAY our DAILY bread.” How can anyone read that without thinking immediately of the children of Israel traveling through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land being given by God their daily provision of manna?

Alright, here's my problem: Why did Jesus – teaching His disciples how to pray – instruct them to say something like, “Give us this day our daily bread”? Isn't that why we wake up and go to work each day, to supply our daily needs? But wait a minute, if I'm working my 9a-5p job to pay the bills, why should I pray such a prayer at all? I get paid to work. If I spend my paycheck on groceries, and utilities, and rent, and clothing … then I'm the one who has provided the daily bread, not God.

But the verse didn't say, “Provide me with a job, Lord, and I'll take care of the rest.” It said, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Well, surely it isn't suggesting that I quit my job and stop working. Is it? When you look back at the example of the children of Israel en route to the Promised Land, they held no work positions. There were no careers being utilized. No years of training being put to use to provide for their well being.

“You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth, and You gave them water for their thirst. [21] “Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want; Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell” (Nehemiah 9:20-21). God says, “I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant” (Joshua 24:13).

So God provided the food, water, clothing, land, cities, houses, vineyards and groves. But what about Jesus? Surely He wasn't suggesting we stop working? Actually, I guess it depends on what you mean my work. Didn't Jesus say, “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!” (Luke 12:24)? Didn't He say, “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. [28] “But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!” (Luke 12:27-28)?

Why would Jesus offer to us – as people – the example of animals and plants? Why would He specifically mention that they do not work for a living … and then top it off by making it a faith issue? But wait! He's not finished! “And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. [30] “For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. [31] “But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (Luke 12:29-31).

Now I'm really confused! “Do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink ...” But isn't exactly what people do every single day of their lives by going to work? Don't they specifically use words like, “I've got to put food on the table”? So do they? Have to put food on the table? Jesus' instruction was to seek God's kingdom “and these things will be added to you.”

Are the apostles examples in more ways than one? We have recorded that Peter, Andrew, James and John – all professional fishermen – left their vocation behind (Matthew 4:18-22) and, as far as we know, never returned to it. Likewise, Matthew was a tax collector, but left it all behind for Jesus (Luke 5:27-28).

For that matter, what about Jesus? He said of Himself, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20). When confronted to pay taxes, He found the tax money inside a fish's mouth (Matthew 17:24-27). Oh, I know everyone calls Him Jesus the carpenter, but is there any actual evidence that He worked in such a capacity?

Right about now, I would expect that someone would bring up 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” That's a wonderful verse, but in context it was written concerning those were “leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies” ( 2 Thessalonians 3:11).

“So get to the point, Jonathan!” Fine, I will. We're going about this all wrong. Today's world teaches us to get a college education and a job that will pay the bills and allow us to live comfortably. That's not what the Bible teaches. How can we live comfortably in a world in which we “reside as aliens” (1 Peter 1:1)? Is the payment of bills more important than the pursuit of Christ's kingdom?

For the record, there's nothing wrong with work! It's what you're working FOR that matters. The average person in America is working FOR their family or FOR themselves, not FOR God. They use their earned money on their bills, their property, their desires, their vacations, their savings, or their retirement. It's all self-centered.

But if I'm working for God, then a worldly education doesn't dictate whether I eat or not. God does. A worldly vocation isn't mandatory for meeting my needs, because that's the Lord's job. My focus has to be on “His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19). “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). “Sell your possessions and give to charity” (Luke 12:33). “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Our work is not about feeding our families and paying the bills, it's about displaying our ultimate trust in God. It's about using our God-given resources to aid the family of God and support Christ's kingdom. Regardless of what Wall Street does, Christians should be focused on one another rather than on themselves or the world.

We must become like the first Christians, “All those who had believed were together and had all things in common; [45] and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:44-45). We should be like the Macedonians, “in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. [3] For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, [4] begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, [5] and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:2-5).

There is a priority that is being missed completely – certainly in the world, but unfortunately also in the modern church. Our work isn't about bills, property, bank accounts … or for that matter, anything worldly at all. Our work is about spiritually strengthening the body of Christ. “I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls(2 Corinthians 12:15). This isn't about capitalism, it's about Christ. It's not about socialism, it's about sharing with others what God has shared with us. “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

We must rethink what we have been taught about work. “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. [2] It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep” (Psalm 127:1-2).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.