Our Daily Bread

Our Daily Bread

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

With this simple phrase a massive transition happens in the Lord’s Prayer. In these words we move from an omnipotent God to frail humans, which bothers some of us. We’d rather think more highly of ourselves. Words like “frail” and “needy” and “hungry” and “please” don’t sit too well when we are trying to prop up our little self-sovereign kingdoms.

But to be human is to be needy. To pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” is to be deeply in touch with our essence, to declare that we are needy humans before our creator.

Bread is a powerful Biblical image for human neediness. The scriptures are full of bread stories, but one of the most revealing is in Exodus 16.

The people of God have been in Egypt working as Pharaoh’s slaves for 400 years. It has been a long haul, and Egypt is all they know. Egypt is about scarcity – not having enough. They’ve always had to scrap for what they could get while others had more than enough. Nothing has ever come to them as gift. They earned every grain of bread they ate.

Finally, by way of plagues and open seas, they are delivered from the land of Egypt and begin to move through the wilderness toward Promised Land. Behind them is the glory of the empire with the guarantee of scarce provisions under an oppressive Pharaoh. Ahead of them is wide open wilderness without any provision at all.

They travel awhile and reality sets in. They are stranded between Egypt where their dreams died and the Promised Land of hope. And they have run out of food. No bread, no meat, no water.

So what did the people of God do in this situation? They griped, complained, and blamed Moses and God. They learned it in Egypt where complaining was the daily dish. And now they are rehearsing it in the wilderness. But God is trying to get Egypt out of them so he can make a new people.

And then, God’s love comes trickling down in the form of bread.  These liberated slaves had never before received bread as a free gift falling from the sky. They had always worked for their bread, controlled its production, and scrounged for more. And here in the barren wilderness, it comes falling down from heaven without them doing anything. This is not Egypt.

It’s a wonder, a miracle, a gift. It is not scarcity. It is abundance—daily bread.

And the scripture tells us that everybody had enough. They were not used to that. The scarcity of Egypt was so deep in them that they began to hoard the bread. They stockpiled it. They collected more than enough. And it began to turn sour and rot, because you cannot keep God’s generosity for yourself.

So Moses told them to stop hoarding, and to practice Sabbath. Gather manna six days and rest on the seventh. What they gathered on day six would not spoil, and would carry them through day seven when they did not go out manna picking.

Pharaoh would never have given them free bread, much less a day to rest. God commanded it.

Those who live under Egypt’s scarcity will never have enough, so they will work-work-work to collect more-more-more to secure themselves so that they will never be needy. This is what Egypt does to us. It robs us of our humanity. We start believing that it is a bad thing to be needy so we anxiously stockpile manna to secure ourselves in this world of scarce resources. We don’t pray “I need bread;” we work ourselves to death thinking we must make our own manna.

The time comes when they get through the wilderness and start growing their own food – but they never forget that it is the abundant gift of God, and they rest on Sabbath to help them remember that God is the ultimate source of bread.

Today’s post is an excerpt from The Lord’s Prayer: Imagine it Answered.

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