My wife Emily just got back from the grocery store this morning. In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, we weren’t really sure what to expect. We prayed with our two little girls before mommy left for the store, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Then she returned with an embarrassment of rations. Don’t get me wrong—we actually need all that food to survive (those with hungry little ones in their homes are all nodding in agreement). We thanked God for his provision, then began unloading grocery bags, when suddenly it hit me—a lot of people are consumed with obtaining non-perishables right now, but Jesus told us to pray for daily bread. There’s a lesson to learn there.
Do Not Be Anxious About Daily Provisions
In the same chapter he teaches us the Lord’s prayer, Jesus addresses the topic of storing up food. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)
Jesus uses the Lord’s prayer to expose our anxiety. He prayed for daily bread, not non-perishables. I know, I know, the term didn’t exist in his day. But the basic truth stands: anxiety over lack of daily provisions is wrong.
“But,” you may say, “it is wise to plan for the future!” It’s true, God does elevate wisdom, calling us to embrace it. But we need to be careful we do not use wisdom as a cloak for unfounded fear. Rather, wisdom flows from an intimate relationship of reverent awe and holy fear of our Lord. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10) So if the Lord has anything to say about this topic, and he does, we would be wise to listen to him.
When my wife goes grocery shopping, she purchases about a week’s worth of food. Once a month we trek to Costco and buy some bulk items to save a few extra dollars. With refrigeration and storage considerations, weekly trips work well for us. That’s all we need, and we ought to pray that God would provide it for us.
In Jesus’s day, in spite of the lack of refrigeration, the situation was similar. Israelites could store up grain or bottle wine, they could fish on a given day, or they could slaughter a sheep from the flock. Most had resources available beyond their need of “daily bread.” Yet the sword, famine, or pestilence could threaten their food supplies. For some reason we think modern technology and food storage techniques make us less vulnerable. We are not.
Consider Your Value Before God
Jesus’s message to his followers is the same for believers today. Don’t build bigger barns, instead, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:26-29)
It is not the lilies of the field that bear the image of God. It is not the birds of the air for whom Christ died. If God takes such diligent care for the least of his creatures, why do we doubt is care for us, the crown jewel of his creation? “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
We certainly do not need to gather any more anxiety in our hearts. Yet we often spend our time and money obsessing over things that will never happen to us. Our gathered goods often are a mirror image of the gathered anxiety in our hearts. In fact, Jesus just finished saying, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Charles Spurgeon nails the issue with his usual pithiness.
“Many of God’s people are constantly under apprehensions of calamities which will never occur to them, and they suffer far more in merely dreading them than they would have to endure if they actually came upon them. In their imagination, there are rivers in their way, and they are anxious to know how they shall wade through them, or swim across them. There are no such rivers in existence, but they are agitated and distressed about them. An old proverb says, “Don’t cross the bridge till you come to it;” but these timid people are continually crossing bridges that only exist in their foolish fancies. They stab themselves with imaginary daggers, they starve themselves in imaginary famines, and even bury themselves in imaginary graves. We are such strange creatures that we probably suffer more under blows which never fall upon us than we do under those which do actually come. The rod of God does not strike us as sharply as the rod of our own imagination does; our groundless fears are our chief tormentors, and when we are able to abolish our self-inflictions, all the worries of the world become light and easy. However, it is a pity that Christians who have the gift of faith in Christ given to them, should fall into so guilty and at the same time so painful a habit as this of fearing the oppressor who does not come, and who never will come.”Charles Spurgeon, Needless Fears,
sermon on Is. 51:12-13 preached June 11, 1874
Confess Your Lack of Faith
Jesus has spoken so clearly about this issue that his words need no further explanation. He simply challenges us to make the application.
“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” (Matthew 6:30-31)
When Jesus tells us to pray for our daily bread, he really means it. He rebukes us for our “little faith.” And we don’t like this rebuke. The truth hurts. Peter knew what it felt like to be rebuked by his Lord. Peter put his foot in his mouth so many times, he probably would have done well to just leave it there. And Peter has some good advice for us when responding to our Lord’s words.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7) In our pride, we don’t want to confess sin. “Confession is good for the soul, bad for the reputation,” they say. And this fear of being humbled causes anxiety in our hearts. Just as we fail to trust God for daily bread, we also fail to trust God by humbly confessing our sin. Do you see a pattern here? Anxiety in one area tends to spread its ugly roots all throughout the garden of our heart.
Feed on the Bread of Heaven
Instead of stubbornly persisting in patterns of anxiousness, we would do well to listen to Jesus. Here’s his simple solution: “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:32-33)
In John 6, Jesus tells us three times, “I am the bread of life.” He tells us to seek him for our spiritual and physical livelihood. He is not ignoring the reality of our physical needs, rather he is putting them in their proper perspective. Our need for physical bread should remind us of our greater need for spiritual bread. Saved saints should not live like those in the world who do not trust God to provide their daily bread. Your heavenly Father knows what you need. So seek him first, gather only what physical supplies you truly need, and “all these things will be added to you.” Your local Walmart store manager will thank you.