Beckett: What is Daily Bread?

“Give us this day our daily bread.” What is meant by daily bread? “Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and need of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like” (SC, The Fourth Petition).

Unlike the ascetics, we recognise the needs of the body. We do not live mendicant lives like the Medieval monks, thinking we gain God’s favour by choosing to live in poverty in constant need of food, drink, clothing, and sleep. That is why our Lord tells us not to be anxious about our lives—what we will eat, drink, or wear; for just as God the Father takes care of the birds and the grass of the fields, “will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” For “your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:25-32).

It is true that Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3), but He is not saying the poor have a better faith. Neither is He talking about material poverty, but spiritual poverty (humility). Those who say the poor have a better faith or spirituality fail to take seriously the problem of poverty and get justification wrong altogether. Poverty is not a sign of a sanctified life, and the poor do not exist to make you more sanctified. If poverty were a better sanctified life, we would all be monks, and Luther has written enough about the hypocrisy and despair of monasticism.

Jesus also says in Matthew 6 above to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (v. 33). Yet again, to seek the kingdom of God does not mean to pursue poverty (for how could it when His kingdom is full of eternal riches!). Rather, it means to seek to be under His rule, which means we are to constantly seek Christ our King. Therefore, Luther writes, “However, this petition refers principally to Christ, the spiritual bread of the soul. This is why Christ teaches us not to worry about our body’s food and raiment, but to take thought only for the needs of each day” (LW 42:62). Or as Christ quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Though we do not ignore the needs of the body, we pray principally for Christ, who is “the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51). He is what we need most in this life, and the only bread we need for eternal life. As our Lord and King, Jesus is keenly aware of the daily bread we need, for He suffered hunger in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights and rejected the devil with those words from God, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” He therefore desires and promises to give us every bodily need in this life, “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). Therefore, just as we saw in Luther’s explanation in the previous column, we pray in this petition that we may recognise this, and also that we give Him our prayers of thanksgiving.


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