Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
Kitahata, Stacy, Nessan, Craig L., Currents in Theology and Mission
Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes. Is not the food cut off before our eyes, joy and gladness from the house of our God? The seed shrivels under the clods, the storehouses are desolate; the granaries are ruined because the grain has failed. How the animals groan! The herds wander about because there is no pasture for them; even the flocks of sheep are dazed. Joel 1:14-18
The prophet Joel summoned the people of God to a fast: "Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast" (Joel 2:15-16a). Joel harkened the people of God to repent and weep at the outbreak of famine. A plague of locusts threatened to devastate the land and to leave the people bereft of the basic necessities of life, including even grain for an offering to God. Not only human life was in danger but also the beasts of fields. All creation moaned at the lack of grain for daily bread. In that moment, the prophet called the people to fast as a sign of repentance.
Brothers and sisters, the testimony of the law and the prophets makes stunningly clear God's command to feed the hungry, to share our daily bread, so that all people have enough to eat. Nothing is clearer in God's word than the witness about justice to the poor. Moreover, we have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who said, "If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead" (Luke 16:31). This same Savior taught his disciples to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," the theme verse of our Lutheran World Federation Assembly. How do we dare to continue to pray this petition when we do not mean it? We are living in just such a time when many Christians, including many from North America, continue to pray for our daily bread but do not mean it.
Today is the day for us to declare a fast, here and now. Today is the day for the affluent of this world to declare a fast from praying the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread," because every time we pray without repentance we are convicted of gross hypocrisy. Today is the day for the affluent to proclaim a moratorium on praying this petition for daily bread, until we pray it not only with our mouths but also with our lives. Prayer is never only about handing requests over for God to fulfill them. Prayer is at the same time the affirmation of an agenda for the life of the church. If we dare to pray for daily bread, then we at the same time must commit our own life energies to this purpose. Insofar as we continue to pray the petition about daily bread without real commitment to the alleviation of hunger, we need to stop doing so.
Here are three reasons why it is spiritually dangerous for affluent Christians, including many from North America, to continue to pray the petition for daily bread. First, the affluent do not really believe that God is the source of daily bread. Instead, we are convinced that it is by our own labor and effort that we "earn" our daily bread. If we were honest we would admit that we really believe it is through our own sweat and our own hard work that we deserve our paycheck and through this income can purchase for ourselves daily bread. Really, God has little to do with it. The economic order runs according to its own mechanisms.
Second, the affluent do not really believe that daily bread is for "us." Instead what we really mean to pray is, "Give me this day my daily bread." How expansively do you pray the petition for daily bread? Do you include in the "us" and the "our" all your sisters and brothers who again this day do not have the most fundamental necessities of life: basic nutrition, adequate water, clothing, shelter, and rudimentary medical care? …