Did you ever wonder why Jesus instructed us to ask for “daily” bread? Why not ask for a lifetime supply of bread? Couldn’t God do that? Couldn’t God by His infinite power simply provide for all of our material needs?
And material needs we have. Because we are creatures who exist in bodies, these bodies are in constant need: food, water, shelter, fire, etc. We are in a constant state of neediness.
Why would a God, whose bounty is infinite, leave us in such a state that we are constantly worried about our material well-being? Why doesn’t he make us more comfortable in this world?
I think the answer is in the question.
Prosperity in this world is perilous to the soul. Christ never said that it was a sin to have wealth, but he always warned of its dangers. Yes, you can be rich and be a saint. But there seems to be a higher degree of difficulty in achieving holiness when you have prosperity.
There are two principles to keep in mind here.
The first is that this world is not our home.
CS Lewis once wrote in The Screwtape Letters: “Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is finding his place in it, while really it is finding its place in him.” We are in this world, but we are not meant to stay here. When we get caught up in our material possessions and needs, we begin to mistake this world for the only one that matters. And while it is true that intense need can also urge a man to do terrible things for material comfort, that case is born out of extreme suffering. But when our senses are saturated with material comfort, the voice of God is dulled in our brains. These creature comforts become a siren’s song, urging us to accept the lesser good for the greater.
In The Problem of Pain, Lewis again makes this point. He write: “the security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting without friends, a bath or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”
The second principle is our complete dependence on God.
It sounds like a no-brainer that we need God. But just like the arrogant child who thinks that he is grown up, we forget how much we need Our Father. But when we fear the monsters in the closet or feel the rumblings of our tummies, we run back to the one takes care of us.
We could not even take our next breath without God’s approval. And yet how often do we go through life blithely dismissive of His care. Imagine you were a mountain climber and your life depended on the rope you used. Wouldn’t you be incredibly mindful of it? Wouldn’t you always remember to be proper with it and grateful for its strength in holding you?
Are we the same way with God? Or do we think that the bread we eat is merely the work of our hands.
I remember one time in class, a student asked me, “What has God ever done for me?” I tried to explain that He gave him life. The student said that it wasn’t God but his parents that did that. I said that God gave him his intellect and intelligence. The student said that was just genetics and education. I said that God provided all of the good fortune in his life. The student said that this was just random coincidence.
I confess I was at a loss as to how to answer him. He could not see how God willed a universe out of nothing into existence to create him. He could not see the hand of Providence guiding graces to him. But the main impediment was that he was too bound to the material world. I do not mean this as a judgment or insult. I am merely stating a fact. In one class session he said, “If I was poor I would kill myself, because what would be the point of living?” The world had wormed its way into his heart and it blinded him.
He was right that poverty is a kind of suffering. But at least in poverty we realize how much we are in need. And in that need we reach out and truly depend on God. Starvation is one of the great evils in the world. A priest once said to me, “The greatest divide in the human family is not between the races, the sexes, the religions, the sexual orientations. The greatest divide is the difference between those who will eat tonight and those who will not.” When we are starved physically, we are injured to the point where we can be driven to do immoral things to survive. And God does not want that either
To remind us that we are on the journey and we must keep pushing forward, God warns us against too much material prosperity. But he also knows our need and that we cannot function without enough material provisions to strengthen us along the way.
And that is why we must ask for our “daily” bread.
Copyright 2016, W.L.Grayson