************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 50 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 7, 2018
Lord's Day 50
"Give Us Today Our Daily Bread"
"Give us today our daily bread." That is our prayer on this World Hunger Sunday. Why do we pray this? Because God is sovereign over all things. God controls the weather, the economy, industry and labor, and every other factor by which we provide for ourselves and our loved ones. We are completely dependent upon God so we pray.
"Give us today our daily bread." When Jesus taught His disciples to pray this way, most people lived "hand-to-mouth." That is, a man was paid at the end of each working day and that money was used to buy his daily food. The next day and the day after and the day after ... he needed to come to work again to earn money for that day's food. One day of sickness, a broken leg, bad weather, and the immediate result was hunger. Most of us do not live "hand-to-mouth." After we pay for essentials, we usually have money left over. But there are large sections of the world where people still do live a hand-to-mouth existence.
At the time of Jesus, those who could not work or could not find work had to beg, and by begging they barely had enough to survive. In our country such poverty is rare because we have disability insurance, health insurance, unemployment benefits, and all sorts of government and church programs to help us. But in many places around the world this is not at all the case. I remember visiting a third-world country and was astonished to find out that hospitals and prisons do not provide food; it was up to the family to provide; those with no family to provide for their needs end up starving to death. I crossed one of our borders and saw horridly disfigured children selling packs of gum so they could make money for their family.
My friend, Rick Postma of Word & Deed, keeps telling me the worst thing we can do is create dependency on the part of people and churches -- thus robbing them of their dignity, their talents, their independence, and their own sense of responsibility. Oh this is so hard to do. There is something within us that wants to keep control of those we help; and, too often we want to throw money at a problem even though we all complain when the government does this.
So what can we do about world hunger? What I am about to say will never be found on the United Nations website. You won't find it on any pamphlet from the World Health Organization. Our State Department, likewise, will never give this advice. Nor will Rotary International, the International Red Cross, or most other helping agencies. What can we do about world hunger? We can pray. We can pray, "Give us today our daily bread." This is our prayer as Christians. This is our prayer for Christians.
"Give us today our daily bread." This is our prayer on this World Hunger Sunday. Because notice what we don't pray: we don't pray, "Give me today my daily bread." We pray about "us" and "our." We pray about fellow believers. And, by extension, we pray for hungry people everywhere.
As we go through our Bible reading and Lord's Day 50 we discover Christians need to pray for bread with confidence, without greed, and with thankfulness.
I A Confident Prayer
A Most people who live hand-to-mouth are filled with anxious thoughts. The same is true for those who live in poverty. Jesus identifies this anxiety in our Bible reading when He says,
(Mt 6:25,28) Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear ... (28) And why do you worry about clothes?To worry is to be torn in different directions. You know what I am talking about: to be governed by life's worries; to be mastered by the circumstances of life; to lay helplessly under a great cloud of concern about food, drink, clothing and many other things; to be weighed down by these things; to toss and turn all night, laying awake, believing, and imagining that the worst always will happen.
The Lord Jesus declares that those who worry have "little faith" (Mt 6:30). What does our Lord mean by "little faith"? He does not say, you notice, that they have no faith; rather, He accuses them or charges them with having "little" faith. It is not the absence of faith on their part that concerns Him; rather, it is the inadequacy of their faith, the fact that they do not have sufficient faith.
According to the National Bureau of Standards, a dense fog covering seven city blocks to a depth of 100 feet is composed of something less than one glass of water.This can be compared to the things we worry about. They look big, we allow them to be big, but in actual fact they end up being very little.
Realize that Jesus is talking to and about Christians. Our Lord is not speaking about everybody in the world. The Sermon on the Mount is addressed to those who are already saved; Jesus' audience is those who get hope and comfort and consolation from the good news of the Gospel. They call God "Father" and themselves sons and daughters of God. They are those who are poor in spirit, who mourn about their sin and guilt, who are meek, who hunger and thirst after righteousness, who show mercy, who are pure in heart, who are peacemakers, who often are persecuted for the sake of Christ (cf Mt 5:3-10). So these people have faith but, says Jesus, their faith is little: "O you of little faith" (Mt 6:30).
What sort of faith is "little faith"? What is wrong with this faith? Those with little faith know their sin and they know their Savior. They know what they have been saved from and how they have been saved. This we know as saving faith. This is the faith that makes us Christian. But their faith never goes beyond this point. Their faith has nothing to do with day-to-day life. They reserve their faith for salvation but do not apply it to living in this world.
Among Christians there is no greater fallacy than to regard religion as something that you do when you are in worship or when you are reading the Bible or praying. There is no greater fallacy than to shove the Gospel into a small little corner of life. They don't allow faith and religion and the Gospel to apply to all of their life. They don't apply faith to food and drink and clothing and shelter.
"O you of little faith." What else can we say about this faith? A little faith is a faith which does not lay hold of all the promises of God. It is interested in only some of them, and it concentrates on these. Look at it this way. Go through the Bible and make a list of the promises of God. You will find that there are a great number, an astonishing number. Peter can tell us that there are very great and precious promises (2 Pet 1:4). In fact, there is no aspect of life that is not covered by the extraordinary promises of God. Now, those of little faith select only some of those promises and concentrate upon them and ignore all others. The result: while they may live triumphantly in some areas, they fail miserably in others.
B What are we to do instead of worry? We are to pray! We are to pray with confidence: "Give us today our daily bread." We are to pray confidently knowing our heavenly Father knows our needs. We are to pray confidently knowing that He Who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass of the field will look after those made in His image.
What are we to do instead of worry? We are to pray! We are to pray, "Give us today our daily bread." Because when we pray this we throw ourselves on the mercies of God. Because when we pray this we acknowledge God is the only source of everything good. Because when we pray this we admit our work, our worry, and God's gifts do us no good without God's blessing.
Over the years I have watched man's efforts at overcoming world hunger. In the late 70's and early 80's we were told mass starvation and death was going to take place and there would be food riots. We were told to be friendly to the environment, to recycle, to stop driving our gas-hogs. Then new seeds were engineered for wheat and rice and corn and beans, seeds which were resistant to drought and disease, seeds which produced ten-fold more than previous seeds. But now we have another problem: overpopulation. And the problems that brings: like lack of clean water, forests being stripped for firewood, extinction of plant and animal species, dirty air from more pollution, and so on. The law of unintended consequences tells us man's efforts never quite work out the way we think they will.
So, the Catechism says, "help us to give up our trust in creatures and to put trust in you alone." Don't trust man's efforts. Don't trust government's efforts. Don't trust the efforts of non-government organizations. Trust in God. Pray, trusting in God. Pray, trusting in God alone. That's what we are called to do on this World Hunger Sunday.
II A Prayer without Greed
A "Give us today our daily bread." Our second point is that Jesus teaches us to pray without greed. That is, we pray for daily bread. We don't pray for luxuries and delicacies. We don't pray for lobster and caviar. We don't pray for a mansion and a Corvette. We pray for all things necessary, all things needed, for our physical body.
Our Lord recognizes in this prayer that we are not merely souls. And, He provides for our physical as well as our spiritual needs. Therefore, we ought not be surprised that the Lord's Prayer includes a petition for bread. This reminds me of the minister who had real problems praying for the physical needs of the people. He could go on and on about sin and salvation and the feeding of souls but wanted to pray as little as possible about the feeding of bodies. Forgetting that God made us as body and soul. Forgetting that God redeemed us as body and soul. Forgetting that the main promise we hold before people when a loved one dies is the resurrection of the body.
And, we pray for one day at a time. "Give us today our daily bread." Jesus teaches us to pray this every day. Don't think God gets bored by the same prayer every day. Don't think God gets tired of hearing this. God loves to hear that we depend on Him and His providence.
B "Give us today our daily bread." Bread is not the only thing we need, and therefore not the only thing we ask for in the fourth petition. We need food, we need drink, we need clothing, we need shelter, we need some kind of transportation.
"Give us today our daily bread." In praying this we are also asking for the means to work for bread. That's why we pray for the national and the international economy. That's why we support projects from Word & Deed in which people are taught to provide for their own needs or start their own business.
"Give us today our daily bread." This also means we pray for a willing and generous spirit.
(Eph 4:28) He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.We work not only to get our own bread but also to give bread to those who are weak and helpless and unable to work.
C "Give us today our daily bread." There are two kinds of bread condemned in Scripture: the bread of idleness and the bread of violence.
The bread of idleness is condemned throughout the book of Proverbs. The will of God is that people work. Paul goes so far as to say, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat" (2 Thess 3:10). Shame on government programs that encourage idleness. And, shame on those churches and organizations that give handouts to people who could be working.
Scripture also condemns the bread of violence. By this is meant those who steal or use threats to get their daily bread (Eph 4:28).
III A Thankful Prayer
A "Give us today our daily bread." Our third point is that we are to pray with thankfulness.
Perhaps our portion is small. But we are not to fret or grumble or complain. Perhaps our neighbor's portion is big. We are not to be jealous or to covet. And, if we are the neighbor, we are not to boast about how God has blessed us.
A thankful spirit is the antidote to anxiety, jealousy, envy, pride, and greed. Realize this: we are so weak and helpless none of us can receive even a crumb of bread without God's blessing. Every crumb comes from God's hand.
B We need to remember the sound doctrine of the Catechism is holding before us the thankful life. The thankful life includes repentance, it includes obedience, and it includes prayer.
So in our prayers we are to thank and praise God. For every crumb. For every glass of water. For every article of clothing. For every piece of furniture. For every blessing that comes from His hand.
"Give us today our daily bread." What do you do with your daily bread once you have received it? Do you use it to sin, or do you use it to serve God?
Do you keep you bread to yourself? Are you selfish with your bread? Or, do you share with those in need? Do you love your neighbor and support the work of the church and Kingdom?
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