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Daily Bread In A Costco Society

Is not one of the greatest experiences of living in these days going to Costco?

Costco is something else. It has so much: the high-definition televisions and electronics right as you walk in; way inexpensive frozen yogurt, pizza and foot longs;

the piles of stuff; the shelves of products that go to the ceiling; entire outdoor sets.

James Sinegal, the founder and CEO of Costco said, “This is almost like show business. I mean, every day you’re opening up and it’s show time.”

Tubs of dish soap to last for months. You don’t just go to Costco to buy a jar of peanut butter. You buy an entire flat. I mean, you never know when there could be a peanut butter shortage. You can get enough oatmeal to last a lifetime. Maximum quantities of toilet paper.

I wonder what places like Costco have done to us. Have they duped us into believing that we might not have enough? Have they subtly worked in our psyches so much that we fear going without? Have we become victims of the irrational fear of running out?

Which makes me wonder how do we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” in a Costco society?

Our Costco culture has severed our sense of dependence for daily bread. We don’t need daily bread. Heck, we’re stocked for days, weeks, months, and maybe even years.

Is it absurd to bow our heads and ask our Heavenly Father to give us our daily bread when our cupboards, refrigerators (and sometimes we have more than one refrigerator), pantries, stores, and storage containers are packed?

The first part of the prayer focuses on our Father. Now the prayer turns toward our concerns. “Give us this day our daily bread” is where the Lord’s Prayer changes to our requesting from our Father the things we need.

The first word is “give”. We are asking our Father to give. We are acknowledging that what we need is from him, and that he is the Giver.

That doesn’t mean we just sit and wait for bread to magically appear on the table. We work and participate in this. Perhaps this prayer is even a way of asking God to give us work and the conditions for what we need to have bread. But it all comes from God.

We need employment to earn money to buy food. We need farmers and truck drivers and market managers to grow and transport the food for us. We need a good economy so that people can produce and buy food. But they are not the ultimate providers. The seed, the rain, the sun, and all the conditions come from One higher than us.

God can shut down the skies, a business, a stock market in the blink of an eye. It all comes from God. And with that is the fact that it all belongs to God. He has the resources to give.

We pray “give us”. It is a prayer for more than just me. We pray it for all of us, as we do throughout the entire Lord’s Prayer. It takes the selfishness right out of us. We want all people to have daily bread.

We know there are people in this world who don’t live in a Costco society. They are hungry. I hope I am praying for them to have bread when I pray the Lord’s Prayer.

In Jesus’ time, Palestinian laborers were paid at the end of each day. That enabled their families to eat the next day. It was literally day to day.

The sense of the phrase in the prayer is “give us our daily bread for tomorrow” or “for the coming day.” The bible teacher Kenneth Bailey, who lived and taught in the Middle East for forty years, says the phrase can read: “Give us today the bread that doesn’t run out.”

“Father, give us bread for today and with it give us confidence that tomorrow we will have enough.”

Now, Jesus also taught us not to worry about what we are going to eat. Our heavenly Father feeds the birds, and we are of more value to him than they are. Can’t he be trusted to provide food for us?

Jesus teaches against worrying and having anxiety about our daily needs. Our heavenly Father knows that we need all these things.

Our Lord said, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Not worrying and resisting being anxious is a matter of trust in God’s provision, and that he knows what we need and will provide it. Praying “Give us this day our daily bread” helps us in that trusting.

In Exodus, the children of Israel were led through the wilderness by God. They were told that the Lord would provide daily manna for them. Each day it would be on the ground. They were to collect it, but not take anymore than what they needed for that day. If they took anything in excess, it would spoil.

Through that experience, the Israelites learned daily reliance on the Lord for their food and day to day needs.[1]

There is a saying from a Jewish Rabbi, “The portion of a day in its day, because he who created the day created sustenance for the day.”

There is a sense where this part of the Lord’s Prayer is teaching us to live one day at a time, and not living in anxious worry about what is to come.

The Lord never says we shouldn’t plan for the future. There are times and ways we have to do that. But we are cautioned to not let the future put us in a place of anxiety rather than peaceful trust in God’s provision.

In Proverbs there is this prayer to the Lord:

Two things I ask of you; do not deny them to me before I die:

Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, “Who is the LORD?” or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God. Proverbs 30:7-9

This prayer in Proverbs cuts two ways. Lord, don’t give me too much so that I no longer think I need you. And don’t give me too little so that I have to steal. Only what we need.

Sometimes I think about people in the world who literally don’t have daily bread. Where is the Father for them?

But then I need to remember there is plenty of bread to go around. There is plenty of money to buy bread for all the world. It just depends on what those who have it do with it.

The fact that the prayer is communal – give us – suggests we are praying and should be concerned for those who don’t have bread.

That Jesus instructed us to pray for daily bread shows that God cares about our daily, material and physical needs. Our heavenly Father wants us to eat. He cares that we have bread on our tables.

This is not a prayer for luxuries. It is a prayer for our daily sustenance. Daily bread may not be a three-course, gourmet meal. Some people today will just have a bowl of rice.

Our Father is not only concerned about the heavenly, spiritual and lofty things of faith. All of life is spiritual, including the food before us.

In Jesus’ day, before refrigeration and large houses with mucho storage, and before supermarkets and Costco, food was more of a day-to-day reality. People would go to a market each day for the food they needed for that day, or the next. Many people in the world still don’t have a stockpile mentality and they merely gather and shop for what they need day by day.

We live in a nation of abundance and we can store up food beyond daily need.

The literal and plain meaning is the first meaning in this part of the prayer, that we all need basic sustenance.

But perhaps this part of the Lord’s Prayer can be for other things we need day by day as well. “Bread” can mean mental energy for that exam or project we need to do. It can mean emotional energy for that talk we have to have with our family member or co-worker.

Our daily bread might be the patience we need just to get through a particular day. It might be guidance for a decision. It might be the strength to make that phone call. It might be enduring a medical test. It might be creativity we need for an idea for a project.

Our daily bread can mean the money to pay our heating bill or to just pay the rent.

Our heavenly Father cares about all of these things, the so called “little things” in our lives.

He cares about our desires and hungers, our cares and pains, the things that depress us and what brings us joy. He comes to meet us right there in the midst of our everyday lives.[2]

Your heavenly Father cares about all those details and small things in your life. He knows what matters to us. He knows what we need.

I do think the Lord moves closest and provides best for those who are most dependent on him. I think it is very hard for the Lord to be much of a factor in the lives of those whose lives are stuffed with wealth, leisure, and comfort. They might check in with God every so often. Some come to a point where they figure they don’t need God, like that prayer from Proverbs. You have so much, who needs God?

Maybe that is why Jesus said it is so, so hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. That might be why Christianity has lost so much traction in our nation, and in many Western, European nations. Who needs God when you have it all?

But people who understand how each and every day is a gift from God,

who know they are daily dependent upon him for everything,

who know moment by moment and day by day they cannot make it without him,

who realize all of their lives – the material, the emotional, the mental, the spiritual - is one big reliance on God,

...the Lord is able to work most clearly for them.

The Bay Area Rescue Mission in Richmond, California, where I grew up, has been a strong Christian ministry for the hungry, homeless and those seeking to be free from addictions.

Some years ago when I was with a church group doing some work there I was eating in the dining room one day I noticed how wonderful the food was for a soup-kitchen-type of facility. They were serving wonderful produce and sandwiches and hot dishes and desserts.

Where did this come from? Costco. They told me that Costco has so much food that they donate it to the Rescue Mission.

Our Costco society has tons. There is daily bread for all. It’s just that some have other people’s daily bread, as well as their own.

My life is so full. I have so much. God has provided me with everything I need. My life is saturated with material and physical blessings.

My life is Costco.

But if for one minute it dupes me into believing that I don’t need the Lord, I’m dead.

I pray that all the fullness in my life never take me away from acknowledging how dependent I am on the Lord. I need his hand to open to me everyday, and I need to seek him everyday, acknowledging my dependence on him.

I can keep that alive by always praying, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

[1] Exodus 16 [2] The Prayer That Spans the World, Helmut Thielicke, p.82

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