Bread and Obedience
HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAYS 50
What does the fourth request mean?
Give us today our daily bread means,
Do take care of all our physical needs so that we come to know that you are the only source of everything good, and that neither our work and worry nor your gifts can do us any good without your blessing. And so help us to give up our trust in creatures and to put trust in you alone.
DEVOTIONAL: NOVEMBER 19-25
Bread and Obedience
Jesus taught us to pray: “Give us today our daily bread.” It is a request that the Lord will preserve life so that Christians will be equipped to live a life of joyful obedience to the glory of the Father.
The Catechism teaches that “bread” refers to “all our physical needs.” It refers to all the necessities of life that enable Christians to live as God intends – trusting His provisions, embracing His teachings and obeying His commands (Deut. 6:10-19)! The unavoidable question, then, is how do we, as affluent Western Christians, pray these words with integrity and passion? The words modest, productive and generous answer that question.
First, pray for a MODEST life. Bread refers to what is necessary. We are to desire neither too little nor too much. The writer of Proverbs prays: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” He also gives his reason. If we have too little, we may decide to dishonor the Lord through theft. If we have too much, we may disown the Lord through false security and idolatry (Proverbs 30:7-10). The Apostle Paul also weighs in on the call to modesty: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:6-10; cf. Philippians 4:10-13). Our materialistic culture asks: “Do I have enough?” Our faith question should be: “Am I thankful for His gifts, and joyfully obedient with what He has provided?” Our modesty is for His glory.
Second, pray for a PRODUCTIVE life. Bread refers to ordinary, industrious and productive lives (Proverbs 10:4, 20:4, Ephesians 4:28). The Bible teaches that this is the way God provides (1 Timothy 5:3-8, James 1:27) and the way we bring Him glory (1 Chronicles 29:1-9, Romans 12:1-8). We pray, therefore for the farmer, the tilling of fields, the planting of seeds, the proper weather patterns, the fall harvest, and the entire system that produces and processes our daily nourishment. In fact, we are praying for much more – safety in travel, wisdom to make decisions, moral character in government, creativity for web-site designers, timely care by medical personnel, and stability in marriages. We are to pray for anything and everything that will enable joyful obedience to the Lord. It is also a prayer for the human family in general. We are all gifted with different tasks so that together we may mutually give and receive for the common good (Jeremiah 29:1-9, 1 Timothy 2:1-3). Our productivity is to serve both the Church and the world for the glory of God.
Third, pray for a GENEROUS life. Bread refers to the practice of generous gospel ministry. As Jesus said: “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Matthew 4:4). This means we pray for the gospel ministry – for pastors who bring the word, for members who serve in ministry, and for local, regional and global mission. It also means we are to pray for generous hearts that imitate Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2). Just as the early Church “shared everything they had” and “there were no needy persons among them” (Acts 2:32-35; cf. 2 Corinthians 8:8-15, 9:6-15), so we who have received God’s generous grace in Jesus Christ are to bear the fruit of generous care for one another (Philippians 2:1-5). The life that is rooted in gospel ministry and that imitates Christ’s generosity is the obedient life that brings glory to God.
To live a modest, productive and generous life that serves the purposes of the gospel is possible only if we trust in the Lord. The Catechism states it most clearly: “Neither our work and worry nor your gifts can do us any good without your blessing. And so help us to give up our trust in creatures and to put trust in you alone.” From Him alone do we receive every good and perfect gift (James 1:16-18). To Him alone belongs the glory (Philippians 4:20).
Will you make this your prayer? Will you make this your life?
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn
Sunday, November 19
Prayerfully read James 1:1-18. What are the good and perfect gifts the Lord has poured into the physical, emotional, moral, relational and spiritual dimensions of your life?
Monday, November 20
Prayerfully read Philippians 4:8-9. Do these words describe the goal of your life? What are the characteristics that describe your life as one equipped to joyfully live in routine faithfulness and obedience?
Tuesday, November 21
Prayerfully read Matthew 6:25-34. What role does worry play in your life? How does it help or hinder your daily habits and relationships – with the Lord and with others?
Wednesday, November 22
Prayerfully read Proverbs 30:7-10. We are called to live modest lives. How can poverty (physical, emotional or spiritual) tempt us to dishonor God, and how can plenty (physical, emotional or spiritual) tempt us to disown Him? Describe your own struggle with these temptations.
Thursday, November 23
Prayerfully read 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15. We are called to live productive lives. What is the purpose of living a productive life, and why does the Bible warn against idleness? How does God’s purpose come to expression in your own life?
Friday, November 24
Prayerfully read Acts 4:32-35. We are called to live lives of generosity. How do you imitate the generosity of Jesus Christ? How do you partner in the gospel ministry of Jesus Christ?
Saturday, November 25
Prayerfully read Hebrews 13:5-6. What does it mean to daily trust the Lord? Where do you see His promises at work in your life?