God's Faithful Provision
A meditation based on Luke 12:22-31 and Lord's Day 50 of the Heidelberg Catechism
My family and I have the privilege which many of you may not have. We have lived both in an eastern third-world setting and in a western more affluent culture in the United States. While there are marked differences between these cultures in terms of socio-economic situation, both cultures are actually plagued by common challenges and problems. Whether you are in the Philippines or in the US, you will see people struggling against greed, idolatry, and materialism.
And the fourth petition in the Lord’s Prayer becomes relevant and illuminating as we will see how the request, “Give us this day our daily bread,” speaks to our current situation.
Some of you might be thinking that this prayer is more appropriate for many people living in poor communities in many slum areas of Metro Manila or any metropolis. I mean when was the last time you prayed, “Lord, I ask that you would provide for my next meal.” Most probably, the kind of prayer that you’ve said may have sounded like, “Lord, please prevent me from eating another meal. Teach me how to control my spending habit. Teach me to save and to give more to others.”
“Give us this day our daily bread,” does seem a little remote, doesn’t it? If we feel that way that may only show that we really do not understand the truth and the implication of this prayer.
What I’d like us to do is to see and understand that both the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 50 and Luke 12:22-31 highlight the truth that God faithfully provides for our daily needs. God does provide for the needs of His children.
But what is the nature of this provision?
I want you to see, first of all, that though this fourth petition seems to be simple and unimportant compared with the other petitions in the Lord's Prayer, yet it is very significant and it demands a careful study on our part. As the Catechism explains, when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” in effect we are really asking God to provide us not just our everyday food, but ALL our physical needs.
The word bread in the Lord's Prayer has a broader meaning than just an ordinary loaf of bread that we bake or buy from the grocery stores. It actually covers every physical provision necessary for the support of our bodies and preservation of our life in this world. Notice that I did not say 'every physical provision necessary for convenient life or luxurious living in this world.' No. Luxury or extravagance is excluded in this petition.
When Jesus Christ taught this prayer to His disciples, He was not telling them to think of daily banquet at the king’s table when they pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” What He had in my mind however are common necessities – things such as food, clothing, shelter, physical health and, as an extension, the means to acquire them, that is, money. And because these are very basic to human life, many people worry a lot about these needs.
The passage in Luke 12 mentions about food, drink and clothing. These are the kind of things that the Lord has in mind when He used the word 'bread' in the fourth request. In order to live in this world, we basically need food and drink, clothing and shelter. And Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about these things.” Why not? How can Jesus say that these necessities in life should not be our preoccupation as His followers? His short answer to that is in v.30b, “Your Father in heaven knows that you need them.”
Not only that He knows you need them, He also promised in His Word that He's going to provide these things to His children. In Luke 12, our Lord Jesus argues that God the Father Himself feeds and clothes His own people, whom He loves, even as He feeds the ravens or clothes the flowers and grass of the field, which are of lesser value compared to us His children.
So in saying that the Father cares even for the unclean birds, such as the raven, or for the flowers and the grass of the field that are here today and gone tomorrow, Jesus is emphasizing the truth that God will surely 'deliver the goods,' so to speak, to His children. He does this because we are far more valuable to Him than the birds of the air and the flowers of the field.
This calls for faith on our part. The Bible testifies to the fact that God is the faithful Provider of our daily physical provisions. We read many promises from God's Word pertaining to His physical provision for His people. We read for example in Psalm 23 that the Lord is our shepherd, therefore we shall not want. In Psalm 33.18-19, we see similar promise, “But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.”
In Psalm 37:25-27 the psalmist testifies, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed. Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.”
These promises are never to be doubted by us. When God says that you are more valuable than the birds and He will feed you, you have no reason to worry about the next meal or the clothes you need for next year. Believers in poor countries such as the Philippines ought to learn and believe this truth as much as believers in affluent countries.
The practical outworking of this truth may vary however. Perhaps, most of you have only enough food for the next few days and you start to worry about your food for the next week. This prayer should give us the confidence to trust in the Lord and depend on His faithfulness. But maybe to some of you, you have no problem in terms of material provision. What you might be concerned about is how to get rid of some of your stuff and give it to those who may need them soon. This prayer teaches us to be channels of God’s blessing, to be an answer to this petition.
Remember that God's provision has a corporate aspect to it as well. It pertains to OUR bread, not just MY bread. When you pray this prayer, you must not only be thinking about yourself but others as well, especially those who are needy in the household of faith, both near and far.
God's provision for the bread of others may come from the abundance of your blessing. And in many ways, that's how God operates. He pours out His abundant provision to some of us so we learn to be generous and to take care of each other. As a result, we all learn to thank God and praise Him for His faithfulness in providing for our needs.
But as you know, our daily bread may also mean physical strength or healing. To those of you who are suffering from physical pain or illness, or maybe you have a relative who is battling with a deadly disease, you surely can pray this prayer, hoping and trusting God to grant you or your relative the needed energy or cure.
Isn't it comforting to know that our Father in heaven is not offended when we ask Him things that pertain to our physical needs? He cares for your body just as He cares for your soul. Do not be misled by those who teach that God only cares for your soul but not your body. Both are important to God. Jesus Christ saved us both body and soul. The Holy Spirit makes our body as His temple. Thus we honor God as Creator when we accept the fact that our body is important to Him and we ask Him to provide for ALL our physical needs – may it be material or financial, relational or medical.