Give us this day our daily bread… Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? [Matthew 6:11,26 (RSV)]
A pastor friend told me about returning from a service project with some of his SK8 church youth including Brian, a young man new to the faith. When they stopped for lunch at a taco stand, a street person asked Brian for money. Trying to do what Jesus would want done, the new Christian offered to buy the hard-up man a burrito. It was when Brian ordered two bean burritos that his dining guest loudly complained, “I ain’t eatin’ no $%2#!* bean burrito—I want a steak one!” Brian had little money to spare but, since the man was getting vociferous, he ordered the steak burrito for his guest and a bean one for himself. Apparently, the vagrant wasn’t familiar with the proverbs about beggars not being choosers, half a loaf being better than none, and not looking a gift horse in the mouth!
When I came across a cartoon done by Mark Lynch about Jesus feeding the multitude, I remembered my pastor friend’s story. In Lynch’s cartoon, Jesus is standing in front of a large group. Behind Him are piles of loaves and fish. With the caption “IF IT HAD BEEN TODAY,” the various speech balloons show members of the crowd asking if the fish contains mercury and if there’s a vegan option. Others want to know if the bread is gluten-free, baked locally, or has nuts. Another one complains, “I’m lactose intolerant.” While it is just a comic, I think Lynch isn’t far off. Human nature being what it is, the day Jesus fed a multitude of hungry people, I suspect there were some who grumbled about the lack of things like honey, olives, grapes or figs. Perhaps others asked, “Is this the best He can do?”
Shortly after teaching us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” Jesus reassured us that, since God cares for the birds, He surely will care for us. His miracle of feeding the multitude shows us that God cares for His people. God, however, isn’t like Burger King and never promised us, “Have it your way!” He certainly never told us (as the hamburger chain now does), “You Rule.”
God is concerned about meeting our necessities but, like the homeless man and the comic’s multitude, our vision of a necessity often differs from His. Our daily bread probably isn’t brioche, a gluten-free all-natural blueberry muffin, a $10 loaf of artisanal sourdough from the farmer’s market, or even that $3.79 orange scone from Panera. It definitely isn’t the Gold Leaf Bread from Algatocin, Spain, that’s made with 250 mg of gold dust! It may not even be a whole loaf and it probably won’t include extras like Nutella, honey, fruit preserves, pate or avocado spread. Daily bread is what’s necessary and nothing more—anything else is like frosting on a cake or peanut butter on toast!
“We are beggars; this is true,” was written on a scrap of paper found in Martin Luther’s pocket when he died. How easily we forget that. In truth, we are not that different from the panhandler at the taco stand or Lynch’s multitude gathered on a hillside—more often than not we are unappreciative of the gifts we’re given. Perhaps, after asking God for our daily bread, we might want to add another prayer: “Help me recognize my needs and appreciate your provision.” With thanksgiving, let us reach out and gladly accept God’s love, forgiveness, mercy, Holy Spirit, and daily provision on His terms, not ours. Let us remember that beggars can’t be choosers.