Heidelberg Catechism Meditations (366)

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December 10 - LD 50, Day 1: Praying for Necessities for the Body

Monday the 10th of December

in Heidelberg Catechism Meditations

December 10 - LD 50, Day 1: Praying for Necessities for the Body 
by Rev. Martyn McGeown

Matthew 6:11 “Give us this day our daily bread.

The Lord’s prayer could be divided into two parts, each with three petitions. The first three petitions focus on God—the honour of God’s name; the coming of God’s kingdom; and the doing of God’s will. The second three petitions focus on our needs—our need for daily bread; our need for the forgiveness of sins; and our need for deliverance from evil.

The first of these three is bread. As creatures, we need bread.

Perhaps, we might wonder about this. Is it proper to ask God for such common things as bread, and should we ask for bread before we ask for the forgiveness of sins? We must not think that way. Christ encourages us here to bring our mundane needs to the attention of our heavenly Father. That the prayer which our Saviour taught us contains this petition shows us how merciful our Father is. He remembers that we are dust. He remembers that we need bread—physical food—to keep body and soul together. It is not, therefore, “unspiritual” to pray for “mere” bread. Without bread, we cannot serve God—we cannot hallow His name; we cannot promote God’s kingdom and we cannot perform His will. In fact, if we do not use our daily bread for those purposes, it would be better for us not to have bread. Unlike the angels, we depend on food, and God permits us, and indeed requires of us, that we ask Him for our necessary food.  

But we may ask only for bread. We may not ask for luxuries with our bread. Christ commands us to ask for bread, because bread stands for the necessities of life. The common people of Christ’s day ate a rather simple diet of bread, fish, figs and olive oil. This was a healthy diet—and certainly enough to live on—but it was not luxurious. In every age, bread is the basic foodstuff of life.

With our bread, other things are implied, which in our age are deemed to be necessities. The basic needs of a human being are four—food, clothing, shelter and warmth. With these four things we can survive, and with these four things we must be content. In practice, this means that a modern person needs to be able to afford food and drink, rent and basic utilities (such as electricity and heating). Perhaps, we could add to that list things like transport (so that we can get to work and to the shops to buy food and other necessities) and medicine when a person becomes ill.

But we must be careful not to add too much to that list. Wants so easily become “needs.” A foreign vacation is not a need; a cottage by the lake is not a need; a Mercedes Benz car is not a need; designer fashion clothes are not needs. We do not ask for luxuries, and when God is pleased—as He often is—to give us luxuries, we are thankful for them, but we do not demand them, nor do we become discontent when God withholds them from us.

We ask for bread. We need bread. With bread we are content.

 


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