Matthew 6:11- Give us today our daily bread.
Back in 2019—after having watched way too many episodes of The Great British Baking Show—I decided that I was going to try my hand at baking homemade bread. I am not what anyone would call handy in the kitchen, and I was under no pretense that baking bread would be as simple as making a box mix of brownies, but the contestants on The Great British Baking Show didn’t make it look super hard. Plus, getting to sink my teeth into a warm piece of fresh bread sounded like absolute heaven. So, I found a recipe online, I bought my ingredients, and I went to work.
What I discovered during the process of baking that first loaf was that while I had been right in assuming that baking bread wasn’t an impossible task, I had also thoroughly underestimated certain aspects of the endeavor. Yeast, for example, is the definition of precarious. If the water that one uses to activate it is over 110 degrees Fahrenheit, the yeast will die, and the resulting loaf will both taste and look weird. If, however, the water in question is less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, then the yeast remains dormant. The bread that you then bake with that dormant yeast won’t rise at all. And that’s just yeast. Measuring out the ingredients, kneading, and baking all proved to require tip-top accuracy and precision, and frankly, I did not have the practice, or the kitchen implements to do any of it well. The whole thing felt more like a science experiment than it felt like baking, and I almost expected for my high school chemistry teacher to stop by and to give my bread the “C” that it deserved.
As I reflected on this and made mental notes about what I could do better next time, I found myself thinking about all of the women who had come before me who had baked bread—specifically those living before the industrial revolution. What would it have been like to make dough, to leaven it, to work it out, and to bake it without modern conveniences? How does one take the temperature of water without a thermometer or knead entirely by hand and manage to get the dough at the right consistency? What would it have been like to have no back-up plan? For your ability to feed your family and yourself to depend entirely upon all of the variables involved in bread making going right? For the success of your grain crop to be life or death?
My brain went on and on—processing the frailty of human existence and considering what a miracle it is that any of us are even alive today—when suddenly, I had an epiphany. In that moment, I understood Jesus’s petition for daily bread with a clarity with which I had never understood it before. It all made sense. In teaching His original followers and those who came after them pray this, Jesus was not just throwing in poetic words. Nor was He necessarily thanking God for food. What He was doing was making a statement about faith. “Who do you trust?” He was asking. “Do you trust yourself to put bread on the table, or do you trust God?”
As excellent as these questions are, in many ways, these are incomplete. If I had to guess, I’d say that Jesus Himself knew that which is why trust is a concept that He brings up again and again throughout the gospels. He didn’t expect for a couple of questions that come out of a phrase from a prayer to be the defining teaching on faith. There is a lot more to it than simply identifying what our idols are. We have to be intentional about giving up our idols and about surrendering ourselves over to God instead. However, it is also true that without a foundation on which to build, we are just building sandcastles. If we don’t know what or who we trust in rather than trusting in God, then we can’t take the next steps. So, for the sake of building a base, I’m going to invite you to pull up a chair where we are, and to hang out here for a while.
Who do you trust? Do you trust God, or do you trust your paycheck? Do you trust God, or do you trust your 401k? Do you trust God, or do you trust the economy? Do you trust God, or do you trust politics? Do you trust God, or you do you trust your intelligence? Do you trust God, or do you trust in where you live and to whom you were born? Do you trust God, or do you trust your material possessions? Do you trust God, or do you trust yourself? Why do you trust in these things over God? What do you think that they can give you that God can’t? And can they—really? Do they?
It is not comfortable to ask these questions of ourselves, or to answer them honestly, but may we do so anyway. May we get vulnerable. May we open our eyes to the things within ourselves that we don’t want to see. May God lavish us with His grace when we become discouraged by our shortcomings. And most of all, may this be the beginning of a daily bread kind of faith. May our trust, and therefore, our sustenance, be rooted in God and in God alone.
Hannah Lutz is the pastor of Ada Chapel Friends Meeting in Wilmington, Ohio.