“Give us this day our daily bread.” The simplicity of the prayer that Jesus gave us can distract us from its wisdom and its challenge. At its heart is what Walter Brueggemann contends is God’s alternate food policy. The more ease and confidence we have in acquiring food, the easier it is to miss the radical edge that cuts through this prayer. As we appreciate this edge, our eyes open to the power of God’s economy of grace to feed the world with the food that genuinely delights and satisfies.
Bread—or, more generally, food—is a bundle of nutrients that, in the right quantities and combinations, are essential for life. But it is more than this, and reducing bread to these nutrients is the first temptation that Jesus faces. Jesus is hungry, and he has the power to alleviate this hunger by turning a stone to bread. Instead, he responds like this: “As it is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). His choice is the opposite of that of the original humans, who, unheeding of the word of God, took and ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because it was “good for food, a delight to the eyes, and desired to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6).
This separation of the bread that nourishes our bodies from the bread that is the word of God has in our time been reinforced by Karl Marx and by psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. But in Christ we know that our physical, material choices are inextricably bound up with matters of the spirit. Every time we gather at the Lord’s table we enact this reality. It is real bread that we receive, yet in our eating we become the bread that we eat—the body of Christ, blessed and broken for all.