In church on Sunday, we were celebrating World Food Sunday. We talked about scarcity, and resource distribution, climate change, and a plethora of related topics. Throughout the service, I couldn’t help thinking on one of Kenneth C. Bailey’s quibbles with the Lord’s Prayer, which he covers in his wonderful book Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels. In it, Bailey points out the redundancy (and inaccuracy) of the line oft translated as, “Give us this day our daily bread”. He argues that “this day” and “daily” are saying the same thing and proposes an alternative translation: “Give us enough bread for today”. When I first read that, it made a lot of sense, and the more I’ve reflected on it, the more I’m convinced it’s a much-needed change in church thinking.
The modern church has fallen in love with the idea of abundance. That God will show his favor through many blessings, much happiness, and prosperity. Yes, some will admit, there will be struggles, but the abundant love of God will overcome all, and don’t you know that God will not give you more than you can handle? To which I say: while I may have the potential to handle the burden God gives me, it requires a lot of vulnerability, authenticity, and compassion, and it’s certainly not a sure thing I will succeed in fulfilling that potential.
The worst part is how the idea of abundance is so easily taken one step further by the imperialistic message that more is better, and that growth is unlimited. The idea that the economy can’t go backwards but must continue to grow and go on is being continually challenged by the events of our day. The USA has lost the trust of most of the world, for precisely it’s imperialistic desire to control events globally. The grasp to keep gobbling up more resources and drive productivity up has fuelled both great environmental harm in the form of climate change and broken lives and families in the form of loneliness, stress, exhaustion, and a plethora of other ills that are the result a culture that favours productivity above both self and communal care.
The idea of getting enough bread for today–no more, no less–is an idea we need to aim for. We who benefit from Western privilege will need to surrender aspects of our lifestyle we have come to value–we will have to sacrifice privileges and comforts for the benefit of all. This is uncomfortable to admit, but it’s either we sacrifice it willing or it gets taken from us by forces beyond our control. On the flip side, those who have historically been oppressed need to aim for enough, not for the equivalent of Western privilege. Aiming higher than enough would merely perpetuate the cycles of injustice that have plagued our world and caused so much harm throughout history.
Several years ago, when I was first exploring the Christian faith, I shared with a friend of mine, a frustration with the the Holy Spirit. I felt that the Holy Spirit was a source of inexhaustible strength, and I was frustrated that the inexhaustible strength was out of my reach. My friend challenged me to consider that the Holy Spirit was a source of inexhaustible strength but that didn’t mean everything was suddenly easy or that I was suddenly inexhaustible. Rather, the Holy Spirit provided just enough to keep me going, to keep fighting, to keep hope, faith and love alive. Instantly, I knew he had spoken the truth, and since then I’ve learned the power of resiliency. I can be beaten, battered, bruised, I can have periods of deep depression, grief, anxiety, and loneliness–but I can’t be defeated, and I keep going with hope, faith, and love very much alive within me.
So in this time of conflict between worldviews, one preaching unlimited growth, the other vulnerable and authentic communion driven by love, let’s ask for enough. Enough food for today, enough strength for today, enough love and hope and faith to keep going one more day–no more, no less, just enough.