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On God and Our Groceries!

At the website homileticsonline.com I read these words by a man named Ralph Harper: "According to Nietzsche, Epicurus once said, 'If there are gods, they do not care for you.' A biblical theologian would say, 'If they do not care for us, they are not God.' The God of the Bible loves and cares." Indeed! In spite of the bad, hurtful things we see and experience and cannot explain, there is compelling evidence of a kind, loving, benevolent God who is described in the New Testament as the One who is the giver of "every good and perfect gift" (James 1:17a). And as "the living God, who gives richly all things to enjoy" (1 Timothy 6:17b). The most powerful and irrefutable proof God loves us is seen in the fact that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus repeatedly teaches God loves and cares for His children. In that section of the Sermon on the Mount He referred to God as "your Father" a dozen times! Then, in Matthew 6:9 He taught His disciples to pray "in this manner: Our Father in heaven" and on thru verse 15 He laid out what came to be known as "The Model Prayer." His intent in giving a "model" or "manner" to follow in prayer was not to require a rote repetition of words and phrases every single time we pray. But He did intend to fix in our minds the elements and foci our prayers should include. Those include reverencing and respecting God and hallowing His name (vs 10), doing His will here on earth (vs 10), and also physical/material as well as spiritual needs (verses 11-15 "daily bread ... forgive us . . . as we forgive ... do not lead us into temptation... deliver us from the evil one ... "). I want to focus on vs 11 where Jesus teaches us to pray to our Father in heaven, "Give us this day our daily bread."

The phrase "daily bread" gives powerful testimony that God cares about ALL our needs, down to the food we need to sustain our lives each day! Proof lies in the meaning of the Greek word epipousios, translated "daily" in the text. Barclay writes that for a long time linguists knew of no other occurrence of this word in all of Greek literature. There was, therefore, no way to determine its precise meaning. "But," Barclay writes, "not very long ago a papyrus fragment turned up with this word on it; and the papyrus fragment was actually a woman's shopping list! . . . It was a note to remind her to buy supplies of a certain food for the coming day" (William Barclay, The Gospel According to Matthew, Volume 1 Revised Edition: 1975; p 217). We should be careful to note Jesus does not here or anywhere else teach us that God desires to give us literally any and everything we could want. James 4:3 warns about people who "ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." The promise of Scripture is "No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly" (Psalm 84:11b). God has line-item veto on prayer requests that are not "good." What Jesus teaches us to pray for are daily needs, and concerning those, the Bible says "God shall supply all your need according to His riches in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). Jesus said, "Look at the birds of the air... your heavenly Father feeds them" (Matthew 6:26). And they don't have grocery lists or food stores! If God cares about feeding birds, isn't it safe to assume He cares about feeding you, too? Think about it.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ