Read Matthew 6:9b-13
Our exploration of the Lord’s Prayer resumes. After having focused first upon God, the Father, Jesus then begins petitions for our human condition. The next phrase in the prayer is a complete sentence, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
The petition begins by acknowledging the source of all we have, God. Making the request to be given something is an indication that the one making the request understands that what is received is a gift. We also see the corporate nature of this prayer. The word, “us,” points to the reality that the petition is not for a singular person but for the community as a whole.
The next words place a parameter around the request. Whether it is translated “this day” or “today,” the asking is for a one day’s supply. This reminds us of the story from the time in which the Hebrew people were in the wilderness and hungry. God provided them food, manna, but told them it was only for one day at a time. We are also reminded when Jesus taught his disciples not to worry about tomorrow but instead trust that God will provide each and every day.
The sentence ends with “our daily bread.” Again the corporate nature and the limited scope of the petition are obvious here. The word bread is intended to be broader than just the food substance which comes to mind. Bread was a staple meal item for most people in Jesus’s culture. Sometimes bread was the only item available to provide nutritional sustenance for a family. The use of this word would bring to the minds of the people an image of the basic needs to sustain life, food, shelter, clothing, safety and such.
The first human-focused petition Jesus lifts in this prayer reminds us that God is the source and giver of all our basic needs. We are also reminded to not only be focused on our individual needs but mindful of the needs of all within the community.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.James 1:13-18 (NIV)
Growing up there was a comedy show on television which brought laughter into our home. It was on the air in the early 1970s and starred comedian Flip Wilson, so was called “The Flip Wilson Show.” The show was a full hour in length and consisted of a series of short skits. Popular actors, comedians, musicians and public features would be a part of each week’s show. Many phrases were made popular within American society after they were said on this show, often by headline comedian Flip Wilson himself. One such catchphrase was, “The devil made me do it.”
Today’s passage from the letter of James places before us the question, “What is the source of temptation and sin?” Here we are told that the source is definitely not God. God cannot be tempted and God does not tempt. Instead, the source is our own evil desire. This desire leads to sin and the full outcome of sin is death. The writer then tells us that God is the source of good gifts for us. One of the greatest of these gifts is making us the first fruits of creation. God is the source of good and perfect gifts, not temptation and sin.
We are a people who want to blame someone or something else for our bad behavior and choices. Flip Wilson taught us to blame the devil. The contemporaries of James blamed God. The truth is that we, ourselves, are the source of evil desires which lead to sin. Only the love and goodness of God’s grace can overcome those desires and defeat sin and death. Instead of blaming God for the temptations, we should be thanking God for defeating the effect of those temptations.