Matthew 6:9-15 Part 6

“Give us this day our daily bread.”


Our Lord’s prayer-instruction indicates that we ought to seek His Kingdom first – that His Sovereign will be done in earth as it is in heaven, that there might be creation submission to the Word of the King.

In other words, the primary concern of the disciples of Jesus ought to be God and His Kingdom rather than self.

I think that for most people calling themselves Christians, prayer is a time when they can “let go” and be themselves – to talk about themselves and be concerned about themselves.  It’s a time for inward focus and personal concern.  You can’t let down and be yourself with anybody else – not even your friends – but you can with God.  You can be who you really are with Him!  Self!

But you see that’s just the point!  The disciple of Jesus isn’t self concerned!  More and more the concern becomes God and His Kingdom rather than self.  The Christian turns from self to God; that’s repentance! – to move the intent of the heart from “I” to “Thou.”

As you know the Scriptures use a number of different figures, analogies, in order to teach us about life.  One is a ship and the ship’s rudder.  In going on a trip one doesn’t set sail without setting a course.  And the course most people have set is centered in their own person.  The view – the indoctrination – the direction - is inward.  It’s ME.

And even if you’re using another Biblical figure – the eye being a window – what’s the orientation of most people?  The way that this is normally described is that one will see nothing except what’s on this side on the window, but there are some who take a broader view to the world and look out.

But that’s not the Biblical view of that figure at all.  Neither one!  The orientation of both of those is the window – which belongs to self. But Scripture describes the disciples of Jesus as those who turn from their own orientation!  The window from which they look isn’t the reference point any more!  In other words, the distinction isn’t between looking at things on one side of the window or the other side of the window. 

The point is that there must be an entirely new orientation!  As Paul said – “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  We must increasingly be God-centered, Kingdom-oriented through which we see.  The center of our concern must be made new.  We must mortify and put away what it is that is uniformly and personally ours – what is endemic to fallen humanity – and what is guarded and protected daily, with every breath – the fact that everything is relative to me.  “I am the focal point, and whatever is to be judged, and however it is to be judged, it must be done in relation to me!  It’s my window!”  That’s what must be put away.  The starting point must be God.  And the Kingdom.  We must be re-oriented.  The essence of it is that we have to be new creations!  We have to get rid of that personal window through which we look out at things.  We have to set a course which God defines as seeking His glory and enhancing His reputation.  It has to be His window!

But that doesn’t mean that Jesus’ disciples are unconcerned about themselves, does it?  When we become new creations in Christ it doesn’t mean that we cease being human!

You know, one of the things that I hear all the time, which startles me every time I hear it, is “I’m only human.”  And it’s usually said at some point where there’s been a terrible lack of discipline or the commission of some gross sin.  And being “human” is the sole justification for it! 

But, you see, the human in rebellion, chaos and disorder – sin – isn’t the true picture of humanity!  Humanity was created as the image of God, to be in communion with God!  We’ve heard this before, haven’t we?  When humans are in sin, then they aren’t fitting into the role for which they were created!  They aren’t acting human.  Even animals fit into the roles for which they were created better than humans do – and we’re the ones with the minds!

So, when we become new creations in Christ, not only do we not cease being human, we actually become more human!  Then is when we begin to fit into the original intent of our being created!  Our reason for being!  So, being concerned about ourselves isn’t unworthy of being Christian either!

In fact, taking that one step further, recognizing that life for us is solely in the hands of God, and asking for that life to continue, is the very recognition that God requires of us as believers!

The issue here isn’t the denial of our existence when we deny self – but the denial of our preeminence.  To deny self is to attribute to God His rightful place – to give Him the preeminence and the glory – to attribute to Him His rightful place as Creator and King.  Then – as the creature that I am, I recognize myself as who I really am, and I see myself as needful constantly of the very elements of life – all of which come from God.

And not only do the very elemental things come from Him, but the higher things do too – such as grace and faith and love.  Light and life are in His hands – yes, as well as food and shelter and clothes.  Forgiveness for sin and eternal protection are my inheritance – as are the very details of my physical existence.

The very food that I eat isn’t converted into energy by natural law – but it is supplied by God, and it is caused to supply energy to my body by the direct application of the power of God!  My body requires nutrition because God requires it to require nutrition; and the nutrition is made available to my body – not because it’s made that way, but because God directly causes it to be that way.

You see, it’s necessary that we see ourselves properly like this, because we are completely creatures!  And we must be submissive to the fact that God is completely God, and we are completely His creations.  And, then, once we can see that, then we can properly pray, “Give to us this day our daily bread.”

When we see the relationship that we, as creatures, have to God, our Creator, then we can have the proper concern for our own well-being.  Without it we are self-centered, self-concerned, and self-preeminent.  But as new creations we learn to be self-conscious with respect to God!  Knowingly self-conscious with respect to God.

And that’s what Jesus means here when He instructs us to pray for our own needs.  “Give us our bread, forgive us our debts, don’t lead us into temptation, keep us from evil” – Creature begging the Creator!  And I think that this “Creator-creature distinction” will become more and more clear, which it must do, during the next couple of weeks – as we learn to submit to God’s will and purpose in prayer and in life.

But let’s go to the text, now, and see exactly what it says:  “Give us this day our daily bread.”

The first thing I saw was that there was a strange word in here!  Now, as you know, that isn’t an unheard of thing in the text of Scripture – especially when our Lord Jesus is being quoted.  And this word, and, by the way, it’s the one which is translated “daily” in your text, “give us this day our daily bread,” this word is the combination of two other words – one which is a common preposition, and the other a rather uncommon noun.  The word, for your own information, is epiousia; epi being the common preposition meaning “over, on, above,” and “ousia”, the uncommon word, meaning being or person or existence.

And the reason it looked so strange, I suppose, is, first, I had never seen it before – and apparently nobody else had either, because it had never been used before!  Not only in the Scriptures – even in the translation of the Old Testament – had it ever been used before, but it was unheard of in the entire history of the Greek language!  And I’m always surprised when I see something like this – although I shouldn’t be, maybe.  When you really think about it, it’s not necessarily a surprising thing that the Creator of all things – the One Who gave languages in order to reveal Himself – would coin new words in order to accomplish that purpose better!  It shouldn’t be all that surprising.  Maybe “delighted” is a better description.

Anyway, the second reason it looked so strange was because of the translation – “daily”.  I started trying to stretch my mind to find the relationship between “epiousia” – literally translated “above being” – and the English word “daily”.  And I found that very difficult to do, especially since there are a couple of very specific words that could have been used if the meaning to be portrayed was supposed to be “daily.”

But, as you can see, I’ve gone ahead and used the word in my own translation – mostly for want of a better word!  At least the use of “daily” conveys a thought that’s already in the sentence, and, therefore, doesn’t add something foreign to the Revelation.  I can see the King James translators going through the process right now – trying to find the right thing to do.  Solid, Christian men that they were – wanting to please God, and wanting the people to have the right words out of the mouth of God.  Concerned men – struggling with the issues.

And those are the very reasons I’ve spent so much time on it, and that’s the reason I introduced the sermon the way I did.  It’s because of this word.  Because this word is probably the only word – Greek or English – that nails, or pinpoints, or goes to the heart of, the Creator-creature distinction.  I can see the frustration those guys went through!  The concept isn’t all that difficult – it’s just finding a word!

But what Jesus means is that the things that are epiousia – the things that are “above being” are things that are required to sustain life.  The things over and above being – over and above us – which, without their being given, we would have no life – we would not exist.

You see, we are beings.  Creatures.  Not physical beings and spiritual beings – but beings!  And different aspects of our beings require different things.  And all of those things are needed constantly.  They’re needed all the time – daily, if you will.  And maybe that’s where our forefathers came up with the word “daily” as the best word to use here.  And all of it comes from God.  And all by way of gift.

I don’t want to re-do the first fifteen minutes of this sermon, but God is over our lives.  And all that’s needed for the sustenance of life comes from Him as the immediate cause.  And my recognition of that and my submission to that is the issue here!

That’s why Jesus says, “when you pray, pray like this… give us this day our ‘over-being’ bread”.  Give us this day the things that are needful and necessary for our existence – the things that only come from God – the gifts, without which I have no life – the gifts that come from only the Creator of man.  Give us the things that sustain us – retain our lives – give us what is required for us to remain in existence!

The Creator-creature distinction.  The One calls life into being and sustains it there by the word of His Power – giving all things required.  (That’s the epiousia, over-life.)  The other one receives it, acknowledging its source and its value, gives thanks for it and prays for its continuance.  That’s being epistemologically self-conscious!  The cry for bread!

We are to ask for bread.  Nothing is more basic to our lives than the very food we eat, is there?  And yet it is “epiousia – over-being.”  It is required for existence, and it is a direct gift from God.  We solely depend upon Him for what we put into our mouths!  Food does not occur naturally.  We must see that and acknowledge that!  Food, nor any of the other necessities of life, come to pass by way of nature, or by natural law.  God causes it to exist and to come to pass for us to eat.  And He causes it to be utilized as nutrition.  If He didn’t do that, then life would not exist!  Epiousia bread.  THE CONSTANT NECESSITIES OF LIFE – creaturely existence by the very Will and Power of the Creator.  Acknowledge it, people.  It is an important issue to God that you acknowledge it!  And any system of thought that even tends toward another concept of life ought to be seen as pagan idolatry.  (animal evolution, natural selection, natural law – they are all pagan.)

Rather than getting into some complicated system of scientific and humanistic theory, we are commanded by Jesus to simply acknowledge the simple truth that even the simple necessities of life come directly from the Hand of God.  As Jesus instructs us to pray here, “Give to us….”  We are to pray that God give to us the requirements of life!  We don’t deserve them – we don’t earn them – we don’t borrow them – we don’t reason for them – WE ARE NOT EQUALS! – We beg for them as creatures.

And we do that as a community of believers – we do that as brothers.  We do that as families.  We do that as Churches.  We do that as a covenant community.  We do that in unity in the body of Christ – not as individuals!  “Pray like this, Our Father … give us….”  The mind and heart are off of the self and on to the glorious person of God, and even when we’re praying for such intimate things as this day’s rations, it is in the context of the body of believers!

That’s not to say that we would never pray for me, but this is illustrative of the intent of the heart to turn from self – even when praying for the “over-being” necessities of life!  Because even when we pray for these, we are in process of acknowledgment that they must be “given” to us!  Even this is praise and glory to the “Giver!”

And lastly, Jesus says, “Give us this day our bread….”  As the needs and desires of our bodies are renewed every day we are taught to pray.  As surely as the day comes and food and drink and shelter are critical requirements, as they were yesterday, so we are taught to renew the desires of our hearts every day.  It has to be learned that prayer is as much a necessity as is the satisfaction of hunger and thirst.  And the hunger and thirst are reminders of the One Who gives the satisfaction of those things.  Remember!

And those of us who have more than we need are taught to live as those who must live from hand to mouth – remembering and acknowledging this day – that God is the Giver.  And we all live as a result of Divine Providence.  And nothing that I have is immune from being taken away from being “over-being bread.”  The storage that I have for tomorrow is only as good as God’s gift for today. 

Next Lord’s Day, God’s forgiveness of my offenses.