We don’t live in freedom primarily because we hold too dear the things of this world. As the ancient poet observes:
This world is like a tree,
And we are the half-ripe fruit upon it.
Unripe fruit clings tight to the branch
Because, immature, it’s not ready for the palace.
When fruits become ripe, sweet and juicy,
Then biting their lips, they loosen their hold.
How many of us have the contentment, dare I say the courage, to throw of all the trifling things of the world and be content with only our daily bread? Daily bread is a phrase seldom understood. How often do we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and in the next instant go off to seek our daily bread and so much beyond it? For who among us truly lives as Jesus commands:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they. Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
We have far too much of a propensity in modern life to spend all of our time looking after our needs, both current and future. But my prayer is for the strength to live with only my daily bread in mind. My prayer is that of Agur in the Proverbs:
Two things I ask of you, Lord;
Do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches,
But give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
And say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
And so dishonor the name of my God.
Daily bread is a theme throughout the whole Bible. In the wilderness, when God provided the manna for the people of Israel, He commanded that only enough be gathered for that day. Anything further would rot and spoil. The proverb above is a passionate plea for nothing more and nothing less. In the new testament, we see Jesus referring to on multiple occasions. And it’s fascinating to me that a completely unrelated love poem, Recuerdo, describes two lovers living in reckless abandon, deliberately making a point to keep only what they needed for the day, and giving away the rest out of the goodness bursting from love.
There is something in the human spirit that despises a life of comforts and ease, of storing away and preparing for every possible future need. The human spirit longs to live in courage, to do the difficult, not to worry so much about tomorrow, but to live well now. And when the spirit is alive and in control, it scorns the things of the flesh. As the ancient poet advises:
Dear one, come to the tavern of ruin
And experience the pleasures of the soul.
Trust in God is the best livelihood…
I know nothing better than gratitude
Which brings in its wake the daily bread and its increase.
The second part of the Proverb of Agur speaks powerfully as well: Keep falsehood and lies far from me. Lord, don’t let me become what the world would make me. Let me become my true self. As the ancient poet observed of society:
Didn’t I say, ‘They will waylay you and make you cold.’
Didn’t I say, ‘They will implant their qualities in you
until you forget that the best qualities are here.’
We ought to take a hard look at why exactly we live the way we do. We think that modern life is so much different than life in the past. But listen to these words of Solomon penned almost 3,000 years ago:
And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
More recently, Henry David Thoreau had this to say:
Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actually though needlessly poor all their lives because they think they must have such a one as their neighbors have… Shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and not sometimes to be content with less?
Are we any different? Have hundreds or thousands of years changed the human condition? I think not. It is more important for me to find my destiny than to have a nice house. And I think that often times, I cannot obtain both. Often times, we find ourselves in the sad state which Solomon described:
I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind: God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them.
Allow yourself to feel a deep dissatisfaction over how society advocates we live – the cheap and common pleasures and comforts, the petty fears and small goals that waylay us from anything real. Allow that deep dissatisfaction to stir your heart to cry out to God for something more, for him to show you a vision for your life that is truly beautiful, so that you can become a fighter who throws off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles, and who runs the race marked out for him with perseverance – Hebrews 12.
That is why it says in the Proverbs:
Where there is no vision, the people perish.
Having a vision for your life that helps you fight for better things is called waiting on God.
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and take heart
And wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27: 13-14
I am confident that I have a destiny to fulfill, that God has prepared good works in advance, that I should walk in them.
This is what the LORD says:
‘Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.’