Best of Daily Reflections: Needy or Greedy? Knowing When Enough Is Enough
Give us this day our daily bread.
The focus of the first half of the Lord’s Prayer is on our life with God. But then Jesus teaches us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” shifting from theological concerns to physical and social concerns. He invites us to face both our need and our greed.
Physically speaking, we are perpetually needy. Jesus uses “daily bread” figuratively as shorthand for all the things our bodies need to survive from day to day. No matter how satisfied we may feel, eventually our satisfaction will morph back into need. On Thanksgiving Day, many Americans will shove themselves back from the table and declare, “I’ll never eat again!” And then three hours later we’re pawing through the refrigerator looking for something to eat. We all have to take a break from spirituality and service to eat or to bathe or to sleep. Need is the unavoidable, inescapable subtheme of life.
And so is greed. That’s why Jesus teaches us to pray for our “daily” bread. Not weekly, monthly, or yearly, but daily bread. Let’s assume that Jesus is not opposed to appropriate financial planning—for rainy days, for children’s education, for retirement. And let us also assume that Jesus’ real target here is greed, the driving desire for more than you need—gluttony, voracity, avarice, craving, miserliness, selfishness, and tightfistedness. Most people would agree that these are not the qualities that make life sing.
In his day, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., (1839-1937) founded and built the Standard Oil Company into the largest and most profitable company in the world, making himself the richest person in the world. Rockefeller also had a deep sense of God-given responsibility for the generous use of his wealth to improve life for others. But when asked the question, “How much is enough?” according to legend, he replied, “Just a little more.” I don’t know whether he actually said these words or not, but I know it’s the sort of thing I would have said if I’d been in his shoes.
Greed has the power to remove “enough” from our life’s vocabulary. When that happens, we drown in a vast sea of desires. But when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we ask God not only to supply our needs but also to control our greed so we will know when enough is enough.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What’s it like for you to be around needy people? How do you respond to people in need? What are you like to be around when you are in need? In what areas of your life do you have to work especially hard at controlling your appetites?
PRAYER: Gracious and generous Heavenly Father, I know just the fringe of what you have done for me, and for that I am grateful, but I also know that you have done exceedingly, abundantly more than I can ever know. I pray that “you give me neither riches nor poverty, but provide for me all that you prescribe, so that I not be full and deny you, nor poor and steal and profane your holy name” (Prov. 30:8-9). Amen.
Dave Peterson is an ordained pastor who is the Director of Community Outreach for The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and Scholarly Advisor for the H. E. Butt Family Foundation. He is the author of Receiving and Giving, Unleashing the Bless Challenge in Your Life. Dave and his wife, Terri, have four adult children and four grandchildren.
What Do You Do?
If you sit with someone long enough, included in the initial small talk (“Where do you live?” “How do you know so-and-so?”) someone in the conversation will inevitably ask, “What do you do?” What are we looking for when we ask that question? And what do we hear when we’re on the receiving end of that question?
What we do is important stuff in this world, and God desires greatly to be invited into what it is we find ourselves doing every day. God takes delight in the work of our hands. But do we sometimes confuse what we and others “do” with who we are and, especially, who we are in Christ? Would our question change if we thought about it more deeply? And what about our answer? How about you? What Do You Do?