The Two Worlds
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts — Mat_6:11-12
Acceptance of the Material World
When our Lord bids us pray for daily bread He accepts the visible world of space and time. He reveals to us our right relationship to the material world with which we are surrounded. Only if a man accepts that world is it possible for him to live. He must receive and assimilate the nourishment it offers him if his bodily life is to continue. He does not create his own material nourishment. He finds it in the world around him, and, finding it, draws it within himself. Our true attitude to that outward world lies in receiving what it has to offer us. We need bread, and it comes to us with bread. We need water, and it brings us water. Not out of the stores of our own being, but out of the vast largesse of the world do we secure our bodily existence. All this is implied when we are taught to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Our Lord is not setting the bounty of His Father over against the world in which we live. He is teaching us what He profoundly felt, that the material things which make our being possible are the free gifts of a loving Father’s hand.
Realization of the Spiritual World
But to our Lord there was another world, and that other world not far away. The moment He teaches us to ask forgiveness He has stepped from the one into the other. In the material world pardon is unknown, just because sin is non-existent there. The effects of sin darken and disorder it, but it is not the sin of any bird or beast. These, guided by instinct, ignorant of evil, untouched by the glory of responsibility, have never felt the shamefulness of sin. The moment our Savior speaks about forgiveness He has passed into another world. It is not the world which bears the golden corn, nor is its music the music of the river. And the wonderful thing is how our blessed Lord, in a single breath, if I might put it so, moves over from the one world to the other. When He bids us pray, Give us our daily bread, He is thinking of the sower and the reaper. When He bids us pray for pardon, He has moved into the realm of spirit. And quite evidently, from His swift transition, the latter was not a world of distant frontiers. It was closer than breathing, nearer than hands and feet.
Both Material and Spiritual Gifts Are Derived from Outside of Ourselves
Now it seems to me that this rich collocation has a profound significance for all of us. It means that to these two different worlds our attitude is meant to be identical. We crave for bread, and the one world gives us bread. We thirst for water, and it gives us water. If we are to maintain our bodily existence we must receive what we cannot create. And in the same way our deeper life, to which we give the name of spiritual, must be sustained by constant receptivity. We do not win bread out of our inward stores. We get it from the bounty of the world. It is scattered across a thousand fields, and from these fields we wrest it and assimilate it. And all the nurture of our deeper life, to which our Savior gives the name of bread, has got to be received in the same way. It is not within our power to create pardon, anymore than it is in our power to create corn. Both are gifts and miracles of mercy, to be humbly accepted from God’s hand. Give us our daily bread; forgive us: God’s gifts are diverse; man’s attitude is one.
Man’s Craving Not Satisfied with Bread Only
One feels, too, that in this collocation there is a powerful encouragement to faith. It reminds us of our Savior’s graciousness in comparing faith to a grain of mustard-seed. I crave for bread, and the one world comes to me crying, Child, I have got bread for you. I have got satisfaction for that hunger in the loving fore-ordering of God. And I cannot believe that in the world of sense God would make ample provision for our cravings, and mock them in the other world of spirit. You do not exhaust the hungering of man when you satisfy the hunger of his body. The craving for truth and love and light is as real as the craving for the loaf. And that God in His merciful provision should give the loaf and deny the spiritual bread, to the thoughtful mind is utterly incredible. To do that would be to mock us. It would force us back to the level of the beast. To give the lower and refuse the higher would be the deathknell of the hopes of man. And how unthinkable that would have been to Jesus is evident from the one simple fact that His hopes for man are boundless. To Him the bounty of the world of sense was a pledge of the bounty of the other world. If from the one realm we get the gift of bread, shall we not from the other get the gift of pardon? Every field ripening to the harvest, and every fountain with its bubbling waters, was to Him a sacrament of the world unseen where are the water and the bread of life.