LOVE WITHOUT BREAD
Love is the younger sister to bread and without bread love cannot exist. It was one of the first and hardest lessons I was taught as a young minister. With my background as a displaced person by World War II, I had forgotten how important bread had been for my family. A young man had his hope set on the daughter of a reputable deacon. The young man had two hard-working brothers in leadership positions in my church, and I assumed the young man was of the same disposition. The young lady had doubts about her admirer and he said that he simply could not live without her. I, the firm believer in love, convinced them that love would iron out their differences. He was a lover, but not a bread earner and three months later, he left his wife. Divorce, at that time, for my people was outright shameful. After that experience, bread came first in my counseling sessions with young lovers.
A seminary student defined love, “…as an itch in the heart where you cannot scratch.” He was more accurate, than the teachers gave him credit for. Love has become no more than an itch. An “itch” is defined as an irritating sensation, a desire or a hankering. It has become more of a sickness, than a blessing. Love does not feed itself. It requires substance, concrete food and concrete action. How did Jesus illustrate love? He fed five and four thousand people and offered his conclusion, “The truth why you seek me is not for the miracles you saw but for the bread you ate and were filled” (Jn. 6:26). Jesus did not deny the need for bread, but the idea that bread alone would make a person happy. When Jesus stopped feeding the crowd, they stopped following, and even many of the disciple, left Him (Jn. 6:60-66). The people presumed that Jesus was another Moses, who could feed them manna from heaven, without earning their bread the right way. God has issued some principles by which man should acquire or earn his bread. God’s Law was, and is even today, that a laborer was paid for his work on the same day (Lev. 19:13; Mt. 20:8), but not a sluggard (Prov. 20:4). Jesus praised the faithful servant, who provided the bread for his subordinates (Mt. 24:45-51). The wisest man in the Bible gave this advice, “Go to the ant; you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise. It has no commander, no overseer or ruler; yet, it stores its provision in the summer and gathers its food at the harvest” (Prov. 6:6-8). “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth” (Prov. 10:4). If you do not have hands, then use your head and do not be too choosy in what you find. “I went by a field of a lazy man and a vineyard of a man that lacked understanding. Thorns and thistles had covered the ground and the wall that protected the vineyard had deteriorated. I looked at what I saw and realized what a little sleep, a little slumber and the folding of the hands will do. Poverty can surprise me like at thief and want like an armed robber” (Prov. 24:30-34).
Bread is rooted in love and bread becomes the evidence how much I really love those, who depend on me. I come from a background, where the head of the family was the bread provider, regardless of the circumstances we were in. When World War II had begun, my father was in the Polish army and returned from losing to the Germans and the Russians. He took his family and left our home and land to get away from the Bolsheviks. My parents had spent four years in Siberia during World War I. They had no desire to relive another experience. We were stranded at the border for weeks in Psemysl and the Russians refused to let us leave their side. Our father spent most of his time securing a loaf of bread to feed us three boys and our mother carrying our sister in her seventh month. We did not make it on our own, but the Russians did trade us to the Germans, who needed us to manage Polish properties. All his life, our earthly father managed to find bread during the leanest of days. When I began dating my wife, I overheard my uncle, my father’s youngest brother talk to my future mother-in-law who had some concern about my reliability, he assured her, “He will some day be your bread provider.” She did move in with us at the end of her life for three and one half years and refused any welfare assistance. She deserved some bread for the service she had rendered for her children. It is the Law of the Bible (Deut. 5:16). It is unfortunate that Uncle Sam thinks he can match a father that earns his bread by the sweat of his brow (Gen. 3:19).
I have always been puzzled why Jesus linked bread and manna with Himself (Jn. 6). Jesus insisted that manna came from God and He, Himself was, “The Bread of Life.” Listeners were disturbed that they had to eat and drink Jesus to please God. We have given this language a spiritual or heavenly meaning, when in reality, it is a blueprint for a bread provider. Just as important as bread is to life on earth, Jesus is more so important for life in the hereafter. He is the bread from heaven and He feeds us the things we need to make it into heaven. The people understood and asked, ”What shall we do in order to work the work of God?” The answer Jesus gave was, “Believe in the Bread.” That was easy, only it was not what Jesus meant. Jesus had to tell the listeners, who were “believers only” that they had to eat and drink him like one takes in food and drink. The people walked away because it was too hard to eat that kind of bread. Jesus was left with His twelve men and Jesus asked them whether they would also like to leave? Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words (remata) of eternal life.” Did the disciple understand what Jesus was talking about?
Their own witnesses tell us, that before Jesus returned from the realm of the dead, they did not understand what the Bread was for (Lk. 24:21). The commission to make disciples and be disciples is a post-resurrection command (Jn. 20:21-23; Mt. 28:16-20; Ac. 1:8). My problem was similar to the people then and to the disciple what Jesus meant by work (erga), words (remata), and belief (pisteuete)? I, too, began with believing that Jesus was work and words for me and I took a vacation. I did repent a little, but nothing major like from drugs, alcohol, or women and so on. I came from a family, that belonged to a group of people, who had very little to do with the world. We lived as if we were not of the world before I became an active, yes active Christian. I moved in with some Christians after I came to North America and I felt that I was on vacation because Jesus had made it all possible. That is what I believed, and unfortunately far too many other believers do as well. The works and the words are for me and not for Jesus. Jesus is the capital “Word” (Logos) and works are deeds and words are Jesus’ instructions to me how to become and then be a productive disciple.
In the list of things I must obey, like doing the Will of God, or keeping the Commandments, on being a faithful servant, on doing good works, Jesus happens to mention the hungry, the thirst, the naked, the stranger, the sick and the innocent in prison (Mt. 25:34-40). Jesus is pointing at me, as the provider, and not at Himself. He has entrusted me, with the bread to distribute it to others, and also teach them to become providers. The “me” means “you, all of us,” must stop vacationing and attend to the bread-business. I come from the farm and when it was time to prepare the soil, sow the seed or plant it, we did not take a vacation. We had to weed, water and watch for what we seeded and planted to grow up, and then harvest it, and turn grain into bread. Nothing grows up over night or by itself. It needs a helping hand, a guardian, and a provider. It is one that loves and becomes bread for another. Bread is the proof, that we love the way we ought to, at least that is how God showed His love by giving His Son to be our Bread, so we can live forever with Him and not die.
The young man, who abandoned his wife, changed my thinking on love and bread. Yes, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). However, without bread, man will not live at all. Bread is the source of life on earth. Without food and liquid life is unsustainable. At the same time, man needs guidelines to protect him from consuming foods, that are harmful and fatal. The Law, particularly in the Bible, was and still is designed to protect us from indulging in excessive food that causes irreversible problems. The Law was made for man and not man for the Law (Mk. 2:27).
The need for bread, in the world, has been overshadowed with conflicts of ideologies, nationalities, politics, racism, and some humanitarian concerns. They are all legitimate causes; but without bread, they will become meaningless. We live in a time of consolidation. Huge conglomerates have replaced the small farmer and without the small farmer, there is no one left to feed us in a famine. During the depression in America and Europe, the small farmer had no money but a meal to share. I remember the tax collector taking valuable for taxes because people had no money. We hid our furniture before he came past our place. We, too, had no money because the farmers paid father with bread, potatoes and meat, even with some home made wine. We even made our own clothes from flax and hemp. We learned that if we had bread, we were not worried whether we had money. It is for this reason, that I am sharing my eighty-four years plus of experience with bread. It is a far more serious issue than our food experts dare to admit. This study is entitled, “LOVE WITHOUT BREAD.”