BREAD, TRY TO LIVE WITHOUT IT?
Jesus, more than anyone, knew that bread and water were the two most important things in life. He told his spectators, “you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill” (Jn. 6:26). We are to make a daily request to heaven, “Give us today our daily bread” (Mt. 6:11). I was a young minister, when two young people sought my advice on how to resolve differences, before they were married. The groom was totally infatuated with her and she had apprehension about his uncertainties and lack of purpose. I foolishly insisted, that love would overcome their differences. Their problem was not love, but bread. Without food on the table, love ran out of options. After six months, the hot lover left his wife and country. After that disaster, I asked every couple, whether they had bread? Bread is to love, what work is to faith.
People, with empty stomachs, do not listen too well nor are they good for anything else. Jesus fed five and then four thousand to keep them interested in Him. Matthew 14:15-19 preserved this account for us. “When evening came, the disciples went to him saying, ‘this is a deserted place and it is late, dismiss the people so that they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘No need to have them leave; you feed them.’ Then they told him, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish.’ He replied, “Bring them to me and have the people seated on the grass.’ Taking the five bread and two fish, he looked up into heaven, blessed them, broke them and gave them to the disciples and they gave them to the people.”
In 1939, after the Soviets took over eastern Poland, we tried to flee to the West. We spent several weeks in a boarder town and stayed overnight in a Roman Catholic Seminary. I slept on a windowsill. Father would disappear long before daybreak and stand in line for a loaf of bread – many times in vain. We were willing to steal just to eat. In 1945, the Soviets again forced us westward and we were on the road to find a home. We had but a few hours to pack and run. Father killed two pigs, threw them on one of our wagons and hours later, we cleaned them. In one family grandmother died and they wrapped her in a blanket and put her on top of their wagon. When they tried to bury her, she had disappeared. During this time we did steal potatoes and beets from the fields. We had a person steal grain for us. We were the fortunate ones, who escaped with horses and wagon. When we settled in the American zone, I drove hungry mothers, and others from the railroad station to the farmers, where they would trade anything, including their dignity, for food. I could not take them back into the British zone, where the railroad station was located, because of the German guards, which were placed there by the Americans. These guards were brutal toward their own people. I was chased, many times, but never caught with people in my wagon. I was fifteen at the time. Hunger makes strange friends and bad enemies. Again, we were the fortunate ones because we survived – not all of us, I lost a brother and a sister to sickness and to an accident.
Between the years 1940 to1945, my family was in the business to raise food for the Germans not by choice but by coercion. We did not escape from the Soviets. The Germans bought us back from the Russians. They settled us on Polish lands to raise food for Hitler’s army. Our people were equipped to farm without electricity and motorized farming machinery. They also spoke the language and understood the culture. Most of all, they were in Siberia during World War I, and feared Stalin far more than Hitler. The Germans created a province, which became their bread- basket. It also was a haven where no bombing took place. We had people from Berlin living with us. The real cause of Hitler’s arrival was hunger or the need for bread, rather than some political or philosophical ideology. Politicians have learned their lessons from revolutions and fed the hungry; only in the process, they forgot to teach them how to earn bread, rather than expect to be fed by those that do work. The maxim universal law is, “If one does not work, one will not eat,” (II Thes. 3:10). Man was put in this world to earn his bread with sweat on his brow (Gen. 3:19).
We have a tendency to misinterpret Jesus’ statement, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body. Is not life more valuable than food and the body more important than clothes?” Yes, but how are we going to sustain life or the body without food? Jesus’ answer was, “Look at the birds of the air. Hey do not sow or reap or store in big barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Mt. 6:25-26). How are the birds fed?
Does heaven open and drop manna into their mouths? Do we feed them by hand? Of course not, they feed themselves. They are the busiest creatures on earth. We heard it enough that “The early bird catches the worm.” We see them among our berries, fruit flowers and short cut lawn where worms are easily caught. They pick our berries before we can get to them. Our fruit trees have grown too tall for us to pick, but they are no problem for the birds. God entrusted us with the maintenance of reach soil and commanded us to plant and seed so that man and bird can feed. Jesus also said that humans are more valuable than birds, and therefore better equipped for managing the productivity of food (Mt. 6:26; Gen. 1:26-31). We did not maintain some berries, shrubs or fruit trees and we no longer see birds in the neglected areas. In my teens, I plowed and as soon as the soil was turn flocks of birds picked the worms.
What then is the problem? Actually, there are two problems that are plaguing us; namely, procrastination and greed. The wise man, put this one quote on the books for us, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler; yet, it stores its provisions in the summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lay there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like a beggar” (Prov. 6:6-11). Then, there also is too much greed, when a handful of people are allowed to control food production, and distribution mainly for profit, and are being praised and envied for being successful. Jesus used, “the Parable of the Rich Fool,” to drive home this plague. “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘what shall I do? I have no place to store my crop.’ Then he said, ‘this is what I will do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and goods.’ And I will say to myself, ‘you have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy: eat drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘you fool! This very night your life will be taken from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God’”(Lk. 12:16-21).
How does one get rich toward God? It is certainly not by becoming poor and renouncing material success. Jesus was not against people that prospered. In the Parable of the Talents, the investor entrusted three employees with his money to be invested for profit. According to their abilities, he gave one five talents, one two and one only one. The first two doubled their investor’s money and the third kept it safe for fear of loosing it. The one, with the one talent, lost his job, and his one talent was given to the one that had doubled the five talents. The two, who prospered made their investor very happy, and he had a party of celebration for them (Mt. 25:14-30). The sad part, in this Parable of the Talent, is the one man that ended up starving, because he did not put the little that was trusted to him in use. The Rich Fool fared as well as the “one talent” man. Without making his produce available; he cut himself off from providing bread for others, including himself. There is nothing wrong by being prosperous, as long as one faithfully and honestly invests and shares with people, who fall on hard times, but not with people, who want a paycheck for doing nothing.
The answer, to pleasing God, is not by opening up the big barns and feed the hungry. That is what the first Christians in Jerusalem did and failed miserably. The rich sold their properties and the followers of Jesus had all things in common, until poverty set in, and King Herod drove the Christians out of town with persecution (Ac. 12). It was a sad time in Christian history, when the leadership was responsible for creating poverty by believing that they would be immanently taken out of this world. Later on, Paul made collecting for the poor part of his theology, and he linked it with salvation itself. Helping the poor Christians in Jerusalem became proof that these Gentiles were pleasing God (II Cor. 8 & 9). The promises Paul made to these Gentiles were not exactly realistic. “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (II Cor. 9:10-11).
Paul excelled in the tendency of presuming what God will do for his people. At the end, the Jerusalem group did not survive and man, godly or worldly, depends on people that get their hands dirty to supply us with bread. Paul himself had to come to the conclusion; in order to eat one had to work (II Thes. 3:10).