BREAD IS A JOINED VENTURE
The Psalmist believed that, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it” (Ps. 24:1); but, God put it in the hands of man, “fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28; 2:15). The first couple did not subdue the earth and the ground turned bad. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your bread” (Gen. 3:17-19).
Producing bread is a joined venture. From my past experience, we depended on our neighbors, on nature and on God and country. We did not make bread on our own. Bread is the end product in a chain of jobs, over a period of time, before grain or seed become bread. The seed or grain has to be taken to a mill and grind into flour; then it is mixed with liquid to become dough, and baked in a heated oven or in a pan over a fire. Not every body can bake bread or make pancakes. I am eighty-four years old and I still am learning to apply the right amount of heat. Too much heat burns the bread or the pancakes and to little spoils them. Not even the birds want to eat over or under baked bread. I have yet to mix the ingredients that go into a pancake or a loaf of bread. I have left that to my mother and now to my wife. The ingredients, themselves, are a product of many hands. It takes at least one half of a year before bread is ready to be eaten and that only on prepared soil, which may take another year. In our day of regulations, to manage ovens and stoves may even take longer. The farmer, himself, has to contend with the government and the weatherman. Today there are far too many supervisors and not enough bread makers. Also, it is not the farmer, who is in control of his productivity; but the conglomerate, which control the profit margin.
The first joined venture should have been between two brothers. Cain produced bread and Abel meat. One would think, that beans and pork would go together. Of course, they only produced wheat and mutton. Someone got the idea, that God preferred mutton to wheat and that created jealousy between Cain and Abel. The brothers could not agree as to whose product was better. It was tragic that the first humans put religious values on food, and Abel died because of it. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, had food interfere with his mission. He warned his followers, “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong to make others fall by what he eats; it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble” (Ro. 14:20-21). Unfortunately, we do have reservations as to what we eat. In my early twenties, I was studying for my University entrance at a Christian Institute. Three of us went out to eat. Two of us ordered burgers and milk. The third student was upset and told us that the Bible did not allow us to eat meat with milk. I was not informed enough to argue. I ate my burger and left the milk. I had read that it was not proper to cause a troubled conscience to offend. The other student enjoyed his burger and milk. Several days later, he felt guilty and apologized in chapel. We never ordered milk again with our meat.
Pork, in particularly, has been an issue with Christians, Jews, Muslims and others. In BC 175, the Syrians and Jews fought a more than a hundred year war over a pig. The Romans were called in to end the conflict. Between British Columbia and the State of Washington there is a piece of land called Point Roberts, which should have gone to Canada, but it was given to the USA over a pig. To educate their children, they have to be bussed to the mainland. If they belonged to Canada, they could walk to school and the area would benefit immensely as a resort. What harm could there be to let the children attend Canadian schools and save money on educating them? Man’s inability to agree where and what to grow to live on persists. Food should unite us. I remember when I was a boy and we had company, mother would put the best food on the table for our guests. It was usually a little better, what we got every day. We, children, welcomed company. I read about one bright young girl. Her mother had invited the new minister, a bachelor, for dinner. She watched him across the table and when he helped himself to the third biscuit, he realized her big eyes were watching him. He said to her, “I don’t often have such a good supper as this, my dear.” The little girl said, “We don’t either. I am glad you came” (Doan 91).
The bread supply in the world is declining and man and religion may have to redefine their limits. The Mosaic rituals had much to do with health and cleanliness. Those ancient regulations have also become a way to reach heaven. Jesus argued against making food into a moral issue. It was not what one consumed that defiled, but what came out of the mouth and the heart that did (Mt. 15:11). Conscience can stand in the way of food production and consumption. I am plagued with heartburn. Medications prescribed or over the counter offer minor relief. Soft drinks add inches around my waist. I found light beer to serve me best. That, of course, is not acceptable in some religious faiths. Paul had to remind the Corinthians “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Ro. 14:17). “Eat everything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience. If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:25-31).
There is a correlation between the articles of faith and the production and distribution of food. What we believe and do impacts what we do to have bread on the table. Just as much as we are joined in faith, we must be joined in producing food. Paul had this analysis, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (I Cor. 3:6-9). He is also the Apostle who wrote, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (II Thes. 3:10). Everyone must contribute to the production of food. We ought to learn from Soviet communism. It began to hand out bread even to the unemployed. When storehouses emptied, everyone had to work in the fields. My mother-in-law had a sick child and could not go to work. She had to send her children in her place. A communist, who took his job watching horses to earn his bread, had already dispatched her husband to heaven for twenty-five Rubles. Bread-making is serious business and the sooner we hold each other responsible in producing and storing even the crumbs we waste, the better are our chances to prevent chaos.
Jesus’ “Parable of the Sower” has some sobering disclosure regarding what we must do to produce bigger harvests. My father did not teach me to go out and just threw the seed on paths, on rocky ground or among thorns. I collected piles of rocks and weeded the ground by hand with hoes and scythes. I plowed and harrowed and then I spread the seed and covered it with dirt by harrowing it again. And as soon as the seed sprouted, I was in the field pulling up weeds. We harvested, at least a ninety-five percent. There was more I had to do and it was not a pleasant task. I had to spread manure with a pitchfork before I plowed it under. The manure nourished the soil and made airy and soft for moisture to get to the roots of the plant. The Germans introduced chemicals and the first harvest was excellent and then declined every year. In order to stay fertile and productive, the soil, like our body, needs nutrients. Vitamins, alone, are not sufficient because they are only supplements and so are chemicals. The soil also has to have a Sabbath – a time to digest what we feed it. God put worms into the ground and they are our fellow workers, which distribute in the earth what we feed it. Chemicals kill our little co-workers. Contrary to the environmentalist, if we expect nature to take care of itself, we shall harvest nothing. Instead of subduing the increase in population, we should subdue the earth and produce more food. Bread does not grow by itself; it is a joined venture.
In the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus instructed his disciples to collect the leftovers or crumbs and they ended up with twelve baskets. God does multiply what we plant or seed, but we waste more than we need. My sweet wife still shops and prepares food for five when we are only two. She still buys bulk food. She argues that the birds need our leftovers and so does the ground. She raises beautiful flowers; but who eats flowers. We have a green house, but raise very few edible vegetables. My mother had a very small patch of land; yet, she had fresh veggies all summer and fall. We need to be re-educated how to raise our own bread and meat. We may have to learn how to smell animal aroma again. I have lived during a time when I wished I could smell beacon or fresh bread. We prayed but there was no food to be had, because the producers could not accommodate us all. And there was no lad around, who could share his five buns and two fish with us. Like the disciples, we had no bread with us because we did not sow. We could not reap because we, no longer, had any land we could sow on.