Lesson 4: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread and Forgive Us Our Debts
Course: Basics of Spiritual Growth
At this point in The Lord’s Prayer, if you are following along, for instance in Matthew 6, you will see a transition now. It is really focused on the nature of the Father, on the kingdom and there are some petitions there. But now, it is coming down to thinking about, what are our needs? Isn’t it wonderful that we can take our needs to the Lord in prayer?
I. Give us this day, our daily bread.
A. Bread means all things needful to sustain life.
The prayer at this point is saying, “Give us this day our daily bread” or whatever your translation will say. It is talking about daily bread. Of course, I think bread would mean all things needful. What do I need to sustain life here? John Wesley said, “All things needful, both for your soul and for your body, all things pertaining to life and godliness”. For today. What is sufficient for today. In fact, the ancient Israelites fleeing Egypt could not hoard the bread; and with angels that were there, they got enough for the day to eat, enough just for that day.
B. God’s presence.
It is very nebulous to a point of asking the Lord to provide and trusting the Lord to provide what is necessary for life, both the physical gifts of bread and the spiritual gifts of grace. But also, I think we are also asking the Lord to nourish us with his presence, certainly knowing that he is near.
The presence of God moves us into communion with the ever present, shepherding guardian of our lives. Underneath any turbulence, if the water is deep enough, there is calmness. That is where this is going to take us. It is going to show and it is going to demonstrate to us an anchor for us. There may be some difficulties, Lord, in providing all things needful today and I’m really going to need your help, but I am still anchored. There is a calmness that does not deny that there might be a storm involved in asking and in the needs of the day, but there is still an anchor.
So, in communion with him, I think what this prayer is saying for us, his disciples, is that there really does not need to be anxiety in this. Once again, that saying, “Don’t fret about it.” Don’t fret about the needs for today and certainly, don’t fret about the needs for the future. One of the ways the evil one works is by inciting you with concern that there is not going to be enough for – you just fill in the blanks. In other words, when this happens, there won’t be enough, or when that happens. In other words, you move from a scarcity mentality, that you are basically saying, God is not going to be able to provide down the road. In communion with him, there is a deep assurance that our Heavenly Father knows what we need. That is the foundation of this part of The Lord’s Prayer. “Give us this day our daily bread.” That means, the Father knows our needs and that he will all much more clothe us with all things necessary. Just read it in the Sermon on the Mount, read about those things.
Several years ago, I was coming to Asbury Seminary where I work, driving into town very early in the morning. I was deep in prayer and just thankful to be there, had a big class going on of doctoral students. As I came up to the light, one of two lights in Wilmore, Kentucky where Asbury seminary is located, a guy in a huge, huge, old car just plowed into the back of my car. Lo and behold, it was a student. This poor guy had been up all night, studying. I went to my friend after that, who is an orthopedic surgeon; and I said, “What do you think? My neck popped when the guy hit me and my neck really hurts.” He said, “You are going to have to have an MRI.” I had heard about these things all of my life, but I thought, it’s no big deal. I had remembered people complaining about how loud they are, so I did remember to bring ear plugs for this MRI.
I came in, lay down on this little place in the front of the machine, thought, this is no big deal, why do people get freaked out about this? The guy left the room and then he said, “Are you ready?” I said, “Sure, let’s go.” Then the next thing I know, the little thing I’m lying on wheels back into a big machine and the machine is about that far from my eyeballs. I’m thinking, “I’m not claustrophobic, I’m not claustrophobic! Jesus, help me! Help me, Lord!” The noise was deafening, deafening. I’m trying to pray the prayer, “Be pleased, O God, to deliver me, O Lord, help me.” It was very embarrassing, how upset and unnerved I got in that.
When the event was over - through the sheer grace of God, I was able to stay still - I looked at the guy and I said, “Does anybody ever just totally lose it and come unglued when they are going through this machine?” The technician looked at me and said, “Oh yeah, all the time, all the time.”
Listen, here’s the deal. We all have a proclivity to completely come unglued when it looks like life is going to tear us apart, or that something unexpected comes. We tend to panic. Some people are gifted with a calm response, but most of us are not. I rather imagine the Father to be standing at the window of such events in our lives, knowing that it is frightening to us. He knows what we are going through because Jesus was a human being. He has experienced things. He experienced things like what we go through. He is saying, “Look, it’s going to be fine. Just trust me. Trust me, it’s going to be fine.” “Give us this day our daily bread.” All things necessary, including when I get panicked. What do we do? We are asking the Holy Spirit to assist us through whatever gates he places us in, so that we can go through them with thanksgiving and let our hearts stand in the courts of God, offering praises. Do you hear what I am saying? In all circumstances, Paul says, you are offering thanksgiving to God.
I don’t thank God for evil. We were in a funeral one time and the pastor said, “We can always thank God that thangs ain't so bad that they can’t get worse.” The next thing I knew, I’m laughing so bad, I’m having to get down in the seat to keep from laughing. “..that thangs aint so bad they can’t get worse.” No, no, no. It is in the midst of all things we thank the Lord for what he is going to do in terms of deliverance for us. What does Psalm 34:10 say? The wonderful, wonderful Word. Psalm 34 is one of my favorite psalms. “Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. The young lions, they suffer want and hunger.” That is the sleek, beautiful, fast, really powerful lions. They go for warmth. It is not in your own strength that you go through life; you learn that really fast. No, those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Here is the affirmation. Every day he provides the bread we need for life. Even his own Son was provided for us. His life was broken for us. His life was shattered for us. Every day, every day we receive all that is needful from the hand of the Father. We remember every day that the one who eats this bread, Jesus, said, will what? Will live forever. Every day we can bring back our memories, giving thanks to the Lord for his goodness; and lean forward into the future with full confidence in God’s good care. “Give us this day our daily bread.”
II. Forgive us our offenses.
Now it is going to get really personal. Then he says to pray this: “And forgive us our offenses.” I add in, “because they are many, they are many.”
A. You are indebted to God because he created you.
There is a certain natural indebtedness that is inherent between the created thing and its creator. There is a natural indebtedness in my life, that I’m a creature, God created me and in his image. From the very beginning, before my life was even born, he held me and I was in his heart and mind from the very beginning. I owe everything I am to the Father. All that any of us are, all that we can hope for, everything that we are given, these are all gifts, these are all gifts. St. Augustine said, “Look, we are defined by what we receive, not so much by what we give.” What we receive from the goodness of God is what makes us. So, everything is attributed to the Lord and his goodness in our lives.
B. God gave you free will.
The Father loves us in such an immense and unfathomable way, that he also gave us free will. You say, "how in the world does that tie into what he is praying here? “Free will means you, like any child, can choose to obey the Father, or you can walk the exact opposite direction away from what he asks you. In other words, it is your choice. You follow or you don’t follow. Free will.
How can he so freely love you in return unless there was free will? So, Lord, let it go, let us go in the sense of giving us this choice, the freedom, to follow or not to follow. This freedom means that the very apex of creation, which is those closest in nature to God, He created us that way. As we are allowed to exalt ourselves and live in an encapsulated, isolated life away from the Lord, as non-dependent, living under the deception of self, I am creating my own self, I define myself, I create myself, I make myself directed by just sheer selfishness.
As illogically as such a revolt would be, that is what happened in the fall. That is exactly what happened in the fall. We are steeped in this kind of pride. It is a pride that permeates every corner of our being. Nothing is not impacted; nothing is not impacted in our lives by the fall. Now we tend to live under the illusion of thinking that power, pleasure and possession are going to give us meaning. I owe that to Adrian van Kaam; that insight. Power, pleasure and possession are ultimate and provide lasting joy and fulfillment. Adrian kind of nailed it here. “Power, pleasure, possession are ultimate and provide lasting joy and fulfillment.” The problem with that is, when we see powerful people who have all sorts of pleasurable experiences, beyond what any of us might ever even dream of, and possess unbelievable amounts of wealth, this whole thing breaks down when you look at how miserable and chained people like that can be.
C. We have violated every law of God.
I am not saying that wealth is evil. But it most definitely can put a person in chains very, very quickly. So, in this tragic movement of the human heart toward independence from the Trinity, not only is the natural indebtedness denied, but our willful actions and our defiance throw us into a violated indebtedness. What I mean by that is, we have broken the known laws of God. We have violated every commandment of God. You name it, and in some fashion, we have violated it. Who are the sinners out there? The sinners, the gross people that we tend to think of and identify in certain terrible ways? No, the sinners out there are right here, sitting in our midst, who have violated the known laws of God.
We know when the Father looked at Adam and Eve and said, “If you eat of it, you will surely die.” Well, do we take him at his word? Is he consistent with his self? Is he truly just? We would have to say, absolutely he is truly just. To violate the law of God is to die. That is the penalty, to die.
This of course is where we fall back on the sheer mercy of God in that the One Person who could carry the penalty, because he was flawless, the One Person who could truly pay the penalty of my craziness, the One Person who could truly satisfy the law of God and meet the wrath of God, was Jesus. Again, think about the extreme cost of God, the very Author of Life, facing death for us. We pray an ancient prayer: “Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will. We have broken your laws. We have rebelled against your love; we have not loved our neighbors and we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray. Indeed, Lord, forgive us.”
Psalm 130, the fearful question of every creature awakening from the delusion and the calamity of sin in their lives, of its own misdirection. Sooner or later, you wake up when you go down a wrong road. The remorse, the shattered relationship with God and shattered relationships with others and shattered relationship with our self. We cry out, Psalm 130: “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?” So, the author of this psalm of ascents knew the answer before he even asked it. He knew the answer.
The enormity of our debt is so great that no-one can stand before the Lord. No-one. We are all guilty. No-one can stand. No-one can stand because of his or her righteousness. That is not going to happen. We desperately stand in need of the pity of our Father. The prayer for the forgiveness of our debt – this is our offense against God, is what we are praying for, our offense against God – immediately raises a wall of impossibility, which has to be acknowledged. There cannot be any confusion regarding this whatsoever, regarding even the slightest possibility of an errant creature ever having the remotest capacity of paying the debt back. The burden of fulfillment is absolutely impossible. Drive this home.
D. Matthew 18:23-27.
Jesus told a story in Matthew 18:23-27, that is considered hyperbole. It is kind of an exaggerated story, but it is a divine story to bring home a divine point that we need to get hold of.
Matthew 18:23-27, see the story. You will see an account about a slave owing a king 10,000 talents. Now, you have to get hold of these 10,000 talents. That is bizarre, a bizarre amount of money. It would be like a common wage worker, I think equivalent for us today, owing a billion dollars or so. That might be even a little more than what Jesus had to say, but it at least drives the point home for us today, an impossible amount of money to pay back. In fact, such a debt which a common wage worker could never even pay back in 10,000 lifetimes. Extravagance beyond imagination had been lavished upon this guy in the parable. Repayment truly was impossible. So the king says, “Throw the guy in the debtors’ prison.” What does the guy do? He falls before the king, says, “Have patience with me.” Notice, he does not ask for forgiveness, he just says, “Hey, give me a little more time and I will repay you everything.” Right. Completely out of the question. Could not happen. It was a bizarre request. But the Word says, “And out of pity” meaning just sheer, absolute compassion. We are talking mercy, nothing deserved here.
The lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. In other words, his transgressions are no longer held against him. He is free and he has been forgiven of the impossible. We know from the rest of this story and rest of the Gospel, who is the One who forgave the debt? Who is the One who made it possible for the slave to go free? The Lord Jesus paid the impossible debt that none of us could have paid. He ransomed us. He is the One who got us from the evil one. He is the One who satisfied the whole wrath of God. He is the One who took our place. It should have been me nailed there, not Him. He is the One in the atonement. He paid the cost.
So, it essentially means that all accounts of indebtedness acquired by the servants of the king had been settled by the king’s son. That is what is coming into play here. That is what he is trying to say.
In his first letter, the Apostle John wrote that the Son is what in 1 John 2:2? “The atoning sacrifice for our sins; but not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Amends have been made on our behalf. We have been forgiven. Reparations have been paid. We can now stand before the King as persons whose debts have been justified through the sheer mercy of God and the unfathomable sacrifice of his Son. The wall of impossibility has been permanently breached and the invitation extended to everyone, to walk through that ancient way and accept the gift that is given to us.
We sing this hymn by Charles Wesley saying: “’Tis love, ‘tis love, thou diest for me. I hear thy whisper in my heart. The morning breaks, the shadows flee. Pure, universal love thou art. To me, to all thy mercies move, to me to all thy mercies move, thy nature and thy name is love.” Forgiveness has come. We can pray with confidence, with absolute confidence, “Forgive us our trespasses” because I am resting on what Jesus has done for me. He has triumphed over death. He has triumphed through his bodily resurrection. He has paid the price.
Most of us have gone through the experience of upsetting someone we’ve really loved and to whom we really live in close relationship. In some sense, you kind of get out of grace with them. For an opportunity to regain their favor, we are very, very grateful. Sometimes apologies need to be made. Sometimes things need to take place to make things better. A measure of extending forgiveness and receiving forgiveness kind of clears the air in the relationship and it is good once again, it is good.
This is what is happening. This aspect of the Lord’s Prayer asks for mercy from our God, for the complete annulment of debt, that is far beyond anything we could ever pay back; which means we are able to stand once again in right relationship. As Adam and Eve once did before the fall, now we are able to be in right relationship with that person, with God. Our transgressions have been paid, completely forgiven. So with the Psalmist, what do you have here? Nothing but utter and profound gratitude and praise. We bow down with the Psalmist in Psalm 130 and we give thanks, saying, “But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered, so that your name may be praised.”
Blessed be the name of the Lord, who forgives us of all sins through the blood of Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Transcribed by Shirley Taylor