Confession: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 50, Q&A 125 (read responsively p 922)
Purpose: The blessing of prosperity is to be shared with those in need.
Sermon prepared by Pastor Mike Vandyk, Lacombe Alberta.
Order of Worship
GOD GATHERS US FOR WORSHIP
Welcome and Announcements
Call to Worship: Romans 12:9-13
God’s Greeting: May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with us all. Amen”
Opening Songs of Praise: Ps H #446 “If You but Trust in God to Guide You”
Ps H #412 “Jesus Shall Reign”
GOD REMINDS US OF HIS GRACE
Prayer of Confession
Assurance of Pardon: Ephesians 2:4-10
God’s Will for our lives: Colossians 3
Song of Thanksgiving: Ps H #408 “Rejoice the Lord is King”
GOD SHAPES US THROUGH HIS WORD
Prayer of Illumination
Scripture: Exodus 16:11-18, 2 Cor 8:1-15
Confession: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 50, Q&A 125 (read responsively)
Text: 2 Corinthians 8:15
Sermon “God’s Will Means Sharing”
WE RESPOND TO GOD’S SHAPING
Prayer of Application
Song of Response: Ps H #290 “Give us this Day”
GOD SENDS US OUT INTO HIS WORLD
God’s Parting Blessing: “May the Lord bless us and keep us. May he make his face to shine upon us and be gracious to us. May he turn his face toward us and grant us his peace, Amen.”
Closing Song: Ps H #528:”Lord Speak to me”
Dear People of God,
The message today examines more closely the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer. The focus is on the fourth request, “Give us today our daily bread.” In this prayerful request we confirm that our daily needs are supplied by our good and gracious God. This inspires us to thankfulness for God’s blessing but it should inspire us to more than just thankfulness.
In the context of the Lord’s Prayer we see that God is to be glorified and his will to be done in every area of our lives, including in the way we receive and use the things he daily provides.
The question we will consider is, “What is the will of God in regard to our daily bread?
Sometimes we might feel we are unfamiliar with or unable to determine that good pleasing and perfect will of God. The truth is we definitely know God’s will because it is clearly presented to us in the Word, the Bible. The problem -- and it is a real problem in regard to the fourth request -- is our submission to that will, our desire to do what we know perfectly well we should do. That is the challenge we will look at more closely together in this sermon.
The Lord’s Prayer as it focuses on God’s will and our daily bread highlights the specific problem of sharing. When it is truly our prayer that God’s will be done regarding the daily bread we receive, then it means that we need to share with those in need out of thanksgiving for the abundance we receive from God. It is abundantly clear from Exodus 16 and is echoed in 2 Corinthians 8 that God gives us our daily bread and we are to be thankful. But more than that, we need to actively seek to do God’s will with what he has given because this is not a passive prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer sincerely asks God to give us each day our daily bread. And as God does so richly and abundantly, we are called to share with those in need so that they receive their daily bread through us. That is exactly the emphasis of our text, 2 Cor 8:15. “Those who have been given much share with those who have little so that all receive enough from the Lord.”
We begin by looking more closely at Exodus 16 which is quoted in 2 Cor 8. In this Old Testament passage we see God giving the people food to eat. Every day the people collect the manna that God provides. This action of God emphasizes the daily nature of the provision. God gives bread daily. This is the picture behind the statement in the Lord’s Prayer where it even repeats the “this day” and “daily bread.” It clarifies our dependence on God for food, for everything, every single day. That is how we live before our God.
Now, as we read the account from Exodus 16, what is the most striking detail?
One thing we wonder about is what manna really was like. There is no modern equivalent and no scientific explanation of a natural phenomenon to explain it. It simply covered the ground every day for 40 years while the Israelites wandered in the desert and as soon as they entered the Promised Land it no longer appeared and no one has seen it since.
Now that is striking. That would surely take care of the world food crisis today if we could somehow produce manna in the desert places of the world. Everyone would be fed.
Another striking detail is that it melted away. We can equate it to snow that falls and when the day warms up it melts away and is gone. In a way that is more common since we are familiar with snow. But, of course, eating snow does not offer any nutrition while the manna sustained the people in good health for many years.
Really, the most striking thing about manna is that it is God-given. It is tied completely to God. This fact is highlighted in the odd anomaly that on the week-days people collected only for that day because any extra would rot. However, on the day before the Sabbath they collected double because on the Sabbath none fell. But then the saved manna did not spoil.
It makes no sense. It cannot be explained. It is not scientifically possible to regulate something like that. What it points to completely is God, the Lord of the Sabbath, who gives his people their daily bread. He is the Lord of their lives every day.
We understand this daily provision through our practice of giving thanks before we eat as a way of recognizing the fact that the actual food in front of us is as specifically from God as if it were manna from heaven. Lord’s Day 50, Question & Answer 125 makes this exact point clearly for all who might wonder. God’s providential care is evident in the provision of food, our physical needs. We need to realize it is not us but God who is providing these things for us. It is not our hard work and worry or our great ability to produce food for ourselves but it is God’s common grace providing for us and all people. This understanding moves us beyond any sense that we ourselves are governing our lives. It drives us to a humble realization that we live in complete dependence on God who loves us and cares for us even in this close and intimate way every day.
This is the central point from the catechism in summarizing the truth of the Bible. It brings the proper understanding of what we receive which then dictates how we handle this daily gift of God.
So how are we supposed to handle the daily provision we receive from God?
We see in Exodus 16 that it is definitely not to be hoarded. Those who do that see it rot with maggots and stink to high heaven. If it is hoarded it is no longer fit for anything. Only in preparation for the Sabbath does it last a second day but then not a third. After the second day it was unfit again.
This anti-hoarding component of manna is very instructive for how we are to handle God’s daily provision. We might think that it would just be good hard work for the Israelites to collect up lots and lots of manna. They should at least be a little bit responsible and store up a few days’ supply in case of emergency. Really, according to our thinking, they should store up a few weeks supply or even several months supply of manna. Maybe put it in a barrel or dry it or make manna muffins or “bamanna” bread. Some canned manna or a few jars of “mannalade.” If they had had freezers they could have filled them with blanched manna for the winter. What a waste really.
Sure it would take a lot of hard work to preserve the manna but we would be willing to do that. Many among us, being hard working responsible folk, do a fair amount of storing, canning and freezing. It is hard work but we are never stopped by hard work. And that is good.
But we are missing the hard work of the passage here. Exodus 16 says specifically what to do with the excess – don’t store or preserve it in any way and especially don’t hoard it – share it. Share whatever excess you have every day because the really hard work for sinful human beings is to trust God to provide what we need every day again. That is the hard work of faith. To trust that if we give away all the excess and, in fact, have nothing left ourselves for tomorrow, let alone next week or next month, that God will provide for us again tomorrow.
Trusting God for our daily bread! That is harder work than many of us can handle – too hard for most among us. It is a work of faith, complete faith that our loving God will provide all we need every day as he has promised. But isn’t that what the request in the Lord’s Prayer assumes? We ask each day again.
What does our text say? The people went out in the morning to gather the manna as much as they could gather. They ate as much as they wanted all through the day. They nibbled and snacked until they were stuffed and could not eat another piece of manna cream pie. And then in Exodus 16:18 we read that they shared the extra. That is the point of this unusual verse. The ones who found out at the end of the day that they had too much went around to find out if there were some who did not have enough. Perhaps some older folks did not get out early and could not walk so far so they only found a little manna and needed some more. Perhaps a larger family with lots of kids needed a little extra for the growing boys. The manna was shared all around so that the ones who gathered more never had too much (because they gave the excess away) and those who gathered too little always had enough because they were given manna from those who had extra. Wow!
And together everyone lived day by day praying with sincerity and confidence to God to give each day the daily bread they needed. And God in his love provided.
This way of living before God does not change in the New Testament. The exact emphasis of Exodus 16 is what Paul stresses in the New Testament in 2 Corinthians 8. Christians in Jerusalem were suffering and in great need of financial support to buy food. Churches in Macedonia were able to provide and were thrilled to do so. The context of the generosity of the Macedonians is not that they had very much themselves. They had their own trials and hardships to deal with. But out of what God had provided for them and trusting that he would continue to provide for them every day, they gave to others in need. They did it so all would receive the gracious care of God.
The quote is from Exodus 16 “those with much did not have too much and those with little received what they needed.” That sense of equality is an overarching biblical goal describing the will of God -- in the Old Testament and in the New Testament and today -- for all people to have their basic needs met. It comes out of the recognition that God is the one who provides our needs daily even when we do seek to store up things and secure the future in ourselves.
We confess in this prayer the future is only secure in Him.
So how does that apply to us today exactly? This is a very timely insight and admonition. We almost daily hear about a “World food crisis.” There are many millions in this world going to bed hungry. The world-wide economic troubles, based fundamentally on greed and hoarding wealth, only makes the food crisis much more severe.
The reason for the crisis is not that there is not enough food available in the world. No, it is not a crisis of quantity or availability. God has provided enough food for everyone. With some concerted effort everyone in the world could be fed, though it is a large undertaking.
Then what is the problem? It is a problem of the will of people and governments of this world. It is a crisis of the will of humans against the will of a loving God. All the hungry on earth could be fed but there is not the will from the wealthy to share with those in need.
Here is the heart of the prayer and the heart of the problem. God provides for each person on this planet out of his sovereign goodness and grace. But people refuse to share because they have their own aspirations and greedy power hungry agendas.
We see this, for example, in the use of food aid by some governments in Africa who instead of giving it to the needy sell it to the highest bidder in order to buy weapons to wage war against rival tribal factions.
Another less publicized example is the market forces, subsidies, and protectionism that ensure profits for farmers in developed countries but forces local farmers in many African countries out of work because they are unable to produce cheap food locally. Without the work offered by the farming community in these countries, the poor are often unable to purchase the cheaper imports and so go hungry.
Experts cite several other factors that contribute to the world food crisis:
1. The increased demand for food from developing countries as their populations increase and consumption of meat increases.
2. The production of crops for bio-fuels, reducing the amount of food crops grown.
3. The increased costs of transportation are limiting the distribution of food aid.
4. The increased cost of fuel and fertilizer is driving up the price of food.
5. Recurring natural disasters such as drought, flooding and pests due to climate change are cutting into the food production around the world.
All these factors are involved but they push the problem away from us personally.
How are we part of the problem? We in affluent North America need to realize what is most often not said. It is well known that affluence in developed countries like ours leads to tremendous food waste. People stop appreciating the food they receive daily as a gift from God and end up throwing millions of tons away. Food that could easily feed a hungry world is simply thrown away in restaurants, super markets and in our own homes.
Another aspect of affluence is that food that could feed millions of children is fed to pets instead of people. It is no longer just scraps and leftovers but specialty food specifically produced for pets along with a multimillion dollar industry offering a wide variety of pet products and services while basic food and water for the starving men, women and children is not even a consideration.
Another aspect of affluence is our absolute preference for meat. People in poor countries don’t eat meat. They eat roughly 400 lbs of grain annually per person, a little more than a pound a day to survive. They prepare it mostly as bread or porridge. In America on average every person consumes five times that amount in grain, mostly in the form of grain feed beef or pork. Our affluent diet is an extremely inefficient use of agriculture resources. For every pound of beef produced the cow gobbles up 20 lbs of grain. The same amount of food that is feeding 200 million Americans feeds 1.5 billion Chinese. Are we open to adjusting that even a little bit?
Affluence also allows us to eat much more meat than necessary. We only actually need 4 ounces per day. When was the last time you ordered a 4 oz steak? And what about “all you can eat buffets”?
Affluence is another term for hoarding. Clearly we are not handling correctly the daily bread God continues to provide. We need to recognize God’s will and his command to share as a means to actually help and bless us even as we help and bless those in need. We need to share the excess. We need to make it available to people near and far. We need to make it a priority to share as much as we can. That begins with the abundance we have in physical things as the Lord’s Day mentions.
It also includes more than just food. We need to share our knowledge about growing food. One way CRWRC does this is by helping people in poor countries grow a vegetable garden. It is a simple yet effective way to feed the hungry.
Another way was CRWRC developing the zai holes method of agriculture for poor farmers so they could achieve personal food security. It begins with a labor saving method of planting. Instead of tilling a whole field and aiding erosion the farmer just makes a small bowl shaped hole in the hard ground. In that confined space he or she places some manure plus some good dirt and the seed. The little rain that falls tends to collect in the holes instead of running off the hard baked soil. The plant that grows actually does 30% better on the whole because it has the nutrient and water it needs right there. Side by side tests show tremendous benefits and the farmers are able to do it themselves with the seed they have saved. That is a good sharing of knowledge to feed those in need.
One of the hardest concepts our kids find to grasp is the concept of sharing. As parents I am sure you are often called to break up a squabble about a certain toy, book, or doll with the answer that those involved need to share. The concept of sharing is big in God’s will. It is God’s will that we go and share the gospel with those who have never heard. It is also God’s will that we demonstrate the love of God in Jesus by sharing with those in need.
One of the hardest things for adults to do is to actually share. It has to begin by adjusting our understanding and trust that God will truly provide our daily needs. This is also part of the Lord’s Prayer. It does not say give me today my daily bread. No it says give US today OUR daily bread. What is given to us in excess is given to us to share. Otherwise it rots our lives, our health, our faith and trust in God. .
Trust in God allows us to share despite future worries. Trust in God allows us to store up less before we can be generous in sharing. If we have enough for today, the rest is for sharing. Share. Otherwise it will only rot your life, drag down your soul and pull you away from God on whom you should depend every day. Sharing overcomes the temptation of feeling I have it all stored up and have no need for God.
Beware. The gathering never ends. We have enough. We are richly blessed. Yet we keep gathering it up, from a few $100 in the bank to 1000s to tens and hundreds of thousands. And still we often feel we are unable to give to anyone or anything because there might not be enough for me.
It sounds a lot like the parable Jesus told of the rich man who was storing up more and more and building bigger barns (Luke 12:18) but the reality was a daily one and that very day – his soul was required of him.
The truth is we only have every day. We are called to live one day at a time. It is God’s will that you share today out of the abundance he has given you. He will provide for you in the future, even eternally, so just trust in him.
The theme of 2 Corinthians 8 is generous living under God’s gracious care. Those who are given plenty are given it for a reason – to share with those in need. Of those who have been given much, much will be required (Luke 12:48).
Hear these concluding words from 1 Timothy 6:17-19: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”