On February 22, 1846, Victor Hugo saw a poor French man arrested for stealing bread to survive. He also noticed a wealthy duchess and her family watching the event from the comfort of their well-appointed coach. Hugo incorporated the scene into a pivotal event in his novel Les Misérables, when his protagonist Jean Valjean steals bread to feed his sister’s children.
Few of us probably feel the anxiety and desperation of daily hunger. We might struggle with its opposite, daily overindulgence. Our reading today addresses the spiritual dimension of both of these situations.
These verses are taken from a series of proverbs by Agur (Prov. 30:1). He positions the request for daily bread within the context of material status. His petition for daily bread requests a sufficient supply, a provision that recalls God’s gift of manna for each day.
We can understand Agur’s request for the Lord to keep him from poverty—but note he also requests to be kept from riches! This is completely contrary to our cultural expectations. Didn’t he know that he should strive to maximize his earning potential and move up the socioeconomic ladder?
These verses don’t imply that Christians should be neither rich nor poor. Clearly people from all income brackets have faithfully walked with God. The point in this passage is about what we desire. Do we desire the desperation that can accompany poverty? Of course not. But neither should we desire the self-congratulations that can come with wealth. Both of these provide temptations to sin that lead us away from a close relationship with God. We should desire the kind of relationship with God that acknowledges His provision for us each and every day. Our daily bread should draw us closer to Him, in reverence and thankfulness.
Apply the Word
These verses do not provide an excuse for us to judge either the rich or the poor around us. They do not assert that poverty and wealth force people to sin. They should remind us all of the temptation we face to forget that it is God who provides for us. He supplies our daily bread. He meets our needs. Spend time in prayer thanking Him today for daily bread.