Weekly Reflection: Daily Bread Simplicity

Last Summer, I was able to go on a tour of different food ministry programs and community gardens in and around the Asheville area through RAFI. There were a variety of really creative models for food ministry and at each site we went to I was impressed and inspired by their simple efficiency and dedication. The first site we visited was a Presbyterian Church. Their food ministry supports people in their area who suffer from AIDS. Their program has three components: they turned the downstairs of their church into a food pantry that is set up like a grocery store and people can come in every week and get a certain number of items for free. They have a community garden that is run by their church members, and that food either goes into the pantry or gets sold to support the program financially, and they had an especially bountiful garden that was tended to by the food recipients themselves. I was so impressed by the scale of their program, and I assumed they had a huge congregation to keep this thing going, so I asked, and they said they only have about 60 members!
Another site we went to is called “The Lord’s Acre.” The name, I learned, comes from the time of the Great Depression when there was a campaign for farmers to take one acre of their land and grow crops on it to give to the needy, and that section of the farm would be called “the Lord’s acre.” Speaking as an aspiring gardener, that was probably the most remarkable garden we visited. They had gardeners who really knew what they were doing, and they produced a lot of food in a small amount of space. They had a few master gardeners, but then some of the recipients of the food come every week to help tend to the garden and learn about different agricultural practices.
One other food ministry program that really opened my eyes was at Fairview Christian Fellowship. They have a weekly meal called “The Welcome Table.” Each Thursday at lunch, they cook a meal out of whatever food was left over from local farms, donated, or purchased with donations from the previous week. They set the tables for a nice meal, they use real dishes and set flowers out on the tables, and everyone comes to eat together. The meal is free, but if people are able to give a donation for it, they do. Its free for those who need a free meal, but without the hurried, impersonal feel of a soup kitchen ministry (which does also have a place, surely). But for this one weekly meal, it’s all about community and food. They have all kinds of people that come out every week to eat together. They have local firemen, and policemen, business people on their lunch breaks, and church members, eating right alongside people who are homeless and hungry and can’t afford food. They have no real budget for this program, but somehow every week, they are always able to come up with enough food for everyone and they said they have never run out of food. Each week, God provides.
This makes me think about God’s instructions to Moses and the Israelites who were hungry in the desert. Exodus 16 “4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” And at first, the people didn’t follow instructions. They had been hungry and worried about their next meal. Even though God told them not to store up food for the next day because more food would come, they didn’t believe. They went out and gathered all they could eat that first day, and then gathered extra to store for later. That night, bugs came and ate all of their leftovers, and all of their stockpiles, and more manna rained down from heaven. Then on the day before Sabbath, they were allowed to gather leftovers for the 7th day, and that night the bugs didn’t come. Each day, they got their daily bread. They weren’t supposed to hoard as much Manna as they possibly could; they weren’t supposed to take more or less Manna depending on how affluent their family was. They were all supposed to take as much as they needed to eat for that day, and to trust that more would come in the morning.
Trusting God for our provisions is not something that we excel at, as humans. It is our instinct to stock up as much stuff as we can, to worry constantly about whether we have enough stuff and to try to figure out how we can go about obtaining more stuff. In other words- we like being in control—or at least pretending that we are in control- of our provisions. We feel like we won’t be secure unless we are sitting around counting up our stuff and acting like we are the masters of everything we have. And stuff makes us feel like we are in control. But Jesus says that it is actually the opposite- while we are over here acting like we are in control of our money, it’s really our money that has control of us. Jesus refers to money as a “Master” and says in Matthew 6:24 that we cannot have two masters. We cannot serve both God and money. We have to choose one Master.
Worrying about our provisions makes us feel like we are in control, but finances are actually a heavy burden, a constantly demanding Master, but Jesus invites us to lay down that burden. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yolk is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30). Doesn’t that sound inviting? I hear that and I’m like “count me in, where do I sign up?” But in order to be a servant of God we have to make a sacrifice. We have to sacrifice our heavy burden in exchange for a light one. We have to lay down our worry and our pretense of control. We have to be willing to trade out stress for peace. We have to be willing to receive rest. That sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easier said than done.
Worry over money and provisions is the great distraction of our world. It drives our daily routines, it drives our relationships with friends and family, it drives our governments, it leads us into war. It’s a trap. This scarcity mindset, this worry-driven mindset leads us to greed, inequality, distractions from our calling, and even violence. But the Daily Bread mindset leads us to peace and sharing, it makes us lie down in green pastures, it leads us beside still waters, it restores our souls, it leads us on the righteous path, and our cups will overflow because the Lord is our shepherd and we will be left wanting nothing.
Too often, I think, we talk about simplicity as a task to be done- going through the garage and the basement and all of our closets and getting rid of what we don’t use, cutting back on the time and money we spend on leisure, and limiting our time with electronics. It’s a task list that can add stress to our lives, particularly because it is sometimes difficult and we feel guilty if we don’t do it. It leads to judging ourselves if we feel guilty for having too much, and it leads to judgment of others who have more than we do.
While the actual practical tasks of simplifying our lives are necessary at times, what has to happen first is that we change our way of thinking. We have to change from the scarcity mindset of worry and control to the Daily Bread mindset where we follow God’s directions first, and trust that we will be provided all that we need. Just like Moses’ people in the desert, we must take what we need for the day, and leave the rest for others. Then, we need to trust that God will provide again the next day.
And to teach this Daily Bread mindset of trust and simplicity, God sent bugs every night except the Sabbath to eat up any leftovers that people had tried to store up as treasures. Just like the moth, rust, and thieves from Matthew 6:19-21
  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
“Do not store up treasures on Earth.” Surely this doesn’t mean we are supposed to go like John the Baptist out into the desert without any possessions. I know that we all still have to work for our money and our food doesn’t actually fall from heaven. We are still going to be handling, getting, and spending money constantly. But we must have and spend money without money becoming our treasure. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The economy of Daily Bread doesn’t mean going without the necessities. Daily Bread means trusting in God that if you follow the path of righteousness set before you, things will fall into place. Your calling might even mean you being the one giving the gift of daily bread to someone in need. If we were to all to follow the Daily Bread simplicity, we would take only as much as we need, and answer the call to feed the hungry and to share with others and we would all have peace in knowing that we will have our needs provided. I believe that this Daily Bread Economy is the economy of the Kingdom of God on Earth, and while it isn’t yet a widespread reality, as Friends of Jesus we are called to spread the Kingdom of God on Earth, and I think that living with a Daily Bread mindset of trust in God is a big step in the right direction.
This isn’t easy, necessarily. Notice that I haven’t revealed any secrets on how to go about making this shift. I don’t know the answer. My message today is not about giving answers but giving questions:
– Do I trust that if I follow my calling on the path of righteousness that God will provide for me?
– Am I willing to turn over my worries to God and instead take on the light burden and easy yolk of being a part of a Daily Bread economy of simplicity and sharing?
(Author: Emily Albert)

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