Tag Archives: community

Economic justice and the Lord’s Prayer: How they intertwine

The Lord’s Prayer, found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Gospels, is a central part of every Christian tradition. Its beauty and brevity, breadth and depth, welcomes our humble devotion, bold petition, transformative forgiveness, and alertness to the spiritual battle waging within and around us.

Right after the opening phrases of submission to God’s sovereignty and welcoming his reign in all of life, comes a simple petition: “Give us this day our daily bread…” For first century believers and most people since, this is not a casual phrase, but a real plea for provision for oneself and her or his family. Many people throughout most of history have spent their time laboring for daily bread. This prayer includes pleas for rain in season and a good harvest, wages paid to laborers, and a host of connected circumstances that allow life for another day or year.

In our 21st century globalizing world, this prayer is a cry for economic justice, a plea for all the systems of local and global economies to function so that we can flourish. In the last half century, two to three billion people have come out of abject poverty because of access to global markets and systemic and technological transformations that connect us as never before. In fact, in 2020, the United Nations declared for the first time in human history more people were above the line of abject poverty than below the line.

These heartening developments must not allow us to ignore the pressing needs of so many mired in despair and destitution. Whether it is rural or urban poverty in the West (with so many food deserts just minutes away from abundance), famine and pestilence in global locales, or warfare raging around the world, there is much to do for all concerned with justice.

What this plea implies

When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we acknowledge the Lord as our source. We are also praying for all the people and systems to function in order to be sustained in our physical and social lives. Bread literally requires a global/local community: farmers, millers, co-operative grain storage and distribution, bakers, distributors, and retailers. Of course, in some locales sources and sales are simplified, but the principle is the same: It truly takes a community for our daily bread.

If we expand “bread” to refer to all the needs that sustain our physical lives (and therefore our social welfare as well), this petition takes on broader implications. We are praying for systemic access, equity, and opportunity for all to flourish. We are praying for those with bread to share it with the hungry (Is 58; 1 John 2-4). We are praying for just conditions for all that are engaged in the exchanges that bring us our products. We are praying for justice. We are not praying for a particular political ideology, but for private and public, personal and social to integrate well according to the precepts and wisdom found in the Scriptures, including gleaning laws and generosity, personal responsibility and community concern for the marginalized.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” We serve a God offering abundance (John 10:10). We serve a God who can meet all our needs and more (Luke 6:38; Eph 3:20-21). We serve a God who answers the needy of others through the sacrificial generosity of others, even folks far away (Acts 15; 2 Cor 8-9). When we voice this prayer, we are committing to action on behalf of the voiceless.

May this prayer continue echoing from prayer rooms and churches, private devotions and public spaces until Jesus returns. And may it stimulate generosity, new relationships, economic and social reforms leading to the table of abundance for all.

Some Wisdom for the Journey

We cannot make every cause our own. We can be well-informed on issues, but each of us must focus on the particular concerns we are equipped for. What areas of the common good are we called to influence? For some it is pro-life issues (yes, we must all care about this). For others, it is education, homelessness, employment, affordable housing, personal life-change, etc. If we each find our place, our community will flourish. If you are not sure, begin with where God has you today and allow your character, competencies, and charisms to bloom where you are planted.

Pause and pray. Reflect and rejoice.
Lament and laugh. Today is a gift, tomorrow is a hope.
Bless many secretly, affirm someone openly. 
And remember Kierkegaard: “Purity of heart is to will one thing.”

Nuance, perspective, and subtlety are lost is our world of instant data, reaction over reflection, and “narratives” we refuse to abandon or adjust. The Bible informs us that we are beautiful and broken, have a divine design and destiny, and are capable of unutterable evil and supererogatory virtue. Let’s embrace reality with the confidence in the One who unites eternal truth and human reality – Jesus our Lord. 

Toleration and Moral Universals

Every family, community, nation, and civilization must find agreement of the moral norms that will govern life together. In three words, people must have some agreement on what will be prohibited (actions that are wrong, i.e., slavery in any form, abuse of children), what will be permitted (actions people debate about, but can live with the differences, i.e., peaceful diversity of religious and political affiliation), and what will be promoted (virtues for the common good, i.e., compassion, access and opportunity, justice).

Toleration at its historic best allows people of very different cultures to live next door to each other in peace. Problems arise however, when we confuse toleration with agreement or take the previously permissible and make it either prohibited or promoted.

We have a strange alliance among elites in the West. Pagan-secular progressives that reject historic Jewish and Christian influences and ideals are in an alliance with Islamic radicals: both hate the “traditional” West. The secular elites have a particular animus toward Christians, especially Catholic and Evangelical believers that affirm normal sexual morality and respect unborn life. Islamicists have a long-term aim of imposing their enlightened Islam and reconquering lands that used to be Muslim.

This mutual pact bears bitter fruit, with feminists rarely criticizing Islam’s systemic oppression of women and religious minorities. Hatred for all things Christian keeps progressives from seeing the clear threat of Islam for human liberty. The desire to upend all historic gender identities and sexual norms is subverting good science and fostering unneeded traumas.

This confusion overflows to the public square where progressives imply that practicing Christians are suspect as potential judges or candidates for appointed offices.

Serious Christians that share their faith, affirm moral norms and evangelize are labeled as intolerant, homophobic, Islamophobic or oppressive. Meanwhile, entire nations persecuting Christians are given a pass due to historic colonialism.

Is there a way forward? Yes, but only with serious debate in a civil environment. We must prohibit all oppression, permit a wide range of opinions and promote true toleration. This means living alongside one another even while we debate matters of eternal importance. Our future as a free society depends on such maturity. The alternative is anarchy leading to new forms of totalitarian micromanagement and oppression.