Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
- Psalm 127:1-2
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
- Mark 8:6-10
“The breaking of bread together has a festive quality. In the midst of the working day given to us again and again, it is a reminder that God rested after God’s Work, and that the Sabbath is the meaning and the goal of the week with its toil. Our life is not only a great deal of trouble and hard work; it is also refreshment and joy in God’s goodness. We labor, but God nourishes and sustains us. That is a reason to celebrate. People should not eat the bread of anxious toil (Ps. 127:2). Rather ‘eat your bread with enjoyment’ (Eccles. 9:7), ‘so I commend enjoyment, for there is nothing better for people under the sun than to eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves’ (Eccles. 8:15). But of course, ‘apart from him, who can eat or who can have enjoyment?’ (Eccles. 2:25). It is said of the seventy elders of Israel who climbed Mount Sinai with Moses and Aaron that ‘they beheld God, and they ate and drank’ (Exod. 24:11). God will not tolerate the unfestive, joyless manner in which we eat our bread with sighs of groaning, with pompous, self—important busyness, or even with shame. Through the daily meal God is calling us to rejoice, to celebrate in the midst of our working day.”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
Bonhoeffer gives us such a beautiful outline for the blessing of a meal.
We have toiled all day and God has had His protective hand over us. God toiled, Himself, for six days and then He rested. Our rest before our toil tomorrow is earned.
And here before us is a meal to nourish our bodies. God provides for us. We must give thanks.
But more, we must celebrate, for God is good.
Let us eat and drink. Let us be joyous, for God has provided.
May we cast aside the busyness of the day and the lack of joy at times during our hard labors. Let us be festive, shaking off the groaning of the day.
We must rejoice.
Jesus gave thanks each time He broke bread. He gave thanks at the feeding of the 5,000 and later at the feeding of the 4,000. He gave thanks at the Last Supper. Jesus showed us the way.
So, why is it so hard to give thanks before a meal? Why does it become rote? Have we become hard-hearted? Even if you feel self-confident that you earned the money to purchase the meal, forgetting how many interactions God had with everyone who influenced your day, think of how many people handled your food before you ate the meal. Bit just the person who prepared it, but how did the food get to the table? How did the food get to the kitchen to be prepared into your meal? How did the vegetables grow that are a part of your meal? How were those vegetables planted and where did the seed come from?
Indeed, God had influence on all of that. We forget about all that when we simply buy groceries at the market. We forget about the interactions at work that led to the paycheck that all had God’s fingerprints on it. Did we earn the check? Sure, but God gave us the strength to persevere.
Thank You, Lord, for this food. I recognize your contributions along the way. I praise your Name, for providing for our family. Let us rejoice as we celebrate this meal. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.