Have you ever been hungry? Not the “What’s in the refrigerator?” kind of hungry, but really hungry?
For most of us in twenty-first-century America, hunger is not much of an issue. We may be hungry if we forget to go to the grocery store. Or, as some of our sisters and brothers along the Gulf Coast learned, we might face real hunger in the wake of a hurricane and flood. But for most of us physical hunger is an occasional inconvenience that we can alleviate easily; it is not a condition of life. That said, do you realize that the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that there are almost nine million persons in the U.S. who are “hungry” to the point of being malnourished? Nine million, and the number is growing!
For many people in first-century Judea, hunger was a continuing specter. Famines brought about by crop failure, lack of rain, or insect infestations were real. Therefore, when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11), he was speaking to two concerns shared by those disciples.
The first concern was their need for physical nourishment. The second concern, which was of even greater importance to them (and certainly to most of us), had to do with spiritual hunger.