“Give” in “Give us this day our daily bread…”

“Give” us this day our daily bread

 We notice in our reading that the request for bread is made in a slightly different way in each of the two instances where the Lord’s Prayer is given, in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. In Matthew, the word translated give is dos, the usual way Greek expressed a request, using what grammarians call the aorist imperative of the verb. In Luke, however, we find the less common and more meaning-laden present tense form didou (“be giving”).

This is an invitation to find light by comparing the two requests. Comparison, or mashal to give it its Jewish name, is a characteristic Biblical technique of instruction or illustration. The Wisdom books of the Old Testament, such as Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, teach the method of comparison. We have the four Gospels, which invite manifold comparisons. When we compare, we allow each element to shine light onto the other, holding them together in creative tension, not as either-or, but as both-and. As Ecclesiastes says, “It is good to hold on to the one, and not to let go of the other” (7:18).

So the New Testament compares asking for a single act of giving, in Matthew’s dos, with asking for a gift that keeps on giving, with didou in Luke. Taken together, the prayers ask for a giving gift. We might say Matthew pictures the salvation of Jesus as bread that you eat each day, whereas Luke see it as bread you are eating all day long.

Matthew asks for the Bread of God as given once, as Christ Jesus was given once, whereas Luke asks for the Bread to be given continuously, as the Holy Spirit is poured out. In this way the two forms of the word for give in the Lord’s Prayer may be seen as a sign of the Trinity in the Gospels.

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