I grew up believing that one was not to throw bread away, the reason being that this was the body of Jesus. Bread was meant to be eaten with thanksgiving remembering all those who had nothing to eat. Sharing what we eat with others was implicit in this belief. I am still not sure where this belief originated from but upon reflection, it does offer some great insights indeed.
Today, we seem to have managed to demystify the “bread” and left it as one of the common items of life and far removed from sacredness. We have become a society that steals bread, hoards bread, throws bread away or eats it to its own detriment. How we view bread will to a great extent determine what we will do with it. One of the good elements in some African traditional religions is its belief in sharing food with strangers or those who have nothing to eat. It is or was a strange thing to be eating while others in one’s proximity were not eating. Of course things are changing or have changed due to economic hardships and other selfish reasons, that this may no longer be the norm. Probably one could attribute this to African’s view of common things such as bread as being sacred.
It is interesting to note that the Bible seems to view bread as sacred. In John 6:48 , Christ presents Himself as the Bread of Life. Traditionally, Christendom has been tempted without resisting to view this statement as being exclusively spiritual. On at least two occasions Christ makes a distinction between bread and His Word and Bread and His Body. In Matthew Christ reminds the devil that man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God. It is also interesting to note that man needs both the physical bread and the spiritual Word for sustenance. The problem with the devil was in excluding the Word as the basis for sustenance and forcing Christ to focus on the physical bread only.
The second occasion is the one recorded in John 6 – here again the problem seems to be that of excluding the spiritual and settling for the physical. Christ rebukes the crowd after feeding them from making this the only thing that matters. He challenges the crowd to reach out and take of the spiritual bread, His body in this case. It would appear that the crowd failed to make the connection. This was not a self-rebuke by Christ for having fed the multitude with bread and fish but a rebuke on them for not connecting the physical feeding to the spiritual feeding.
How about us have we succeeded in making the necessary connection? Our mistake could be that of making the bread exclusively spiritual, to a point where the physical bread loses its significance. That we are physical being is God’s creative act and the fact that we are spiritual is also His act, and Christ holds Himself responsible for sustaining both. It is a fact that is rarely accepted that when our physical bodies die life in its totality comes to an end, there is no spiritual existence without the body. This false dichotomy has led to many social ills perpetuated by Christians. Feeding the poor is relegated to insignificant gesture; while preaching of the Word is elevated to unprecedented levels of importance. In some cases the very ones who preach the Word have been implicated in the exploitation of the poor.
The Lord’s Supper in many ways lifts the curtain that continues to enshroud the meaning of Jesus as our bread. One of my favorite authors by the name of E G White puts this succinctly when she asserts that to the death of Christ we owe even this earthly life. She goes on to say that the bread we eat is the purchase of his broken body and the water we drink is bought by His spilled blood. These are the same sentiments echoed by Joseph Grassi in his book when he reminds us never to separate the global suffering and hunger from the Eucharist. This means that the provisions of our daily life are sacred and that every meal is as important as the sacrament. If this is true, if indeed Jesus is the bread of life, we need to share not only the gospel of Jesus but also the means at our disposal to alleviate suffering and poverty that surrounds us.