Social Stability is Not to be Taken for Granted
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
6 May, 2021

Social Stability means the extent to which a society and its infrastructure, including its institutions are able remain reliable and predicable. Much of everyday life runs smoothly with a great deal happening that we do not see. Fair elections, medical care, stable government, economic stability, public services, transport and infrastructure, law and order, community relations and much more are things we can take for granted. But they are easily challenged as events of the past year have reminded us. We do not know what the future holds in relation to them. These outward necessities are blessings from God and while spiritual concerns are our key priority, we ought to be thankful for the outward benefits of this life. It is part of God’s providential care and we must not take it for granted. That is why Christ teaches us to make it a matter of daily prayer.

If we are thankful for these things, we will express that in prayer and if we feel our need these things, we must also bring that to the throne of grace. When we ask for “our daily bread” we are not just thinking about the food on our tables but also everything that makes that possible. We ought to be mindful of all the benefits we are daily loaded with. This is why the Larger Catechism widens the scope to “all the outward blessings of this life”.

It says “we pray for ourselves and others, that both they and we, waiting upon the providence of God from day to day in the use of lawful means, may, of his free gift, and as to his fatherly wisdom shall seem best, enjoy a competent portion of them; and have the same continued and blessed unto us in our holy and comfortable use of them, and contentment in them; and be kept from all things that are contrary to our temporal support and comfort” (Q193).

In this updated extract, Henry Scudder, a member of the Westminster Assembly, explains further how “our daily bread” includes all the blessings of this life.

1. Social Stability and our Daily Bread

Bread in Scripture refers to all kinds of food (Psalm 147:9; Job 23:12 and Proverbs 30:8) whether food or drink. In James 2:15. the words translated daily food are the same in meaning with daily bread and are expounded by James in the sixteenth verse as things necessary for the body. It also relates to whatever is necessary for preservation of life, such as clothes, houses etc. It also means the causes and effects of bread e.g. fruitful seasons, good temperature of air, health and cheerfulness (Acts 14:17).

In a word, it refers to all things which may preserve life, or restore health, such as medicine and skilful and faithful doctors. It also includes peace and good order, and all good means to maintain it: as a wise and courageous government, a strong, populous, loyal, and loving people. Anything contrary to this such as famine, disease, wars, sickness, pain etc are prayed against when we ask for our daily bread.

Our needs require that we should have supplies for this life, that we may have a right mind in a sound body. Otherwise, we can neither enjoy anything nor do good to our neighbour, nor do the service and works which the Lord appoints. We cannot benefit others nor serve God. It is hard for those who are have problems of mental health or who are dumb and deaf to help others compared to those who have the full health or mind and body.

We need are healthy air, food, drink, clothing, houses and whatever will keep from bodily infection and afflictions. They may serve to quench thirst, or satisfy hunger, or preserve from extremities of heat and cold, or to restore defects in nature.

These things cannot be had unless the Lord gives fruitful seasons and causes the earth to be fruitful. We must request these things from the Lord to satisfy human necessities. Yet when all these things are granted, such is human frailty that if we are not willing or able to make use of corn, wool, medicine etc we will be destitute of their use. Therefore, we seek that God would give gifts and skill to men for that purpose.

We may have all this but if we are exposed to the fury of enemies our life and welfare cannot be sustained. A good commonwealth, consisting of wise, just, and valiant governors, and of numerous, peaceable, loyal, and courageous subjects, is to be desired and everything contrary to all these prayed against.

2. Social Stability is the Gift of God

Having and being able to enjoy all the necessary things of this life, is the free gift of God (Job 36:32; Psalm 104:28; Psalm 145:15; 1 Chronicles 29:14). The earth is the Lord’s (1 Corinthians 10:26) and although he made it for our use, we have it only as stewards, who are accountable to Him as their master. We are merely tenants. The Lord must give us the things of this life to have and to hold, else they cannot rightfully be held by anyone.

We may have everything necessary as the rich fool did but not have the blessing of continued life to enjoy it (Luke 12:20). We may taste, and eat, and put on clothes, and yet be neither warm nor satisfied. They can do us no good without God’s blessing. This is why we must be exhorted and persuaded to ask them of God, whose gift they are. When they have received and enjoyed, we must acknowledge this as God’s gift with all thankfulness.

3. Social Stability and the Glory of God

Christ first taught His disciples to ask for the things that concerned God’s glory in the three first petitions. He then instructs them to ask for the things that concern their own good in three further petitions. When anyone has unfeignedly desired and sought the things which pertain to God’s honour and glory they may then with good warrant pray for and expect all good things both for body and soul (Matthew 6:33).

God has promised to give all good things to all such. God has promised to give to His children temporal good things as well as spiritual. Godliness has the promise of the present life (1 Timothy 4:6). A good condition of body and soul is a good means to encourage and a person to still glorify God. But it is presumption to think that God will bless us if we do not glorify His name in doing His will.

We may lawfully desire the things of this life. We must therefore pray and use all good and lawful means to live in this world. But this must be done after we have sought God’s glory. Also, it must be considered from whom, by what means, for whom, for what time, in what right, and in what measure and how we would have our needs supplied. And we must always remember that we asked for these things as far as they are consistent with God’s good will.

4. Social Stability and Intercession

Every Christian should desire and procure the bodily welfare of their neighbour. The law of charity binds us to love our neighbour as ourselves. Therefore, we must pray for them and procure their good, as we do our own. It is not “every man for himself” but “every man for his neighbour as for himself”.
This should move everyone to commend the condition others to God in prayer. And distribute and to those that need, giving more or less, according as God has made them able, and as their brethren’s necessities require. Humanity and Christianity both call for mercy from us. Doing good to our brethren, is only lending to the Lord and He will repay with advantage.

5. Social Stability and Contentment

This is no prayer for abundance, but for daily bread: neither too much nor too little, but according to need. The desires of the things of this life, must be moderate. The quality and quantity of things desired, must be only such, and so much, as is convenient for our person and condition. We are to be content with food and clothing (1 Timothy 6:8). Our life does not consist in the abundance of what we possess (Luke 12:13). Abundance is dangerous both to soul and body; it can lead to disregard of God and His works and even denying Him (Proverbs 30:9).

It is not a sin to have abundance; for Abraham, Job, David, and Solomon abounded in riches: but it is a sin to desire to be rich and If riches increase, we must not set our heart on them. We must not be high minded or trust in them.

6. Social Stability is Not the Primary Concern

In the Lord’s Prayer there is only one short petition for the things that concern natural life but two larger petitions that concern spiritual life. Though God allows His children to ask first for earthly things, yet He wills them to seek chiefly for heavenly things (Matthew 6:33). The desires of Christians should therefore, be fewer, and less vehement for the things of this life, and their principal concern is to be how their sins may be forgiven and the strength of sin diminished as the two petitions that follow emphasise.



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