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Women and bread making - the tangible provision of God?

24 July 2013

Indian woman making bread  

We often pray for 'tangible' experiences of God, or for God to be 'real' in our lives. Along with air and water, what could be more tangible than our daily bread?

When I paused to consider this prayer, I thought of where, humanly speaking, my bread comes from.

It usually comes from the supermarket, sometimes from a bakery - occasionally, if I'm lucky, from my bread-making brother-in-law. Most often, though, it's cheap and convenient.

It's breaking bread together that's important, not where it comes from. Or is it?

Certainly, if I'm lucky enough to get one of my brother-in-law's loaves, I think about it.

He will have got up early, possibly before light, and made it. Mixed it, kneaded it, proved it twice, shaped and crafted it, and baked it.

When we eat it, we savour it. It tastes much better than supermarket bread, but it's the time and love that I am aware of. 

I see how God has worked through him to bless and provide for me. I realise more tangibly God's provision of my daily bread.

It made me think - where would Jesus' bread have come from? Where would the bread he broke with the disciples, hours before he died, have come from?

He could have miraculously made it, but we know that there were particular contexts around his miraculous provision for the 5,000 and 4,000, and we know he could not be tempted to turn 'stones to bread' merely to satisfy and glorify himself.

So we can assume that someone provided for Jesus' daily bread.

In many communities across the world, bread making is done by women.

In many poor communities, women are not only responsible for providing water for their families but also for making bread, or other simple and filling food.

They are part of the answer to the prayer 'give us this day our daily bread'. They are part of the tangible provision of God.

Yet women are undervalued in our communities. They often face discrimination because of their gender - whether this is political, cultural, social or economic - and live at high risk of violence, with one in three women worldwide experiencing gender-based violence.

Yet Jesus advocated for women. He didn't take for granted the hospitality and generosity of women who supported him, but honoured them.

He sought for women to be part of his ministry, to be his disciples.

Luke (8:1-3) makes a specific account of women who, through their own means, financially supported Jesus and the twelve. These women would have paid for or made bread for Jesus.

They faithfully followed him, supported him, loved him and then mourned him - indeed, a grief-stricken Mary Magdalene was the first person Jesus spoke to when he had risen.

Speaking first to women, eating with women, healing women who were considered unclean - these were just a few ways Jesus broke with gender convention.

Whatever we make of the gender dynamics of Jesus' day or our own, we see how Jesus, whether breaking convention or working within it, valued and elevated women around him.

Now when I pray I think of where my bread comes from. I thank God that he often gives us our daily bread through others - and around the world this is largely through women.

I also think of the convention Jesus broke with in order to honour these women, to include them in his ministry just as he included 12 men, not because of their own merit but because of his desire to use us in his work.

I pray as we break bread around the world that we will advocate for women in our communities - often the bread makers - and, as we pray 'give us this day our daily bread', we will bless and honour those who God uses to be the tangible answer to our prayer.


Lord, we thank you for our daily bread.
We thank you for the tangible provision we receive from you,
through others,
through women.
We thank you that through your daily bread
you enabled women to be part of your ministry on earth.
We thank you for our daily bread makers.
We pray blessing on those that willingly give their hands
to your works of provision.
Lord, we thank you for our daily provision
and for your desire to use us daily for the provision of others.
We thank you for our daily bread,
and pray rich blessing on those that provide for us.

Helen Griffiths, consultant in international human rights law and violence against women, and a member of Tearfund Wales Advisory Committee. 


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