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One Serving

by Tim O'Hearn

Most Americans are familiar with the nutritional labels that come on packaged foods. One of the items on that label is serving size. For instance, three Ghirardelli Squares chocolates equal one serving. We may not pay much attention to what is called a serving. A bag of microwave popcorn is considered three and a half servings, but most people will eat one bag in a sitting, without sharing. Those serving sizes are really a simple way to standardize the rest of the label, so that you can compare sodium levels or sugars. Ideally, though, we should consider a serving size the right amount that we need of a given foodstuff. In the same way, the Bible lists a serving size.

It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. (Lam 3:22-24)

The Lord is one serving, and one all-sufficient serving. Americans tend to want more than the recommended serving, and God may give us more; but all we need is a single serving. This was a lesson that God taught the Israelites in the wilderness. They begged for food and he provided. He provided just enough.

And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they knew not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat. This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did measure it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. (Ex 16:15-18)

God said an omer was a serving size. Then he miraculously made it so that whatever a man gathered to meet his needs, that was an omer. Anything that was left over to the next day spoiled, except that on the day before the Sabbath they were allowed to gather twice as much without spoilage. For forty years God said, this is your serving size, your portion. Thus the idea of a daily portion became ingrained in the Jewish mind.

When the apostles asked Jesus to teach them to pray, then, part of the prayer was “give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt 6:11) This was the equivalent of asking for the manna. In one sense Jesus is teaching them to be content with their proper serving size. Give us our daily bread, and that will be sufficient. And when God gives our daily bread, that is sufficient.

Sometimes we say that in Roman times people got paid by the day. They then bought their bread for that day. It may be true that they could not conceive of buying a weeks’ or months’ worth of groceries. It may also be true that they would not have been able to understand such excess. God gives us enough for a day, why do we need to purchase for days that may not come?

In America we have refrigerators and freezers. We have the means of storing and preserving enough food for several days, or even weeks. In most places we have the ability to do so, and it would not be wrong to save time and effort by buying in bulk. In doing so, though, we sometimes forget to consider that we might not be around to eat all that food. We need to buy with the attitude of James, “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” (Jas 4:15) As we walk through the grocery store we should look at nutrition labels, if only to remind ourselves that “the Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.”