Martin Luther, in his Small Catechism, has a long list of items he considers part of our daily bread. The list ends with “And the like.” The question arises, what do we include under the category of “And the Like.” How do we decide what is a need and what is a want, what is a necessary and what is a luxury?
Joseph Epstein, in his collection of shorter essays, “Wind Sprints,” provides us with an honest analysis and confession.
“I just purchased a new large screen plasma television set, and the size and perfection of it both appall and thrill me. I am appalled at my weakness for such a bit of unnecessary luxury and thrilled by the delight I’m finding in it.
The last year or so I discovered I did not see things on it (a 27” TV) as clearly as I used to do…Sometime having to rise out of my chair and walk right up to the television set to find out how or where, (a game) precisely stood.
I am an intellectual, University of Chicago bread…Intellectuals are trained to loathe television…
My general pattern is to be haughtily contemptuous of creature comforts and then, once I acquire them, grow accustomed to them with an unseemly haste. Had I been born much earlier, I’m sure to have made an utterly persuasive case against indoor plumbing. What do I need it for, I would no doubt has asked, as I have since asked about multiple other conveniences, all afterwards acquired and enjoyed with uncomplicated pleasure? I am a moral puritan, saved only by his hypocrisy.
If I am to live out the rest of my days as a couch potato, this television set will as least allow me to do so au gratin. (Sprinkled with bread crumbs and cheese.)”
Whatever we decide to include under “daily bread,” Luther reminds us, “We pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize (He gives without our prayers) and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”