Mother of Invention – Pt 2

Bread holds a unique and mysterious place in culture. Every culture has bread of some sort and the sharing of that bread has great meaning.

I love bread: homemade bread, multi-grain bread, Italian bread, white bread, brown bread, sourdough bread – I just love bread!

Bread is an essential ingredient for life. The better the bread, the better the life. Conversely, the better the life, the better the bread. Our world has a love affair with bread.

Several years ago, in a primitive inland area of Northeastern Brazil, I came to a tiny village. Placed in the center of this village, was a single tin-roof-capped open air oven. The oven was a large slab with a fire built beneath.

The women of the village (along with children and chickens) gathered there to grind tapioca root into a flour from which they made their bread.

I love bread! My desire for bread overshadowed the unkempt and unclean environment. Imagine something that looks like a tortilla that is 12 inches in diameter and one inch thick, toasted on this oven-slab.

Having the appearance of a freshly grilled tortilla, I was eager to give it a try. The village leaders were as eager to share this indigenous bread with me as I was to eat it.

In spite of me speaking little Portuguese’ and them speaking no English, we had no difficulty communicating the common delight of this fresh-off-the-grill treat. The sharing of bread transcended language barriers and opened avenues of relationship.

Yet, this bread came at the expense to them. It came at the cost of a great deal of sweat equity. I was being blessed by the sweat of their brow.

First, in tropical heat, the tapioca had to be dug up, the root separated from the plant, and ground up by hand.

Water and hot milk was necessary to finish the project but running water was called so only because someone had to run to the stream or well to fetch it. Similarly, the milk used was fresh from the cow that had to first be fed then milked.

Prior to harvesting and preparation, the ground had to be turned by hand and the tapioca planted. Later, I watched as they watered these plants laboriously one small cup at a time.

Their processes were even more primitive than were those of our primitive Arkansas farm where much of our work was done by mules.

The bread they shared with me represented a huge amount of effort on their part: they sacrificed much to share their bread with me.

The bread they shared with me was an intentional token of their honor and respect for me as their guest. It was the product of their life’s labor. It came at the intense cost of their sweat.

Why did God use bread as the symbol for the product of our sweat equity? Why did God, when he thrust man from the garden, promise him bread by the ‘sweat of his brow?’

Previously the point was made that in the garden were all the necessities that man needed to fuel his imagination and to translate that imagination into reality. Even now, all these eons later, we have not exhausted the possibilities of creating from the elements which once existed only in the mind of God but were hidden within his creation.

Further, the point was, that to spur that creativity a motive was needed. Everything we do turns on the desire and need for bread.

So is the bread we eat by the sweat of our brow a curse?

When God said “By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, …” [Ge. 3:19 (NASB)] was this part of the curse brought on by sin?

The truth is, that eating of bread by the sweat of one’s brow may not be the curse we have traditionally thought it to be.

What if God, in his mercy, is making the promise to fallen man, that his work has a future. Even though he can no longer pluck his meals in the convenience and plenty of the garden, the promise seems to be that the earth will respond to his efforts and his planning ahead in order to provide a return, as equity for his sweat, in bread.

Like money, bread does not grow on trees. Man soon learned that the assurance of his bread depended on his ability to assemble community toward a common task, to plan and to work toward a harvest. The bounty of his bread depended on how well he did these things. Thus, if necessity is the mother of invention, bread is invention’s grandmother.

Now it’s your turn: Please let me hear your thoughts on this line of reasoning. What would you add?

Please scroll down to the comments section below and leave your thoughts.

Charlie Blair,
Chief Engagement Officer