By Pastor David M. Choi
When Jesus was being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, the Devil said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” To which Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Remember, by this point, Jesus had not eaten anything for forty days and forty nights. And so, knowing that Jesus was suffering from excruciating hunger, Satan availed himself of the opportunity to trick Jesus into conceding that His greatest need was bread and bread alone.
If we had not already rehearsed the ‘Christian’ answer beforehand, we’d probably agree with Satan. After all, if someone is starving, then what other remedy is there but to eat? If someone is thirsty, surely, what is there to do but drink? If someone is tired, the proper solution is a no-brainer. It’s to sleep! Therefore, Jesus’ answer doesn’t make any sense, because He says the way He will satisfy His physical hunger is by first turning to the word of God.
Up to this point, you have experienced enough (pandemic, etc.) disruption in your life that you feel like chaos reigns. Though it seems like things have slowly been returning back to normal, on the one hand, you’ve been feeling the ongoing residual effects of your life being disrupted (e.g. from Zoom fatigue and social distancing) while on the other hand you’ve been encountering new disruptions. And it’s frustrating, because while you’ve been trying to mend the broken pieces of your life it’s like someone (perhaps the Devil) keeps coming in with a hammer only to break them up into a thousand more pieces. We just wish things could truly go back to normal… Life before all this happened.
No doubt, there is a need we have for comfort and familiarity, or you could say normalcy. We have a need for familiar faces and relational connections; familiar routines in church, school, and workplaces; familiar activities of play and leisure. This desire is not sentimental per se. Just like bread, drink, or sleep, these things are also real needs.
The American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, was famous for discovering what he called “The Hierarchy of Needs.” The belief was that when life gets disrupted people must meet needs of lower life functions before they can move onto needs of higher life functions. So, when the pandemic broke out, we immediately tended to the lower needs of bodily health and safety. We were not interested in the need for aesthetics, by trying to figure out ways to go to the movies or art galleries. When people lost their jobs, they focused on their need for income, not the need to travel and see their families in China. You get the point. Basic needs, according to Maslow, deserve attention first.
Though we may have doubted it before, we’ve quickly come to discover that familiarity and (at least some semblance of) normalcy rank among those basic needs for human life. The problem is that like movie-going or travel we’ve come to see our need for God and our relationship with Christ as a ‘higher’ need. School and friends first, and then God later. That is, in tandem with the Devil, we say bread first, God second.
If Jesus Himself says the word of God is His greatest need, then this should tell us something about what our own greatest need is. Notice, Jesus doesn’t dismiss our need for bread. Instead, He says that human beings should not live by bread alone. So, too, He doesn’t dismiss your need for some kind of normalcy, but Christ says that normalcy in and of itself is not sufficient for you, and it never will be. As much as you long for pre-pandemic life right now, you remember well that even that life was insufficient. Even when you had normalcy, it wasn’t enough.
And now, what we couldn’t see before, God has shown us through our sufferings that truly our greatest need is Christ and every word that comes from Him. In His response to the Devil, Jesus shows us that God is a need more basic than our basic needs. But anyone who truly knows God knows that God is not a basic need in the sense that food and water are. You see, God is not someone who just gives us the bare minimum for survival. But rather, Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life,” and what’s more, “and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). It is good that our deepest need is God, because Jesus Christ is a God of abundance. This is why even when we have nothing, in Him, we still have everything; and why even when normalcy remains in fragments we still have the constancy of an ever-faithful Friend, Lord, and King.
Reflection + Prayer Journaling:
What would you say you’ve been in need of lately? How has that need (or needs) displaced the greatest need you have for Christ? Why do you think it’s been so difficult for you to acknowledge what Jesus had acknowledged in the wilderness, that more than ‘bread’ you really need Him?
Talk to Christ and ask Him to help you see what’s going on in your heart. Ask Christ to help you to truly feel your need for Him as you meditate on Psalm 42:1:
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.