Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bread Alone

. . . man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Jesus answered, “It is written, man does not live on bread alone” (Luke 4:4).

Bread alone. Jesus said we couldn’t live on that, but I’ve tried. Seems I keep trying.

I took the kids to Roasters last night. That’s a favorite of ours. Good food, very kid friendly. And on top of that, before your meal comes out they bring you a basket of rolls and cornbread muffins. That means that for about ten minutes you’re sitting there with bread alone – and when the rolls are hot, that’s almost all you need. It requires great discipline to keep from making a meal out of bread alone.

Bread alone can be a problem and here’s why: It fills you up so that you don’t have an appetite for anything else. You’re full, but with nothing but rolls and muffins you are not well fed. There’s a difference.

Jesus knew this well. That’s why after a forty day fast, when the adversary came and tempted him with the immediate availability of warm rolls, Jesus reached back to Deuteronomy 8:3. Our craving for bread is misleading. The rolls can fill our stomachs – but what we need to truly live comes from God. God’s words give life. The bread basket will eventually be empty, and those who chow down on the rolls will be hungry again. But God’s words feed us in way that satisfies something deep within.

Throughout the Bible, the ordinary experiences of physical hunger and thirst serve as powerful metaphors for the spiritual life. Standing at a well with a Samaritan woman, Jesus said that he could give her water that would mean never being thirsty again (John 4:14). Jesus stood up at the height of a religious festival and told all who were thirsty to come to him; he would cause springs of living water to bubble up within them (John 7:38). The Psalmist observed that we tend to go to bed late and get up early, “eating the bread of anxious toil” (Psalm 127:2).

In the wilderness God gave bread from heaven every morning, but the bread wasn’t the point. Trusting God’s promise to provide was the point. We don’t live by bread alone. We live by the words God speaks. For you and me, those words are heard in the text of scripture.

But still, we fill ourselves with bread alone. And that’s not confined to hot rolls and muffins. Bread alone is a steady paycheck and adequate insurance. It can be clothes that make us feel good. Bread alone is a car with a fresh oil change and decent tires. Bread alone is getting the kids registered for the next season’s sports activities and taking satisfaction in their good grades. Bread is anything of which we say, “as long as we have that, we’ll be fine.”

And the bread is good, even necessary. But bread alone cannot truly fill us. We need God’s word. The question comes back to your appetite. What do you fill yourself with every day? Leave room for the words that truly give you life.

Gracious God, the bread offered to me by the world I live in is appealing. It seems to promise so much – and yet it doesn’t last long. I find myself hungry again. Give me an appetite for your words. Teach me how to feed on what you have spoken so that my hope will not be placed entirely on bread alone. Amen.

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