Needs vs. Idolatry vs. God’s General Provision

By | October 14, 2012

An interesting thought:

It may be true that “man cannot live on bread alone”, however it is also certainly true that he cannot live very long without it. People like to say that Jesus provides for all our needs, but surely they can’t mean that this always happens directly. For example, it doesn’t seem reasonable to think that we could just forgo eating for the rest of our lives and that Jesus would some how directly, nutritionally sustain us. I imagine he could if he desired, but I don’t expect he would do so except in extraordinary circumstances.

On a normal basis, he has provided us collectively with a world of food. If someone does not have food, it is because they either haven’t put in the effort to acquire it, or someone or some group is not sharing.

If a person is not fed, they will eventually die physically. The physical part of a person is the most obvious to us, but there is more to people than solely this. People speak of the soul (mind, will, emotions) and spirit. If there are physical needs which, if not met, will result in physical death, might not there also be soul and spiritual needs which, if not met, can result in death in their respective areas? And if God primarily provides for our physical needs through the world in which he placed us, might not he also plan to provide for our other needs in similar fashion?

As mentioned, people talk about God providing for our needs as if he somehow, magically, does this directly. But as I’ve argued, this seems unreasonable to expect under normal circumstances. While people typically don’t expect physical needs to be met this way, they often do in regards to other types of needs, such as relational needs.

To look to something other than God for meeting a need is said by some to be idolatry. But is it idolatry to think a sandwich will save you if you are literally starving? Doesn’t food literally save us from death (at least one type of death)? I don’t believe this is idolatry.

Understanding that we must eat, drink, and breathe in order to survive does not mean that we hold these things to be gods. If I were to go a week or two without eating, I’d likely be obsessed with finding food. This doesn’t mean I idolize food. I don’t put food in the place of God. I don’t believe that food is all powerful or ultimately fulfilling, even if I believe it can physically save me in that moment.

Is seems good that we would be aware of and focused on unmet needs. If we were not, we could easily die without even knowing there was a problem… So if I’m obsessed, it is only as a starving man is obsessed with food. I don’t idolize it. I don’t expect it to fix everything in my life nor provide ultimate fulfillment. I don’t believe I’d be obsessed with it if I had it. I believe it can save me from a certain type of death (a living death of sorts?). I’m only obsessed with it because it relates to a deep, unmet need. And I don’t believe that God is failing to provide. We’ve simply got things all mixed up in how we live here (and I mean as a society, not just as individuals).

What do you think? I have mixed feelings about it. It seems God sustains us in ways. Some people seem to be fulfilled by God. But at the same time he doesn’t seem to meet all our desires and needs directly, as the author talks about. Someone did say that when you’re not in the same place as the majority of your peers, it puts you in a tough position and that the above captures that challenge well.

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