Spiritual starvation is a real and present danger.
The scripture says ‘Man cannot live on bread alone, but needs every word that God speaks.’
After his baptism Jesus goes to the wilderness to fast and pray. During this time he is tempted three times by the devil. In this first of the three temptations the devil tries to get Jesus to prove that he is God’s son by turning rocks into bread. He tries to get Jesus to break his fast and give in to his hunger: “After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry. Then the Devil came to him and said, ‘If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.’” (Matthew 4:2-3). Jesus replies by quoting this scripture from Deuteronomy 8:3 – “Man cannot live on bread alone, but needs every word that God speaks.”
Even though we need bread to live, we also need to be in control of our physical desires. The devil tries to tell us that things like food, physical comfort, work, addictions, or sex are far more important than they actually are. The Hebrews incorporated seasons of fasting into their lives and added additional fasts during times of trouble. They considered fasting to be an essential spiritual discipline.
When Jesus experiences temptation he fights back by relying on his knowledge of scripture. He uses scripture as a spiritual life raft during this time of trial. When he quotes this scripture from Deuteronomy he affirms that we need both bread and God for life. He affirms that we are both physical and spiritual beings with both physical and spiritual needs. If we neglect either of these needs we will experience starvation and death. Spirituality doesn’t enhance our lives; it is an absolute necessity.
We long for the transcendent and the eternal. We long for a sense of connection with the universe and all creation. We long for an escape from the sometimes grim reality of our physical circumstances. We need a peace that no amount of bread or wealth can provide. Jesus says that whether or not we recognize it we are absolutely dependent on God. He says that our need for God is as great as our need for food.
I’ve heard this scripture used to promote the importance of daily Bible reading, but Jesus doesn’t say to the devil that man needs “every written word of the Law”. He affirms the Jewish belief in a living God who speaks and continually reveals himself and his plans to man. Like most people I believe that Bible gives us a lot of information about the history of man’s relationship with God. For me it is both inspiring and instructive, but it is only through prayer and an active ongoing relationship that I can really know God. The Bible is only one of the ways in which God reveals his will for us.
I need every word that God speaks. I need to be sure that I don’t miss anything because every word is vital and breathes life into me. I know that I miss a lot of what God has to say, but I need to try to hear and absorb as much as I can so that I can be spiritually nourished and healthy.
I learned this lesson the hard way. By the time I was a teenager I left the church. I didn’t understand the whole Christian thing and I was more interested in having fun and being successful. But by the time I was 30 years old I found that I had become a scared, angry, lonely, selfish, self-serving, resentful, cynical, negative, bitter young woman. In the search for love and external validation I had compromised myself in ways that I never dreamed possible. I experienced moral failure – with no one to blame but myself. One day, one of my friends told me, “You are so messed up that no one decent is ever going to want to have anything to do with you.” It sounds harsh, but it needed to be said. He was a good friend. It wasn’t much later that I opened up the channel of communication with God and invited him into my life. I was all alone when I did this, and I was filled with love, joy, and peace. After that everything changed for the better and I have lots of decent friends now.
My problem as a young adult was that I was suffering from the spiritual starvation that comes from trying to live on bread alone. After I began to nourish myself with God’s word it all turned around and life began to make sense. I need that fresh bread every day, so I try to keep my spiritual eyes and ears open. I can’t afford to miss a thing, because without God’s guidance I go downhill pretty fast.
What does this scripture say to you?