Man shall not live on bread alone

“…but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” And so shall woman – the word used in Matthew 4:4 is ἄνθρωπος (pronounced anthropos), which is the word to distinguish humans from plants and other animals. Both male and female are included in ἄνθρωπος.

Anyway, the word of God is nourishment for our soul. Like bread (and water and other nutrients), we cannot live without it. Every metaphor has its limits, but I prefer to explore a metaphor with all its richness and revelation of truth until the boundary of absurdity is clearly seen. Unfortunately, I took physiology and biochemistry about a dozen years ago, so it has been a while since I have reviewed the processes of digestion and absorption of food at a molecular level. I wish I could expound on this analogy in terms of ATP. But I think that when we absorb nutrients, that food becomes a part of our body, whether a tiny glucose molecule or a trace amount of iron, and it enables our cells to function and we become our best selves, energized and able to live. Without bread, we have no source of energy. Well, without food our muscles break down and are used for energy instead. But eventually, our bodies can no longer supply what our cells need to function. And we die without bread.

Bread is eaten to give us life. For those of us living in luxurious circumstances, such as the majority of people in the United States, we might not think about it being necessary for life. We just enjoy eating food. But we need food to live. And we need the word of God to live.

I grew up in California, and I went to high school in the late nineties. And by the time I graduated high school, being a hippie was really cool. I personally was not a true hippie, but I had friends who had hippie-flair. I think this was before hipsterdom. I think. Anyway, somewhere between the movie Clueless (which in terms of style was actually not very hippie-esque – but hey, it was a popular movie) and my English classes and probably some other cool movies I never actually saw (Reality Bites? I don’t know) and listening to CD’s of sixties music like Simon and Garfunkel and Bob Dylan, I imbibed the value that authenticity is really important. That somehow, our true selves must be uninhibited by social conventions. This does not mean that I was truly authentic. But unfortunately, it did mean that sometimes I felt as a zealous, Bible-thumping high school student and even today occasionally that by trying to conform to what the Bible taught made me less authentic and less real. Less alive. But that is not what the Bible claims.

Both Jesus and the Old Testament use the analogy that scripture is like bread and that humans need the word of God to live. This could mean that somewhere off in space, God is sustaining our very lives by saying a word that keeps us alive. That’s possible. Actually, I think that is true (well, not necessarily the part about God floating around in outer space like the mother of kombucha). But the bread analogy goes further. Many of the references in both the Old and New Testament speak of scripture as a means to teach us and form us. By the transforming of our minds we are equipped to be our best, most authentic self, created to be like God, the I AM, who is love: who is patient, who is kind, who is not envious, who is humble, who is gentle, who is not self-seeking, who is not easily-angered, who forgives us all our wrongs. My most authentic self is not like God. So, in a sense, my high school angst about not being completely authentic is quasi-justified. But there is a deeper authentic self. It is our best self. It is the self that is sustained and guided by the grace and truth in scripture. It is the self that is waiting to burst forth when we are obedient doers of God’s word.

I am not saying that we enter heaven by being good and obeying the Bible. I am saying that the Bible teaches that fullness of life comes by living according to what the Bible teaches. There is a difference. Faith in Jesus is the way to heaven. It’s simple. But God also wants to transform us to become truly good. And the Bible teaches us how to become truly good (among many other things, like who God is, how he deals with us, his history with the human race, his incarnation among us, and the significance of that incarnation).

Anyway, I stumbled upon this topic through Psalm 107 (and you thought I was done with it!) because one of the stanzas is about some people who became rebellious to (I assume) God’s word. And the result of their actions was that they suffered, and their taste for food (is this merely physical food?) diminished. They were on the brink of death and called out to God, and he heals them by giving his word:

Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.

They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.

He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.

Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.

~Psalm 107:17-22

As mentioned in the previous post, I think this is ultimately referring to God sending his word, Jesus, to rescue all people from the grave. These verses also suggest that if we are spiritually sick, we might not crave the things that we really need. I like the insight from this psalm of why we might not crave the word of God. Rebellion toward God’s word is usually rooted in a belief of self-sufficiency. Despite Psalm 119 ending with a prayer for mercy, Psalm 119 must be the words of a very righteous, non-rebellious person because that (very, very long) psalm is all about craving God’s word. I hope that my spiritual appetite begins to want the food that feeds my soul. I want to be blessed, and I want to draw up nutrients to become genuinely good.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,

but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither –

whatever they do prospers.

~Psalm 1:1-3



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