“So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
AT THE PRESENT POINT IN HISTORY, INDEPENDENCE AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY HAVE BECOME THE VIRTUES OF PRIME IMPORTANCE. We cannot conceive of a worse problem than being dependent on outside help. In our value system, “needy” is never good.
The truth is, of course, that none of us is ever really independent. We require the help of others — especially that of God — in all kinds of ways. But material prosperity tends to mask our neediness, and financial affluence fosters the illusion that we’re able to take care of ourselves. Many of us nowadays go for long stretches of time without having our independence bubble popped.
But it is to our advantage to have that bubble popped now and then. Apart from the question of whether we need other people, we certainly need God. Indeed, the word “need” hardly does justice to the utter dependency of our position in the presence of God, to whom we owe our very existence. And if that’s the truth of the matter, then whatever it takes to remind us of it is good.
When we’re counting our blessings we need to count those times when we’re forced to face our need for God. Any episode of “hunger” that disrupts our sense of self-sufficiency and jerks us back to reality is to be appreciated. Paul, for example, would not have chosen to have his “thorn in the flesh,” but it served as an attitude adjuster, and so he could say, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Jesus taught that the fortunate people are not the self-sufficient but the “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). If that sounds absurd to our ears, we need to hear it all the more. None of us needs God any more than any other, but those who’re painfully aware of their need are farther down the road toward God than those who aren’t.
“The Greek picture of a great man is the picture of a man who is conscious of nothing so much as of his own superiority, a man to whom a confession of need would be a confession of failure. The blessings of the Christian view are for the man conscious of his own poverty, the man sad for his own sins, the man hungry for a goodness which he is sadly conscious that he does not possess” (William Barclay).