I sleep in a comfortable bed, in a home that’s paid for and ours. I wake up, and pad out to the kitchen to make myself some strong tea. I take my tea to the living room, open my laptop, and begin writing, comfortably ensconced in my recliner.
Certainly, we have our challenges. But for now, it’s a relatively easy life. We don’t think of ourselves as rich, and by comparison, have plenty of friends with higher incomes, bigger houses, and newer or fancier cars. Yet we know that on a global scale, we are rich beyond measure. We don’t worry about the rent or where our next meal is coming from. We tend toward the frugal side, but if we really need something, we can buy it.
Put differently, we don’t pray much for our daily bread, because it’s too easy to take that bread for granted.
I think of the people to whom Jesus declared himself to be the bread of life, saying, “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). It’s reminiscent of what he had said to the Samaritan woman at the well: “whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again” (John 4:14). But the two statements, similar as they were, received very different responses.
The first group had seen Jesus miraculously feed the multitudes, and sought him out as one who could meet their continued need for bread. They wanted a God who would feed them as he had fed the Israelites manna in the desert. The sign should have been the occasion for faith, to see beyond their physical hunger to the spiritual. But when Jesus didn’t give them what they wanted, they began to grumble and turn away.
The Samaritan woman responded differently. She, too, had needs. But she seemed to thirst for more than just water, or an easier way to supply her daily need of it. She was actually looking for the Messiah. Jesus’ prophetic knowledge was a sign in its proper sense: it pointed her to his true identity, to the answer to her deepest questions. Caught up in wonder, she responded in faith.
We come to God with our needs, and should. The question is whether we do so in a way that betrays an impoverished relationship, as with the adult children who only call their parents when they need money. Do we just need God because of what he can do to take care of our problems?
Jesus seems to think that our true hunger and thirst run deeper than that. In his grace, he’s willing to do something about it.
But we have to realize the need first.