Gleanings – When Life Isn’t Life

Matthew 4:1-11

“Man shall not live by bread alone.”

Jesus says this in response to the tempter who would have Jesus abandon faithfulness in order to satisfy basic human need. Jesus was hungry. Very hungry. Ever fasted for forty days? Jesus said no to the tempter. Why? Because life lived where needs are met in order to sustain life is not life at all. “Man does not live by bread alone.”

Life is found in God. We are molded by His hands and animated by His breath.  In Him we live and move and have our being. What does it mean to gain the whole world including sufficient food to sustain human existence if one forfeits his soul? No truer words have been spoken than those of St. Augustine. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Doing without for the welfare of the Kingdom (don’t miss Paul’s suffering for the welfare of the body in the Colossians lesson for today) is difficult for us to understand. In our environment few, if any, do without food sufficient for life. Nor would such deprivation be expected of us in order to advance a cause. And it is highly likely that such austerity or asceticism would be met with derision. “That’s not healthy.” And of course if you can have health and conscience, why wouldn’t you?

But there are places where food to sustain life and conscience collide. At least one mainline church in the US offers food and clothing to the poor in Africa with the expectation that the poor will be grateful and support the church’s apostasy or at least remain silent in the face of it. A choice must be made.

The thought of having to choose on behalf of many whether to continue the flow of food versus faithfulness to Jesus is unimaginable in my circles. But not in Africa. Not in Rwanda. Some redwoods in the forest of faith have said no, lived with the consequences and trusted that God would provide. They are Kolini and Rucyahana and Rwaje to name a few. And it is my honor to have held their hands and carried their bags. They have said, some literally, “You can’t pile the money high enough for me to run the risk of hell.”

Such meaty faith and witness is born of deep conviction, one being life sustained on bread alone is no life at all.

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