We use many words loosely without really considering what they mean or what the terms are saying. I want you to consider the word ‘needs’ with me and shine a light into your heart and life that might help direct you to better thoughts and better living.
Over the years I have heard many people talk about what they ‘need’. I have heard people say they need a new car or a new job. I have heard people say, “I need this mess cleaned up right now!” I was once approached by a man who told me his friend desperately needed a ‘woman’.
What are our true needs? How can we differentiate a real need from something we just want?
Children often use the word ‘need’ in place of ‘want’. It’s their way of justifying their selfishness. “I need the same one he has.” “I need cordial not water.” “I need you to stop playing with my toys.”
Sadly, as adults we carry over that childish abuse of the word ‘need’ and think we can justify our wants by calling them needs. So when someone says, “I need to get out of this job”, they may be saying a number of things. They may be saying, “I can’t stand being around those people”, or “I feel demeaned by not having a more impressive title”, or “I want to own more material goods so I need to earn more money”, or “I can’t handle being told what to do so I want a more easy-going boss”. In each case the changed job is not a ‘need’ but a ‘want’.
So, what are true needs? The answer given in the Bible comes from Jesus, when He taught that God has all our needs under control.
“I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25,26
By limiting our ‘needs’ to just food and clothing Jesus appears to be defining our needs into two broad categories: Provision and Protection.
Food is the essential Provision needed in life. We do ‘need’ food, or we will starve and die, or be undernourished, weak and sickly. We actually ‘need’ food.
Clothing is another essential provision in life, for Protection. It protects us from heat and cold and the burning sun, but it also protects our modesty, since nakedness is sacred and not to be seen by others. (See my post on Sacred Nakedness at http://chrisfieldblog.com/2009/07/03/sacred-nakedness-video)
So we could limit our ‘needs’ to food and clothing or we could allow ourselves to expand that a little to those things needed for sustenance of life (food) and those things needed for protection of life (clothing). But from there all manner of wants become attached and we deceive ourselves that we have ‘needs’ that are not needs at all.
Let’s look at Provision. What needs to be provided to you to sustain your life? Obviously sufficient food to nourish you. But you probably can think of other things you consider you really ‘need’.
I have heard people say, “I need a coffee!” or “I need a stiff drink right now!” Neither coffee or alcohol are essential needs, but they medicate our mental-emotional state. We may feel the need for a sugar hit, or something soothing, or something that provides diversion. At that point we have moved from essential needs, such as the birds of the air have, and added something which we long for, are greedy for or lust for.
This is where we want things we don’t ‘need’ but we feel a need for them.
This is Provision out of order.
At the same time the issue of Protection gets out of order when we stop trusting God and living our lives in confidence in Him, and become driven by fears. When we are fearful of losing out in some way, especially once we have lusts active in our life, we will feel we ‘need’ a range of things added to our lives to give us security.
Many people feel the need for a good bank balance, or a reliable car, or a weapon under their pillow. People feel the ‘need’ for an ordered society, peace with those around them, a good reputation, spare clothes, spare money, food in the cupboard, and so on. The ‘need’ is actually for a desire for security.
Protection out of order becomes Fear leading to obsessive pursuit of protections and provisions that are not in fact needed. They are ‘wanted’ in order to replace reliance on God and to placate fearful thoughts oppressing the life of those who feel the ‘need’.
We find ourselves back at the old chestnuts of Greed and Fear. These are common human factors, such as the motivation behind movements in the stock market. Worldly people are driven by desires and fears. I say ‘worldly people’ even though most Christians are just as dominated by fear and greed as the world, because Christians should be free from both fear and greed, and be content with what they have, trusting their problems to God.
With those reflections in mind, consider a number of ‘need’ statements and see if you can spot fear or greed in them.
“I need to know the kitchen is clean before I retire at night.”
“I need to know you won’t get drunk.”
“I need that new phone.”
“I need to see that movie.”
“I need you to stop giving me trouble.”
“I need to get one of those new bikes I saw on TV.”
“I need some peace and quiet around here.”
“I need you to be more considerate.”
Let the Lord look into your heart and reveal areas of your life where you are not trusting Him and living by confidence in His Provision and Protection. One way to do that is to stop from time to time and check your values with the question What Do You Need?