by Tara Johnson
Recently, my oldest daughter was waxing poetic about the difference between our wants and needs and she prompted an interesting discussion. Bethany, in all her child-like wisdom said, “Mom, did you know our wants are not our needs?”
“Yes, I seem to remember hearing something about that.” I smiled and tugged her blonde hair with affection. “So what does God give us that we really need?”
“Jesus, shelter, food, water, clothes and shoes.”
My youngest daughter piped in. “And a mailbox.”
Turning to her little sister with a flicker of annoyance born of sisterly irritation, Bethany asked Callie, “Why a mailbox?”
Callie shrugged. “For Netflix.”
Her remark made me laugh yet caused a moment of reflection. There are a lot of things we say we need. But how many of us are just saturated with want?
I need a raise. I need a break. I need faster internet. I need a new phone. I need a weekend of R & R. I need my kids to behave. I need more ‘me’ time. I need a bigger house. I need more storage room…
The difference between our corner of the world and other cultures became glaringly obvious when I was speaking at a women’s retreat in Belize. We were talking about idols in our lives and I had just remarked that one indicator of an idol we’ve erected in our hearts can be revealed by the one thing we think we couldn’t live without. So I asked, “What is the one thing you think you couldn’t live without?”
I coaxed, “Come one. Don’t be shy.”
One woman meekly raised her hand. “Water?”
Her answer took me off guard. “Well, yes. Water is not an idol, of course. It’s a need. What else?”
More blank stares.
The women slowly began chattering about the things they couldn’t live without. Food, water, clothes. Preferably a roof over head. That was it.
The contrast between our cultures slapped me in the face. I chuckled. “You know what? You guys are exactly right. Those are our needs. Those things and Jesus. I guess when I asked that question, I was thinking about the idols many of us worship where I live.”
One woman up front leaned forward. “Like what?”
Grinning, I answered. “One time I posed this question for a ladies group and a woman told me she literally could not live without her cell phone and texting.”
The Belizean woman snorted in derision. “What? You people be crazy!”
When we’re too busy to attend church because we’re gone every weekend doing sports or getting our much need R & R at the lake, we’ve bowed down to the idol of entertainment. When we give away precious time with our children because we’re working late to afford that sleek new vehicle that we just had to have, we’ve fallen at the feet of the idol Possessions. When we sacrifice our sleep because we’re too busy scrolling through social media, updating our pictures or checking to see how many follows or likes we’ve gained, we’ve worshiped the god of self.
Am I saying it’s wrong to take a vacation or crave some down time? Absolutely not. Our bodies have emotional and physical needs as well. The problem comes from an out-of-balance life that focuses most of its attention on physical desires and entertainment and starves out the spiritual man. An out-of-balance life has a nasty way of tipping over at some point.
Quite honestly, sometimes we are so focused on what we want, we end up missing the things we need. But here’s the amazing thing: when we focus on attending to our spiritual needs, a vibrant, obedient relationship with Christ, the other needs, the emotional and physical things tend to be filled as well. He takes care of all of it.
Forget the techie gear or our ever-expanding wish lists. What we actually need is a heart focused on Christ. We need to not just make him number one but our everything. We need a heart surrendered to obey Him, even if that hard thing He’s asking us to do isn’t on our wish list. We need to nurture our time with Him.
Food, water and shelter are good too.
Oh, and Netflix.
Have you struggled with this issue? What’s the one thing you’ve always thought you couldn’t live without? More importantly, do you consider Netflix necessary for survival? 😉