Thoughts on Need

I once read a book about need becoming a “new religion”; appropriately title Need: The New Religion by Tony Walter. The essence of the book as I remember was that our culture has decided that if we have a need it must be met, because needs are really “inalienable” rights of sorts. From there it becomes just a few short steps to redefining most of the things we desire as needs; and to consider that failure to meet those needs is considered immoral – thus leading to all kinds of misguided demands.

Walter points out that the Christian church has picked up this same concept from the culture. We feel that needs must be met by God; He even said “he would supply all our needs.” And we are not above defining all sorts of things as needs and demanding of God (and his people) that they be met. Yet we miss that often God will not meet our needs, however we define them; and often we must learn to live with unmet needs. That promise about God’s supply is in the context of learning to be content with what we have whether a little or much, and the promise was given to a group of people who had given away almost more than they had to the service of God (Philippians 4:10-19). The book is now out of print, but worth looking for on the used market. Very challenging even today.

I’m reminded that the only way to keep from falling into the pit of self-centeredness over needs is to focus on God and persistently ask his strength to live a great life even if my needs go unmet. I think the key to contentment is not to pray for my needs (however I define them) to be met, but rather to have the strength to live well if those needs remain unmet. In the deepest sense we have only one real need – to be rightly related to God.

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