26 “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.
There are two kinds of religious belief and practice. One wants to use God to help me achieve or protect what is valuable to me. The other wants to let God use me to achieve or protect what is valuable to God. The former comes to us pretty naturally. The latter comes harder.
Five thousand people have been fed on the hillside. From a mere five “loaves” (think small pita rather than loaf pans) and two fish (again, think small dried fish – remember this is a child’s lunch) – from five loaves everyone has been fed. However that happened, whether it was a miracle of loaves or a miracle of sharing, it was a sign. It pointed to something. Lunch was not an end in itself.
But we can make it the goal. Especially for hungry peasant farmers, the prospect of unlimited bread is like striking the lottery. No wonder they wanted to seize Jesus and make him king. And we are no different. All our presidential candidates have promised us prosperity. We are motivated by ‘pocketbook issues’ – and, if not our pocketbook, then other things that tie to our wants and desires.
What is true in politics is true in religion. I pray for God to keep my daughter safe. I pray that she will have a rich life of faith; a loving, believing, faithful, life-long partner from a good family; a rich and abundant family life; and meaningful work – but first on that list is to keep her safe.
God is not against meeting us there, in the place of our need. There are great mercies shown to us. Especially in those early days of our walk with God – God will show himself faithful. But the journey of faith is not about the power of God to supply all my needs; it is about the power of God to call me away from myself into love of neighbor – a journey that, oddly enough, is my real need, our true path, our true life, the life that partakes of all that is eternal.