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The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. Psalm 23:1
John Jacob Raub, OCD, in his book, Who Told You That You Were Naked?: Freedom From Judgement, Guilt and Fear of Punishment, repeats the title of this blog over and over again as a refrain for his reflections: I have everything I need; there is nothing I need that I do not have. Clearly this insight finds its inspiration in Psalm 23 (22) which has given comfort to Christians and Jews for millennia. But do I believe that? And what exactly does it mean that I will have everything I need? What it possibly mean that I will lack nothing?
We live in a 21st American culture in which the line between a want and a need is constantly being blurred and eliminated by a consumer culture that requires constant and constantly increasing expenditures in order to thrive and grow. Our presumption that life demands growth makes us vulnerable to the enticements of advertising and competition. And it is a presumption, a presupposition, which is not present in nature. No natural system can sustain a constant state of growth or expansion. The only possible one that comes to mind is a metastasizing cancer which ultimately kills its host and thus itself.
We know how powerful it can be to define a want as a need. A need requires extended effort to fulfill that need. If a desire can be understood as a need, it can begin along with other desires to take over our life and resources. Clearly Jesus and the psalmist wants us to have clarity about our desires and our needs. If we can maintain this differential in our lives, we still face the certain reality that we do in fact have needs. We need sustenance. We need security and safety. We need relationships. We need these and other things in order to maintain life and to be healthy. If we do not have these things, our life becomes something less than the fullness of human life which the Divine One intended. We know that many people do not have these things, that their needs are met, and that they lack some essential realities in their life. Perhaps each of us have now or in the past experience these very same unmet needs.
If we do not have enough to eat, adequate shelter, or health, does a firm belief in Jesus the Christ change those realities. Is there some kind of firm guarantee that if I have faith in Jesus that all my needs will be met and my life protected from the vicissitudes of ordinary human life? If you think that, then the only reasonable way to explain those unmet needs is by concluding that a person's faith is just no strong enough or vital enough. In other words, we end up blaming the victim and ascribing true faith to those whose needs are being met. This reasoning is exactingly what Jesus preached against.
Faith in Jesus will unerringly meet our need for life but it is not the life of this world. When Jesus tells his apostles,
"I am the gate for the sheep.All who came before me are thieves and robbers,but the sheep did not listen to them.I am the gate.Whoever enters through me will be saved,and will come in and go out and find pasture.A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly." John 10:7-10he is not talking about the life of this world but the world from which he came, the world of the triune Divine One. This is the life that never ends and is abundant beyond our imagining. If we think about what is most important in our existence, we can see that eternal life is our ultimate goal. The Divine One deeply desires that our life in this world is one in which our needs are met and in which we live a full and complete human life. Whether that is true for us or anyone is a function of the circumstances in which we live rather than our faith in Jesus. However, it is faith in Jesus and the Divine One that guarantees we will have true life in wild abundance.