Theology Thursday: Living by Bread Alone?

Hands clasped in praying position over open bible next to windowsill

The cares and concerns of daily life tend to draw our attention toward mundane realities. We worry about feeding the kids, car repairs, paying bills, getting to work on time and a multitude of other things that consume a ton of time and energy. By the end of a long week, we’re usually ready to check out, put our feet up and start scrolling through titles on Netflix. Some weeks are better than others, but they all seem to brim with tasks that distract us from things that really matter.

In a well-known passage that few have seriously considered, Jesus makes a simple but profound statement: “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Luke 4:4). With a few words, Christ pushes back on our tendency to get caught up in the busyness and concerns of daily existence. Of course we need bread, shelter, clothing and so forth. Jesus does not deny basic biological needs but he is deeply aware of the fact that God has created humans for much more than these things.

When we try to live by bread alone we eventually come to the conclusion that there is never enough bread to satisfy. Those among us who are the most successful in acquiring material goods tend to realize, in time, that their deepest longings are not fully met by such things. Even if we are not terribly materialistic (prone to overspending, overeating, overindulgence, etc.), the temptation to fixate on the things of this world can be strong. When we succumb to this temptation our lives begin to focus more on the creation than the One who created the earth and everything in it.

Life is a gift and everything we possess has been given to us as an expression of God’s love. Much like the gifts we give and receive from one another, we would do well to focus more on the One who provides for us than the gifts themselves. The God who gives us life, family and friends, and who consistently meets our daily needs is worthy of more attention than all the things he can give us put together. Jesus understood this well. When we settle for mundane things like bread, we ignore the greatest gift God has to offer which, ultimately, is God himself.

It can be difficult to believe that the God of the universe is so gracious that he is willing to stoop to our level and engage us personally, but that is precisely what he did by sending his only son. Jesus is the clearest expression of God’s love for us and an undeniable example of God’s desire to cultivate a personal relationship with us. In John’s Gospel, Jesus offers a powerful alternative to the “bread alone” strategy: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). This is an astonishing offer of self-giving love, sacrifice and friendship that offers a promise of abundant and eternal life that is worthy of all consideration.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.