Summary: In the Gospel lesson from the 1st Sunday of Lent we hear Jesus say that a person does not live by bread alone. How often do we do that in our own lives however?
“‘BOMB CYCLONE’ BLASTS THROUGH CENTRAL US”[i]
This was a Thursday morning headline from CNN’s website, highlighting the historic late winter storm that swept across a great portion of the central part of the United States during the middle of this week that saw lots of people being affected by blizzards, flooding, and hurricane-force winds.
Here in the Northwest corner of Minnesota, we started preparing for the coming of this historic “storm of the century,” as it was being called, a full day before it was supposed to impact us. In the days leading up to the storm we were being told to expect up to 18” of possible snow combined with hurricane type winds gusting up to 70+ miles per hour. With these conditions threatening to keep us cooped up in our homes for a day or more we all headed out to stock up on the provisions we would need to get us through. As anyone can probably guess the two places that got targeted most by people preparing for the storm were the grocery stores and the liquor stores. Whenever big storms come around, with warning ahead of time, whether in the Midwest or on the Coasts, people always make sure to stock up on bread, eggs, and other staple foods. And of course, most cannot forget about grabbing a 12 pack, or two, to help get them through those few days cooped up at home. This was no different for us here in Northwest Minnesota this time around for this historic Bomb Cyclone, and I am sure it was the same for most other places this storm affected.
As a society as a whole, when we get into this preparedness mode, we generally tend to get tunnel vision of sorts and begin to only think about what we need to get through the storm and pay little to no attention to the most vulnerable people in our society who may not be able to get prepared themselves. I am embarrassed to admit that for this storm I too was among the general population who thought to make sure I had enough provisions, food and otherwise, to last my family and I for more than a few days that we could have been affected. I did not give a single thought to those in my own community who may not have been able to do the same; those on the fringe of society for whatever reason. It is sad to say that we as a society, myself included, do indeed try to live by “bread alone,” despite what Jesus says in last Sunday’s gospel lesson from Luke.[ii]
In this gospel text, Luke 4:1-13, Jesus finds himself, after being baptized, being led by the Spirit into the wilderness for a 40-day period of temptation. During these 40 days Jesus did not bring any provisions with him, with the text telling us that he “ate nothing at all during those days.”[iii] It was at the end of those 40 days that we are told that the devil used that fact as a way to tempt Jesus; to lure him away from the ministry he was about to embark on. The devil simply points out to Jesus here that as the Son of God he surely has the ability to turn a rock into a loaf of bread if he wanted to do so.[iv] On the surface this may not seem like that great of a temptation, but knowing that the devil is trying to trick him into using his power for his own benefit, Jesus replies, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”[v] Jesus quotes Scripture here, specifically Deuteronomy 8:3; a text that was meant to remind the Israelites of God’s provision for them in their own wilderness where they wandered for 40 years before coming into the promised land. It was a warning for them to never forget God, especially in the midst of their prosperity. In fact, this is a common exhortation that is found in scripture, for even this past week’s assigned Old Testament lesson gives a similar exhortation. In that same Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, God is giving the people instruction on how they are to give thanks for their prosperity when they finally do come into the land that God had given them.[vi] In their prosperity the people of God are to “take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground … put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for [God’s] name.”[vii] Once the tithe has been made, they were to have a celebration in honor of all that God had given to them and to their house.[viii] But this celebration was not meant to be for just them; they are to invite the Levities, that is their religious leaders, as well as the aliens that reside among them.[ix] In the next verse, which is outside of the assigned text for the day but still pertinent, that list is expanded to include orphans and widows as well.[x] Basically, in their prosperity, they are to make sure to take care of more than just themselves. They must remember that they do not live by bread alone, but live by the generosity that comes from God, which in turn allows them to be instruments of God’s generosity towards others.