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Not By Bread Alone

Imagine going forty days and forty nights without food. This was the plight of Jesus when He had been led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He was to be tempted by the devil. As Jesus was physically starving, the tempter came to Him and said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread" (Matt. 4:3). This was a powerful temptation, for Jesus is indeed the Son of God, He had the power to change the stones to bread, and He was desperately hungry. However, Jesus utterly rejected Satan's suggestion and resisted the temptation. His answer for the devil was, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God'" (Matt. 4:4).

The passage Jesus quoted to Satan is Deuteronomy 8:3. In that context, Moses spoke to the whole nation of Israel and called upon them to remember their wanderings in the wilderness. During those forty years, God had tested Israel to see what was in their hearts and whether they would keep His commandments. The lesson of those trials was stated by Moses, who said, "He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD."

The lesson that Jesus proved in the wilderness and that Israel learned in the wilderness is one that our nation needs today. Just as Israel came into a land that flowed with milk and honey (Deut. 6:3), so also we have inherited a land that is abundant with prosperity. The United States is the richest and freest nation in the world, and we have "bread" in abundance. Even so, there is something deadly wrong with our nation, which can be corrected only by learning this lesson.

Indeed, America has lately been attempting to live by bread alone and not by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. The name of God has been steadily removed from the public discourse, and His word has been disregarded as a source of guidance and information for our public policies. The narrative in America is now primarily about one thing -- the economy, money, or, in another word, "bread." Our nation is now primarily concerned with assuring that everyone has enough "bread," but concern for the things of God has been minimized.

The results are predictable. The unrestrained focus on temporal "bread" produces a spiritual vacuum in the hearts of men in which liberty and prosperity become a breeding ground for corruption and violence. Chasing after "bread alone" leads to nothing but the deeds of the flesh, "which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these" (Gal. 5:19-21). Naturally, "those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

What a sad turn for a nation which was once thoroughly religious in its fear of God. In 1835, the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America, Volume I and said of those early generations, "The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other..." He also made a statement that is a dire prediction for an increasingly godless America. He said:

Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot. How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? And what can be done with a people who are their own masters if they are not submissive to the Deity?

As we see the "moral tie" of our nation severely weakened, it can only lead to the proportional strengthening of the "political tie." In other words, if individuals will not govern and restrain themselves, then civil government will. This is the reason Libertarian politics do not work in our modern culture. Our nation has simply become too immoral and rebellious to the rule of God. If our nation does not repent soon, then our liberty and prosperity will likely be lost.

The only way to reverse this trend is by a return to the word of God so that we may truly live again. Perhaps God will again humble our nation by letting us be hungry that He might make us understand that "man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord." Whether or not our nation collectively turns again to Him, every soul thankfully has the opportunity to turn to Him through Christ, who is "the bread of life" (John 6:35), so that "they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).

Stacey E. Durham