Published October 19, 2006
A huge crowd has gathered, and they look hungry, but who is going to provide the picnic?
In the familiar biblical tale about the loaves and fishes, the apostles discuss going to town to buy food, but they give up that notion because it would cost too much.
Today, I can imagine the story being rewritten, with someone saying, “Who cares about the cost? We can use our credit cards and pay the bill later.”
In the 21st century, entire industries are devoted to tempting us to believe we can fix our lives by spending money, and enjoy lasting happiness if we have new clothes, furniture and technology.
The dieting industry has us convinced that we can’t lose weight unless we invest in trendy gym memberships, diet plans, and pre-packaged and costly meals.
Advertisers assure us we’ll be happy if we have a huge house, with all the trimmings, even though the rates of divorce and addiction in Hollywood suggest the real truth: You can have the grandest mansion in town, with every conceivable luxury, and still be miserable.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had everything they needed for a happy life. They didn’t have to work for a living, and they could talk with God, who walked in the garden each day.
But they didn’t think the garden was enough for them, and longed to sample what was over the horizon.
We are all like that: We keep running after happiness, and often think it is the next credit-card receipt away.
Is it possible that one of the timeless temptations of human existence is the belief that we can find happiness apart from God?
After all, Adam and Eve wanted the one thing God forbade them to have, and didn’t trust Him to know what was best for them.
Many people today, including me, fail to trust God. I am a worry addict, and tend to fret over the smallest events in life.
Yes, I know in my heart that God will handle everything, since Scripture tells me that, but just in case, I spend hours spinning my worry wheels over minute details.
There are many other tempting addictions that take us away from God. For some, it may be shopping, for others playing computer games, or gambling on-line.
A consumer society thrives on our addiction to new stuff. We want the latest upgrades and the trendiest fashions.
No wonder some folks have trouble sticking by old relationships.
Let’s say you are married, but things aren’t as thrilling as they were before the kids came along, and there’s this luscious someone in your office, who has been e-mailing you little invitations.
The devil whispers in your ear: “Go ahead! You deserve some excitement!”
The temptation may intensify on days when the baby has the flu, the dog has chewed on your new shoes and your spouse seems to have gained 30 pounds overnight.
When battling the temptations of modern-day life, it helps to realize that, just like Adam and Eve, we have a choice: We can either feed the demons or starve them.
We feed them by surrendering to their empty promises. We starve them by reading Scripture, praying and doing things that don’t seem glamorous on TV: We keep our promises to God and to our spouses, even when that’s tough. We stop believing happiness lies just over the horizon, and try to find contentment within the humble life God has planned for us.
When Jesus taught us how to pray, He knew about the demons, and added the words, “Lead us not into temptation” and “Deliver us from evil.”
Temptations from the evil one come in intriguing packages, but they all are based on deception. Eve was lured out of paradise by falsely believing there was something better waiting for her.
And the devil still attacks modern-day Adams and Eves.
Whenever you find yourself humming the “If only” tune, as in, “If only my life were more exciting” and “If only we could afford a bigger house” with the refrain being: “Then we would be perfectly happy,” you know the Prince of Darkness has shown up in your garden.
The loaves and fishes that Christ multiplied for the crowd were not haute cuisine, but simple, basic foods, which satisfied the people’s needs.
Christ will still satisfy our needs today, if we turn away from our own personal temptations. And He will deliver us from the evil one, and chase him from our gardens.
Lorraine Murray is the author of “Grace Notes. Embracing the Joy of Christ in a Broken World.” Artwork is by her husband, Jef. To e-mail Lorraine, write email@example.com.