Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’ [from Matthew 4]
Jesus is hungry. Duh. He’s fasted forty days. And the tempter has an opening. “You can work miracles, I bet. Take these rocks and make bread out of them. Who’s going to know?”
“I’ll know,” says Jesus. “I also know where bread comes from. It’s a gift from God through the acts of nature, farmers, and bakers. Any other process—especially one that only pretends to be miraculous—shortcuts the involved process that is part of what makes it gift. I think I’ll have a few berries now and then get a nice loaf when I go to the market.”
Jesus faces several temptations after his formative time in the wilderness. He’s learned so much as he’s put himself in touch with his calling, his humanity, his spirit, God’s spirit. This particular temptation to turn stones into bread is about meeting real needs. Why not take a shortcut if you can and meet those needs faster?
Why not, indeed?
Because it’s the work that goes into the bread that makes it meaningful, and delicious enough to feed both body and soul. Bread takes time. Place seed in the ground. Wait for rain and sun. Weed and harvest. Thresh and preserve. Grind. Add ingredients. Knead. Bake. Serve. Enjoy. Take leftover seed and place in the ground. Repeat.
Shortcutting the process of satisfying human hunger (physical or spiritual) means the outcome can’t be as meaningful or as effective. And of course, Jesus extends the metaphor by saying that we don’t just live from bread, but from every word that comes from God. That God-bread bread creates community around the table, feeds the hungry body and soul, and requires us to reach out to others.
In such a way, we’re to reject taking the easy way out when looking for solutions to real problems. Instead, we search for ways that create community, feed body and soul, reach out to the excluded.
We won’t solve any of our current problems with the stone-bread of hatred, but we may do so with the God-bread of reconciliation.
We won’t create community with the stone-bread of anger, but we may do so with the God-bread of reconciliation.
We won’t bring positive change with the stone-bread of fear, but we may do so with the God-bread of hope.
We won’t grow as a society with the stone-bread of alienation and separation, but we may do so with the God-bread of acceptance.
Let’s use Lent as a time to reevaluate how we make our bread of social change and interaction.
And let’s chuck the stones. Not at each other, but in favor of the time-consuming, inclusive processes that are nourishing and create community.
© 2017 Melissa Bane Sevier