Much of the world is dying of starvation, and they have all the food they could ever dream of eating. Full, but empty. Clothed, but naked. Rich, but unbelievably poor.
One of the worst ways God can afflict us is to so satisfy us in this life that we no longer need him, no longer even think of him. It’s the most extreme, most devastating malnutrition. Human starvation — a real, excruciating tragedy today — is light and momentary compared with the spiritual and eternal reality it pictures. Whole nations are so gratified by this world that God is an after-thought or no thought at all. We are eating and eating and eating, and never satisfied.
When God was angry with Israel — a people he’d chosen for himself, delivered from captivity, and promised everything — he cursed them with an intense and insatiable hunger. “They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry, and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied” (Isaiah 9:20). When God’s fury fell, food lost its ability to satisfy. They ate and ate, and never felt full, until they were even eating the flesh off of their own arm (Isaiah 9:20). Binge eating, but starving to death.
Later, Isaiah explains God’s judgment against those who oppose or ignore him:
As when a hungry man dreams, and behold, he is eating and awakes with his hunger not satisfied, or as when a thirsty man dreams, and behold, he is drinking and awakes faint, with his thirst not quenched, so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion. (Isaiah 29:8)
The men or women fixated on experiencing as much pleasure as possible here on earth is like those who dream they are eating and drinking, but wake up hungry, thirsty, and without anything to eat or drink. The beautiful banquet before their eyes — perfectly grilled meats, colorful and fresh fruits and vegetables, bread right out of the oven, the fountain of wine — is all just a mirage, a cruel figment of a hungry person’s imagination. The worst first world problem is that so many of us are living the dream, not knowing that the sun will rise and open our eyes to reality. Every delicious dream must end.
And when that day comes, those who have fed on this world will frantically try and offer all their expensive possessions in exchange for real food, real life, and be found wanting forever.
They cast their silver into the streets, and their gold is like an unclean thing. Their silver and gold are not able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord. They cannot satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it. For it was the stumbling block of their iniquity. (Ezekiel 7:19; see also Micah 6:14)
Israel’s rebellion and God’s response should fall on us like a grave and spiritual Surgeon General’s warning. We bury ourselves in food, drink, and Netflix, not realizing we are deeply and utterly famished, dehydrated, and bored. Consumption can be a destruction worse than starvation, because it’s iced with sweet deception.
“The worst first world problem is that so many are living the dream, not knowing that the sun will rise.”
The dangerous difference between over-consumption and starvation is that consumption feels safe and sated. We forget we ever needed anything. God becomes a nice addition to our living room — a new comfier recliner or a vintage frame for the mantel — instead of being the waterline.
A Better and Never-Ending Banquet
The problem is not that we are hungry, but that we’re hunting in the wrong pantry. The cravings deep inside of us are a mercy from God meant to lead us to God. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). God wired appetites — intense biological, emotional, spiritual, unavoidable desires — into every human soul so that he could fill them. He wants you to be full, not empty. He made you in his image, to display his glory. He didn’t mean only to beautifully decorate you with himself, but to deeply satisfy and fill you with himself.
And he will fill you. Hunger is a temporary this-life means to meeting a greater need. Whoever chooses the bread of life over the bread of the moment will eventually be freed from hunger altogether. “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst’” (John 6:35). The cravings we feel three or four or ten times a day will be foreign and distant memories. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore” (Revelation 7:16; see also Isaiah 49:10).
True fulfillment, then, is found not in frantically (or lazily) tasting all the flavors and pleasures in this life, but in feeding the hunger beneath every other hunger. The secret is not not hungering anymore, but being utterly satisfied — full — while craving food or water or comfort or rest (Philippians 4:12). When a man truly lives, he does “not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3; see also Matthew 4:3; John 4:34).
Many have rightly said, “Give a man a fish and feed him for day; teach that man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Spiritually, the world can satisfy a man for today and ruin him for eternity; feed that same soul for eternity and he will have all he needs for today.