Man Shall Not Live on Bread Alone
The greater majority of people has lost sight of the true values of life. Someone has compared our loss of insight as to the true values of life to going into a department store in which someone has mischievously mixed up the price tags. A nylon scarf might be priced at $219.95 and a mink coat at 494. Similarly, most modern men have gotten their values mixed up; we place a high value on the accumulation of possessions and a low value on such virtues as moral integrity, honesty, etc. There can be no doubt that most of us get our values mixed up from time to time. Consequently, we are frequently content to be eating hamburger (i.e., the less important things in life) when we could be eating filet mignon (i.e., the more important things in life). On one occasion, Jesus said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God' " (Mt. 4:4). He recognized that some things in life were more important than others. Let us look more carefully at that context to be sure that we understand the lesson which He was teaching us.
The Temptation of Jesus
The passage from which I just quoted was taken from the temptation of Jesus. Jesus had just begun His public ministry having recently been baptized by John (Mt. 3:13-17). Then, the Holy Spirit led Him away to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. For forty days and nights, Jesus fasted after which He became hungry (Mt. 4:2). At precisely this point in His life, the Devil confronted Jesus. The Devil said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread" (Mt. 4:3). There can be no doubt that Jesus was hungry enough that He wanted bread to eat. Yet, had He turned the stones into bread, His sole purpose for working that miracle would have been to gratify His personal hunger; there would have been no higher purpose accomplished through the miracle. Hence, He replied, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'" This reply indicates that Jesus believed that some things were more important in life than food for survival. Too, He recognized that the life which was worth anything depended upon the word of God for its survival and not upon the mere bread which perishes.
On Bread Alone
We live in a society which seemingly thinks that man can live on bread alone. This evidences itself in the fact that the number of Americans who are deciding to go through life without engaging in any kind of worship to God Almighty is increasing. The number of Americans who read their Bibles is infinitesimal. I think that it is significant to measure the quality of life which exists in America, a society which has decided to live on "bread" alone.
The crime rate continues to increase year after year. The divorce rate is skyrocketing. Personal integrity is at an all-time low. A large segment of our society would rather live off the welfare programs of the federal government than to go out and get a job to earn a living. Shoplifting is a problem to every business in this country. Employees walk off with a number of their employers' tools. Our government officials are corrupt.
Though we live in a land which has more prosperity than any nation before us, we find that we are not satisfied with the quality of our life. The couches of our psychologists and psychiatrists are filled. We who have the most to live with are finding out that material things do not satisfy us. Years ago, Solomon said, "The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing" (Eccl. 1:8). He recognized that material things do not give permanent gratification. The man who sees a beautiful sight one day wants to see a more beautiful sight the next day. Things do not give happiness. Whatever pleasures this world can give are only gratifying for a short period of time.
Furthermore, the price at which these pleasures come is frequently too high. Jesus refused to compromise Himself; the price of bread was too high for Him to turn a stone into bread. He recognized that "life is more than food, and the body than clothing" (Lk. 12:23). Yet many among us have never learned this lesson. In order to get the food which perishes and the other material things of this life, some compromise themselves to such an extent that they cannot even live with themselves. To obtain their desired material possessions they are willing to forsake their Lord, their children, and their beloved wife. Some are even willing to lie, steal, and cheat. When "bread" (i.e., the material things of life) costs this price, its price is too high; honorable death would be preferable to dishonorable life.
Every Word That Proceeds Out Of The Mouth Of The Lord
In contrast to those who live on bread alone, the Christian is one who decides to live on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. He recognizes that the word of God leads us to that life which is life indeed. "It holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1 Tim. 4:8). Unlike the worldly man who looks upon God's commandments as so many prohibitions which forbid him from enjoying life in this world, the Christian realizes that the limitations placed on man by God are for his own good. They keep man from engaging in things which will only bring him unlimited sorrow.
The life which God commands of His children is one which improves the quality of life which exists on this earth. The family which lives according to God's word will be a better family than the one which does not. The husband-wife relationship will be one characterized by the intimacy revealed in Eph. 5:22-33. Instead of a home. in which the wife is wanting to be the liberated woman of the women's liberation movement, the children being rebellious, and the husband harshly domineering, the Christian family will be one in which the husband shows as much love for his wife as for his own body, the wife will be a keeper at home and lover of her children, and the children will honor their parents. This is the kind of family God wants us to have. This is the kind of family which will result when man realizes that he does not live by bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.
Other relationships will be equally improved by a steadfast adherence to the word of God. Our relationships with one another will be better when we treat each other as Jesus commanded: "whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them" (Mt. 7:12). Our nation's problems can be solved by adherence to the word of God. When men realize that the able bodied man who refuses to work should not be allowed to eat (2 Thess. 3:10), that there are no distinctions before God in the various races of men (Gal. 3:28), that the employee owes his employer an honest day's work for an honest day's wage (Eph. 6:5-9; Jas. 5:4), that old-fashioned Bible morals are not only desirable but necessary for the survival of this country, etc., then this country will be headed in the right direction. It must, however, begin with the realization that man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
Even more importantly, the man who realizes that he can live on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God is prepared to die having the promise of eternal life with God. Whatever sacrifices are necessary to be able to live on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God are infinitesimal when compared to the blessings which God has in store for. His saints. Jesus recognized this when He refused to turn the stones into bread; He would have preferred to have died of starvation than to compromise Himself to live on bread alone. May each of us learn this important lesson which Jesus taught us through His temptation; "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Mt. 4:4).
Truth Magazine XXI: 39, pp. 611-612