Bread Offered Every Day

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

John 6:25-35 (NLT)

They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”

They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”


You can live for the moment, or you can seek forever in the moment.

The crowds followed Jesus in part because he had demonstrated an ability to provide for their immediate needs. They hoped for ongoing provisions, along the lines of what the Israelites received in the desert for 40 years.

Now, let’s be clear—when people have immediate, pressing needs, it is hard for them to focus on much else. “How will I feed my children?” can be an overwhelming question.

That’s why James wrote, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” (James 2:15-16)

For the simple sake of goodness, we are called as Christians to get people beyond worrying about their basic needs. Such relief also directly supports the mission of the church. Where basic needs are met, people can then more easily think about broader concepts, like a relationship with God and salvation.

A lot of this sounds like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The Bible basically came up with the idea first. Jesus’ Matthean concept of the judgment amounts to a call to lift people out of their day-to-day worries.

Once we’ve acknowledged the basic relief we should provide, we then must stay very conscious of that all-important next step, understanding who we are in relation to God. Having our daily bread, it’s important to move on to a contemplation of the Bread of Life, God’s gift to us.

Through Jesus Christ, we are offered a daily experience of God and his eternally life-altering plan, and once we’re on the way to grasping what this means, we need to invite others to explore and accept salvation, too.

It’s all so exciting, so mind-boggling, that we might even find ourselves forgetting to eat.

Lord, where we see earthly needs, may we respond quickly, and where we see openings to offer your eternal grace, may we move with utmost speed. Amen.

Stop Shoving

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Ezekiel 34:17-23 (NLT)

“And as for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says to his people: I will judge between one animal of the flock and another, separating the sheep from the goats. Isn’t it enough for you to keep the best of the pastures for yourselves? Must you also trample down the rest? Isn’t it enough for you to drink clear water for yourselves? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Why must my flock eat what you have trampled down and drink water you have fouled?

“Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will surely judge between the fat sheep and the scrawny sheep. For you fat sheep pushed and butted and crowded my sick and hungry flock until you scattered them to distant lands. So I will rescue my flock, and they will no longer be abused. I will judge between one animal of the flock and another. And I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David. He will feed them and be a shepherd to them.”


I am guessing that when most of us think of judgment, sheep and goats, we think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus, however, was expanding on words spoken by a prophet 600 years earlier.

At this point in Ezekiel’s prophecy, God already had condemned the callous “shepherds,” the Israelite kings who failed to care for their people. He then went on with the metaphor, issuing an internal warning to the flock regarding how its members treated one another.

In short, they were shoving and grasping, the strong taking from the weak. There was no care being taken to ensure those most in need had their share of the basics.

All that shuffling and stomping during the hoarding of resources did a lot of damage, too. Where there is hoarding, there often is spoilage, and what could have benefitted others is wasted.

The message is pretty straightforward: Stop shoving and grasping, thinking only of yourself. Look around. To draw from a story in John 5: Who needs help reaching the pool of Bethesda?

In both the Ezekiel prophecy and in Jesus’ teaching, the concern is for the people on the margins of society, the “least of these,” the ones most damaged by the brokenness of the world. And remember, these images are all presented in “last days” judgment style—in Matthew, the lesson is conveyed by the one who will do the judging!

How we treat people pushed to the margins becomes a very serious litmus test for how effectively we have absorbed the idea that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. In response to this idea, people have devised a lot of schemes through the centuries regarding what governments should do. Some of those might even be worthwhile strategies.

None of that planning, however, eliminates our responsibility to look around and assess what we need to do as individual Christians. As God says through Ezekiel, “I will judge between one animal of the flock and another.”

Lord, give us eyes to see, ears to hear and a willingness to provide. Amen.

Homebound Simulator

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Matthew 25:37-40: “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”

In 2018, as my father’s wife experienced a deeper slide into dementia, I had the opportunity to participate in an “Alzheimer’s simulator,” along with my dad and daughter.

We wore goggles to distort our vision and headphones playing multiple radio tracks to simulate auditory hallucinations. We slipped on rubber gloves filled with birdseed to replicate tactile difficulties, and we also had birdseed in our shoes. We took turns entering a room, where we were given a short list of simple tasks.

My dad went in with my daughter. Pity the poor woman, a stranger, who had to go in with me.

Once she and I were properly attired and inside, the instructor gave us a list of simple tasks to perform. Mine involved finding a t-shirt and a tie and putting them in their proper places, among other activities I would quickly forget. The instructor then turned out the light and closed the door.

My first goal was to obtain some light, so I could at least use my impaired vision a little. I fumbled around the room, trying to approximate where a light switch would be. I found it and flipped it.

“You’re not supposed to turn on the light!” the woman cried.

“She didn’t say we couldn’t turn on the light. A person with Alzheimer’s might try to turn on the light!” I replied. I was surprised at how quickly we raised our voices; of course, we were already hearing voices, so who was saying what quickly got a little confusing.

“You’re not supposed to turn on the light!” she repeated, this time more staccato. She yanked open the door, having found it a lot faster than I had found the light switch. “Are we supposed to turn on the light?” she called out.

The instructor came in. “Don’t turn on the light,” she said, turning it off. I did not find even one item, and I was—let’s see, what’s a really polite word—peeved. I blame my exaggerated response on the stress of the simulator, but I fear I am going to be a really grumpy old man.

When Jesus ties our judgment to how we have cared for the suffering, two of the needy types he mentions, the prisoners and the sick, have something in common. They are physically trapped, unable to go anywhere.

With our movements and interaction restricted during this pandemic, I feel like I am in a simulator again. I will not call it a good experience, but for those of us trying to live the Christian life, it could prove to be an important experience, one that generates new levels of empathy for those who are trapped.

At the Alzheimer’s center, I eventually got to leave the room, take off the goggles, headphones and gloves, and shake the birdseed out of my shoes. Similarly, most of us eventually will resume normal lives, going where we want and doing what we want.

Some will remain bound to a place, however, possibly for the rest of their lives. Having simulated what they face every day, perhaps we will find ourselves more mindful about reaching out to them.

Lord, keep the prisoners and the chronically homebound in our thoughts, and help us use the tools we have available to us to offer them your love and comfort. Amen.