Man shall not live on bread alone

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 4:1-4

The Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness, by Juan de Flandes.

The Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness, by Juan de Flandes.

I’ve always struggled to know precisely what elements make up a square meal. It’s something like protein, carbohydrate, and vegetables – I think? Having got that far I struggle with what protein and carbohydrates actually are! Am I right that meat is protein, and that potatoes and pasta are carbohydrates? What about rice? Despite my appalling lack of knowledge (which I promise to rectify post haste) I have, somehow, managed to remain fit and healthy!

I like today’s verses because they place the importance of diligent Bible study right up there with food as a source of nourishment. Jesus, having been baptised by John, found himself driven by the Spirit into the wilderness in preparation for his ministry. Whilst there he finds himself tempted by the Devil. Jesus chose to fast, and by the time the Devil appears in the verses above, I should think that Jesus must have been rather hungry. The Devil spies this potential chink in Jesus’ armour and goes straight for it. You’re hungry, the Devil seems to be saying to Jesus, and you’re powerful. You’re the Son of God, he says. Why not just command the rocks to become bread and you won’t be hungry? Jesus knows what the Devil is up to, though. He knows that he is identifying his weaknesses and attacking him in these areas.

How does Jesus respond to the Devil’s temptation? By showing the importance of God’s Word. By quoting scripture (Deuteronomy 8:3), Jesus shows that a thorough knowledge of the Bible is a useful defence against the Devil and can stop him at a stroke. By quoting the verse he does, Jesus also makes clear that food for our bodies is not enough to truly sustain us. We also need to feast on “every word that comes from the mouth of God” to sustain our souls. We need to nourish our souls with God’s word, as well as nourishing our bodies with food, if we are to lead healthy lives.

Every day I struggle to find time to read the Bible. Most days I find myself fighting tiredness, or poor concentration, or just general busyness as I try to read God’s word, the Bible. Yet Jesus is absolutely convinced of the importance of feasting on the word of God. If we don’t nourish our bodies, they will become weak, and eventually wither and die. The same is true of our souls – if we don’t nourish them, they will wither and die. We need to make the study of God’s word a key priority in our lives. Maybe, like me, you find this a struggle. But maybe, like me, you’ll keep recommitting yourself and try to find time each and every day to feast on “every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

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