“Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Human One will give you.” John 6:27a
In A Place at the Table, Chris Seay says that he spends a lot of time thinking about what he will eat each day. I can make the same observation about myself. I give a lot of time and attention to what I will eat, from planning menus to clipping coupons to shopping and cooking and looking for new recipes. I don’t know how much time I spend pursuing food that doesn’t last (and I’m not just talking about what I eat, but all the impermanent stuff I do), compared to the time than I spend eating the Word of God, praying the Word and living the Word. How much of what consumes my time, energy and resources is superfluous?
So much of what commands our time and attention is the equivalent of “empty calories.” It is living a life that is driven by desire instead of intention. Living according to desire or craving leaves me hungry and unsatisfied, looking for more and rewiring my brain to think that I need and deserve more to be happy. We want something so we “sacrifice” and work to get it, or we go into debt to get it. But do we sacrifice and work for greater intimacy with Christ or do we expect we’ll get all we need from God by our weekly attendance at worship, occasional almsgiving and some service to others when it is convenient with our schedule?
When Cain and Abel brought gifts to God, the reason Abel’s gift was accepted was that it was the best of what he had. Cain’s gift was what he had available. Does God get my first and best time, attention and resources, or do I fit God into my already crowded schedule and checkbook, and then, only after I’ve committed my time and resources to what I want to do or purchase?
There is a certain automobile ad that has been running lately that uses the slogan, “Someday your life will flash before your eyes. Make it worth watching.” It shows a couple traveling to exotic destinations, eating at fine restaurants, walking on a red carpet, and other similar activities. Such is a life lived for desire, pursuing food that doesn’t last. A life lived with the intention to grow more intimate with God will not have the patience or interest for such desire-driven pastimes. When you’ve tasted the joy and peace that comes from growing intimacy with Christ, you cannot be satisfied with the empty calories of desire-based living.
Saint Augustine speaks of food that lasts in this quote: You called, you cried, you shattered my deafness. You sparkled, you blazed, you drove away my blindness. You shed your fragrance, and I drew in my breath, and I pant for you. I tasted and now I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and now I burn with longing for your peace.
Burning, panting, hungering for God, an all-consuming longing that makes one ache out of love and desire for God—that is not something you fit into your schedule. It is what you build your whole life around. It is the food that endures for eternal life.