At no time was this truer for me than when I was in college. My Alma Mater isn’t known for great-tasting food in its dining halls. All too often, ramen noodles were my meal of choice when the cafeteria food didn’t cut it.
One afternoon a friend called me and invited me to a “free dinner for aspiring entrepreneurs.” Being a hungry business major with dreams of owning my own business, this was great news. I gladly accepted the invitation.
At the door we were greeted by the smell of hot pizza—and by a smooth-talking young man in a silk suit. The pizza was delicious—and I ate my fill.
Dessert was a presentation about the business venture of a lifetime that would make all my financial dreams come true. All I had to do was pay a $500 franchise fee and I'd be on the road to riches with my very own internet business.
But after sitting through an hour’s worth of videos about all the cool stuff I could buy with my future fortune, I decided I’d heard enough. This was a classic pyramid scheme and I wanted no part of it. So I headed for the door.
“Where are you going? I gave you a free dinner, and you're not even going to hear me out?” After I told him I needed to go, he shouts “well then leave; I don't have time for quitters...”
My friend wasn’t a quitter... He signed a promissory note for the $500 franchise fee. In the end, all he got in return for his $500 was anger and a whole bunch of regret...
Maybe the old saying should be “the fastest way to a person's heart is through their hunger” because that's exactly what the pyramid scheme was out to satisfy that night: my hunger for food and my hunger for the finer things in life, for which I was studying so hard to achieve.
Bruce Springsteen’s hit song “Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart” couldn’t be truer[i]. We are all hungry for something—and what exactly we’re hungry for is unique to us both in terms of our personalities and our situations in life. Some are hungry for success and achievement; some are hungry for the respect and admiration of others… Some are hungry for companionship… If you’re going through difficult times right now, you may simply be hungry for comfort and healing… In the midst of life’s stresses and pains, you may be hungry simply for escape…
And sadly, there are many who are hungry for simple food—and their most basic needs…
It isn’t morally wrong to have a hungry heart—any more than it’s wrong to hunger for food. But where we go wrong is in the things we choose order to satisfy our hunger…
I once saw a bunch of signs in a shopping mall that read “help yourself to a little retail therapy.” Basically, the sign said “if you buy it, you’ll feel good.” Don’t get me wrong—there’s no harm in enjoying shopping every once in a while. But as our hearts hunger, the so-called therapies we seek can easily become gods that take over our lives. And we all serve false gods, whether we realize it or not. We habitually turn to these gods to satisfy the hunger that’s inside of us. These gods make us happy; they make us feel good. But our hunger is never satisfied. We get to that point when we just can’t get enough. In time, these gods drag us into misery and darkness. These gods only succeed in making us feel empty and dead.
So God’s Word asks us: “why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and labor for that which does not satisfy?” God knows that we’re hungry—therefore, God has for us food that is good; a food that will satisfy: the bread of life that is Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. People can come and feast on the bread of life in water and Word, bread and wine. You don’t have to have money because all of God’s children eat free.
If you come you will eat.
If you listen your hunger will be satisfied.
Jesus is bread that satisfies our hunger for love and acceptance. He is bread that satisfies our hunger for hope and healing. He is bread that satisfies our desperate hunger for forgiveness in the wake of all of our failings and the hurt we bring to others. He is bread that satisfies our desperate hunger for deliverance from the power of death. Jesus is bread that satisfies our hunger for meaning and purpose in our lives—because we were created to feast on the riches of God’s grace and bear witness to the one who feeds us. We come, we eat, and we listen in order that God will consume us.
Make no mistake—you will still be hungry after you’ve been fed—but that’s a good thing. We can never get enough of the food of God’s grace—because this is a food that gives us life. And God will never stop feeding it to us. A disciple is not someone whose hunger for God has been completely satisfied. A true disciple is someone who is constantly hungry—and who is always coming back to Jesus and listening to the Word.
But it’s not easy to break free of our false gods—regardless of what they are. It’s all too easy to look for that quick fix or that fast escape when our hearts hunger. Every day is a battle to break away from their power over us. But we do none of this alone. God’s strength comes when we come to God, eating the meal of grace and listening to the promises of the Gospel. God’s forgiveness gives us a new beginning. God’s free grace leads us out of the darkness to a new day.
When I was little, my mom used to stand at the bottom of the stairs and yell to my sister and me that dinner was ready. This was one occasion that we always listened. We ran down the stairs and took our places at the table because we were hungry. TV, our favorite toys and (especially) our homework weren’t going to satisfy our hunger.
So as God calls all of us to dinner, why would we want to be anywhere else? Where else can we be fed with forgiveness? Where else can we be fed with hope? Where else can we be fed with a food that will give us life? The best way to a person’s heart is through their hunger—because our love and our affection will always be upon the one who satisfies it. God’s way into your heart is through everything that you hunger and thirst for today.
Come and eat,
Listen and be satisfied,
And God will give the bread of eternal life.