Wants and Needs

Wants and Needs

Pentecost 20 (NL4) John B. Valentine
Exodus 16:1-18 October 10, 2021


You ever heard of a fellow named Maslow? Abraham Maslow?? Doctor Abraham Maslow???

Come on ... I’m hoping at least one of you recalls that Abraham Maslow figured prominently in that ‘Happiness Hypothesis’ book that PJ’s Book Club once read!

• Maslow was one of the founders of the movement called “Positive Psychology”.

• Maslow is the fellow who invented “Maslow’s Hammer” ... that now-familiar assertion that “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

• And ... more importantly ... at least for today’s purposes ... Maslow is the one who developed this thing called “Maslow’s Pyramid”.

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Maslow’s Pyramid ... formally “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” ... roughly asserts that there are these fundamental ... basic ... layers of need that exist within every human being ... one stacked on top of the next ... a kind of layer cake.

Such that ... if I could ever figure out how to use these tv screens to show something other than the camera feed! ... I’d show you a picture of a five-layered pyramid ... each with its own corresponding color.

First off ... at the bottom ... Level I ... there’s what are known as your physiological needs ... your basic needs.

That’s stuff like food and water ... sleep and breathing and excretion ...

Those are your immediate survival needs that scream at you whenever they aren’t being met ... like when you’re underwater and struggling to get to the surface to catch a breath.

Just above that ... Level II ... is what Maslow called your safety needs.

That’s security, order, and stability ... the assurance that you can live your life with at least a modicum of safety ... and not be looking over your shoulder every minute of every day.

Just above that ... Level III ... is what are called love and belonging needs.

That’s a sense of connection and community ... of sharing yourself with others ... and having others share their lives with you.

Next ... at Level IV .... is what Maslow called the esteem needs.

That’s the need to feel competent and recognized ... to feel comfortable with who you are and what you’ve accomplished ... the need to feel that valued by others.

Those first four layers of the pyramid are what Maslow called your ‘deficiency’ needs ... those things that ... if they go unmet ... leave you feel wanting ...

And then the fifth layer ...what Maslow called “self-actualization” or maybe “transcedence” ... is the frosting ... the peak

Which is where you put things like morality and philosophy and creativity and thoughtfulness and stuff like that.

So building from the bottom up ... it’s:

• Physiological needs ...
• Safety needs ...
• Love and Belonging needs ...
• Esteem needs ... and ... at the top ...
• Self-Actualization.

And the way Maslow’s Pyramid works is this assumption that you’re basically working on one level of needs at any given time ... and that the level on which you’re working ... is whichever is your lowest level of unmet needs at the moment.

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Imagine you have an unmet need at the bottom of the pyramid ...

If you’re hungry ... and you haven’t eaten for twelve hours ... and you need food ... you’re not going to be too interested in spending time catching up on the news ... right???

Or if ... how can I say this politely ... you’ve gotta go. Because when you’ve gotta go ... you’ve gotta go ... and you can’t possibly think about ANYTHING else until that particular need is met.

When physiological needs kick in ... they trump all of your other needs ... and scream at you until they get satisfied ... do they not???

But once your most basic physiological needs are ...

THEN your safety needs tend to take precedence and dominate behavior.

That’s your concern for things like personal security and physical health and well-being.

Which is why ... when little children feel unsafe because they’re sure that there’s monsters that lurk under the bed or in the closet ... they don’t want a lecture and an explanation ... they want you present in the room!

And ... if you feel your basic physiological needs are met and your security needs are met ...

THEN you can work on love and belonging ...

And THEN on your needs for esteem.

So ... for instance ... hospital nurses have been taught to think of their patients in terms of Maslow’s Pyramid ... and to assess their needs accordingly.

• Are your basic physiological needs being met? “Can you breathe? Do you need water? Are you hungry?”

• Then .... “Are you comfortable? What’s your pain level like?” Can I do anything to help you improve your level of perceived safety?

• Then its on to the love and belonging needs ... “Would you like to have visitors or maybe talk to you pastor?” Stuff like that.

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But now ... I want you to think ... for just a minute ... about what Maslow’s Pyramid might have to say to this morning’s Bible story.

I mean ... we’ve got this story of the Israelites on their journey out of Egypt:

• Moses had gone before the Pharaoh and demanded freedom for the Hebrew slaves.
• And Pharaoh had said “fat chance” and tightened the screws on their bondage.
• And God had comeback to Pharaoh’s stubbornness was a series of ten plagues.
• Then the Passover ... and the flight through the parted sea ... and the journey into the wilderness.

They’d been dealing with:

• Esteem Needs ... Level IV ... complaining that life was so hard ....
• Love and Belonging Needs ... Level III ... complaining that they weren’t accepted .... and
• Safety and Security Needs ... Level II ... fleeing before the Pharaoh’s charioteers.

But now ... in THIS part of the story ... Exodus chapter 16 ... it gets all the way down to Level I ... does it not???

What did the text say??

“The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’”

And when Level I needs kick in ... all those other needs ... Doctor Maslow reminds us ... go right out the window!

Give us bread, Moses ... GIVE US SOMETHING TO EAT!!!

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You’ll have to forgive me ... but I’ve been thinking a lot about Doctor Maslow’s Pyramid this week.

You see ... last week ... we had a Zoom meeting of our congregation’s Social Ministry Team.

And we were talking about which missions and ministries we want to identify as our ‘Mission Partners’ for fiscal year 2021-22.

Because ... as most of you know ... while Pastor Pam and I have championed the idea of sharing 10% of our unrestricted offerings as “Giving Beyond Ourselves” ... we’re pretty open about ‘with whom’ those gifts are shared.

So the Social Ministry Team got into a fruitful conversation about our missional priorities.

• Do we focus on supporting health ministries like International Health Partners and their pediatric hospital in East Africa .... or do we focus on supporting food-based ministries like Loaves and Fishes in Pittsburg and Martinez?

• Do we focus on championing mental help-care for the homeless through Lutheran Social Service ... or missional evangelism through the New Life Band?

• Do we abet the efforts of Rancho Santa Marta down in Mexico ... where they serve abused and abandoned and mentally-challenged children ... or the Winter Nights Shelter that works to rehouse homeless families?

And ... while we know that all of those ministries have been faithful mission partners over the years ... we wondered if the needs that some of them were addressing were more or less important than others.

And ... the whole time ... I was wondering if Doctor Maslow might help us understand our missional dilemma.

• Should we invest most ... or even all ... of our mission support in addressing peoples’ ‘Level One’ needs???

• Or should we spread it out ... between some ministries that address those ‘Level One’ needs and others that address ‘Level Two’ needs and others that address Levels Three and/or Four and/or Five???

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Now this morning’s lesson is a clear reminder that God met the people’ ... and by extension still meets people’s ... Level One needs.

“As Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, "At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

In other words ... God says ... “Fear not ... I’ve got this ... I’ve got you covered. For I am the One who provides.”

But if you look to some other stories in the Bible ... you’ll see God in the Old Testament... and Son of God in the New Testament ... meeting Level Two and Three and Four and Five needs too!

And I think that it’s all this one big beautiful reminder that God identifies Godself as ‘The One Who Provides’.

Remember who in last week’s lesson ... Moses was asking God about God’s name ... and he got back that cryptic “I Am Who I Am” response???

That “I Am Who I Am” could also maybe mean “I Do What I Do” or maybe “None of Your Business” or maybe even “Stand Back and Watch!”

But I think that here in this lesson we see pretty clearly that one of God’s answers to that question is “I Am the One who Provides” ... provides for your every need ... be it a self actualization need or an esteem need or a belonging need or a security need or even a basic physiological need ... Level Five, Four, Three, two or One!!

In a certain way ... the story of Exodus ... and maybe really the story of the whole of the Bible ... is this one big affirmation that God is ‘the God who Provides’.

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Remember how ... in the Small Catechism ... Martin Luther asks “What IS ‘daily bread’?”??

The answer comes back::

Daily bread includes everything we need for life in this world ...
• Food and clothing ...
• Home and property ...
• Work and income ...
• A devoted family ...
• An orderly community ...
• Good government ...
• Favorable weather ...
• Peace and health ...
• A good reputation ...
• True friends and neighbors.

In other words ... every good and needful thing in life ... everything ... at every level!! ... both things tangible and intangible ... is a gift from God. A good gift from God.

• Even when we “earn it” ... it’s a gift from God.
• Even when we “own it” ... it’s a gift from God.
• Even when we don’t “appreciate it” ... it’s a gift from God.

It’s ALL a gift from God.

For life itself is a gift ... a fragile precious gift ... a gift that wouldn’t be ours if were up to us alone.

Because God is “The God Who Provides”.

Wants and Needs was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine in conjunction with worship on October 10, 2021 — the 20th Sunday after Pentecost.  Due to technical difficulties, we are unable to provide a recorded copy of the live-streamed video this week.  (So sorry!)

To access a print copy of the worship bulletin, click here: Worship Bulletin for October 10