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Not By Bread Alone

The tempter came to Jesus and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” –Matthew 4:3-4

The tempter’s invitation sounds very reasonable. You know what you want; you have the power to get it (don’t you? can you prove it?); all you have to do is change what is given into what you desire…

I think that this culture often succumbs to this temptation in our use of the created world. We are given clean air and water, fertile soil, myriad plants and animals, abundant energy from sun and wind, and a natural system in which nothing is wasted. We are given what we need. But we keep trying to convert it into what we want. We destroy balanced ecosystems and plant huge monocultures of the crops we want. We poison our soil and water trying to extract cheap energy.

Jesus warns us that we live, not only by what we know we want, but by every word of God. Genesis tells us that the whole Creation was spoken into being by God.

There is a practical side to Jesus’ warning. We learn that we depend on the earth’s forests to purify air and absorb carbon only after we have cut most of them down. We learn the importance of diversified farming after diseases or disasters strike our monocultures. We begin to learn the healing value of certain plants as we drive many more species into extinction.

Converting the created world into the mirror of our desires is practically dangerous. It is also theologically dangerous. It distorts the Creator’s reflection in the Creation. It estranges us from God.

Homesteading and wildcrafting require us to pay close attention to the created world, to the land we live on. This attention can help us to get what we know we need in a way that is less damaging to the world that sustains us. It can also teach us humility and gratitude. It reminds us to hear and enjoy every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

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