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WORDS IN SEASON: “A MAN HAS TO LIVE.”

by R H Boll

From the January, 1919, Edition of the Word and Work Magazine

 

Probably nothing exerts a stronger pull upon the average man, and nothing holds him faster than the “bread-and-meat” consideration. The Book of Proverbs says that it is not good for a man to transgress for a piece of bread. But unnumbered thousands do it— not ignorantly, but knowingly. Many are in some business that is in itself wrong or questionable; while many more who are in legitimate occupations, feel themselves under a compulsion to engage in wrong or doubtful practices— it may be to hold their positions, or to meet competition, or to make their occupation profitable, and the excuse is, “A man has to live.” Again Christians maintain certain partnerships, union, society, club, and lodge relationships against the protest of scripture and of their own consciences, because they cannot afford to do otherwise, and persuade themselves that it can’t be helped, and must therefore be excusable. Even church-relationship, convictions, truth, itself, must bend to that awful prime necessity, which is announced as if it were an inevitable and inexorable law: “a man has to live.” For is not self-preservation the first law of nature? Yea, a man has to live, God or no God, truth or no truth, righteously and honestly, or otherwise; a man must first of all and by all means make a living. And is there no better law?

     THE PULL OF BREAD. The Lord Jesus had fed the five thousand and had hurried his disciples across the lake, out of reach of that false enthusiasm that wanted to make Jesus King by force because they had got a square meal from Him. He, in the meanwhile, withdrew Himself into the mountains and prayed. During the night He came to His disciples on the water; and the next day the multitude who were seeking Him* were perplexed to find Him in Capernaum. “Rabbi, when earnest Thou hither?” But Jesus would not parley. “Verily, verily, I say unto you”— for He knew their hearts— “Ye seek me not because ye saw signs, but because ye ate of the loaves, and were filled.” It was not their hearts nor even their curiosity that had drawn them, but the sordid desire of food. “Work not for the food which perisheth,” the Lord continued, “but for the food which abideth unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you; for him the Father, even God hath sealed.”

The crowd was interested. He had spoken of food— better food even than what they had received. They remembered the Manna in the wilderness and wished that there might be a recurrence of those good times. Nor did they doubt that Jesus could do something for them in the line of furnishing them provision. He had said “Work not for the food that perisheth,” but work for that “which abideth ………which the Son of man shall give unto you.” They said therefore unto Him, “What must we do that we may work the works of God?” And Jesus answered, “This is the work of God” — the one way to get that food— “that ye believe on him whom He hath sent.” Very well, they said (in effect) we are ready to believe on you. Of course you will show us a sign. Can you do something on the order of that which Moses did when he gave our fathers manna in the wilderness? (John 6:624-31). The heart almost revolts at the low and sordid motive that swayed this people. Surely the question of getting a living was a concern of first magnitude with them. And are they fewer today who put the bread problem first, and everything else in the second place ? For “a man has to live!” But let us follow on.

ΥΕΛ, Λ MAN MUST LIVE.  “Jesus therefore said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, It was not Moses that gave you the bread out of heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which cometh down out of heaven and giveth life unto the world.” They were, after all, not so far wrong. The question of living is supreme— and God put Himself out beyond measure to give men bread, even the true Bread out of heaven, which not merely sustains life for a time, as did the manna, and as does all our food, but the bread that gives life. For, “Your fathers ate the manna and they died. This is the bread which cometh down out of heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die.” It is true, after all, a man has to live!

Yea, first, and foremost above all else, a man must live! But not on the low plane of which they thought. So far as living in the flesh goes— even the world in its better thoughts knows that there are many things that must rank before this. But there is a bread a man must have, and a man must live and cannot afford to forego it— even the Bread of the Life, which is eternal. 0h that men understood it!

“GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD.” As to our earthly living, God is not indifferent about it. How much He cares about it whether we have the wherewithal of life below is seen from the prominence the Lord Jesus gave the petition for our daily bread in the “Lord’s Prayer,” and the wonderful teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, against earthly anxiety (Matt. 6:24 -34 ), in which he warns them not to be exercised over the question of “What shall we eat,” “What shall we drink,” “Wherewithal shall we be clothed”— things the Gentiles (who are without hope and without God in the world) seek after. To His people there is but one thing needful: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” God does care whether His children have the necessities of life, and it is not by far an unworthy subject of their petitions to Him. One may see the tender consideration of our Father in heaven shining out through such words as those in Phil. 4 :6, 7, 19. But it is not the supreme purpose of our existence to live or to make a living. If some day, the call and test should come to us to decide twixt bread and truth; twixt loyalty and living; twixt God, duty and right, on the one hand, and position and salary and sustenance on the other— may it cost us no struggle to say that we choose to walk through hunger and cold and distress with Him, far rather than to live in plenty without Him.

     NOTHING BUT THIS MANNA. But we must go back to the sixth chapter of John once more. How disappointed and dismayed those Jews were when Jesus finally told them, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. I am the living bread which came down out of heaven: if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever.” And their disappointment turned to disgust and anger when He added: “Yea, and the bread which I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” When they strove one with another about this saying, the Lord Jesus spoke even more emphatically: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood ye have not life in yourselves.” And the great, greedy throng left Him; and some of His disciples also. But all that follow Jesus with a wrong motive will sooner or later stumble and turn away from Him. It may as well be sooner as later. And so it came to pass.

EATING HIS FLESH, DRINKING HIS BLOOD. What then did the Lord Jesus mean by this “hard

saying”? A general and widespread view applies these words to the Lord’s Supper. But He had no reference to that. The Lord’s Supper is for His church a commemoration of and participation in, the body and blood of the Lord in His appointed memorial feast. This is another thing. This is not for His church, but for outsiders; not a means of sustaining life, but of giving life. And the eating and drinking which appeases the soul’s hunger and thirst is just this: “He that cometh to me shall not hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” So to “come to Him” is to eat— to eat his flesh; to “believe on Him” is to drink— to drink his blood; to get the released blessing of His sacrificial death upon the cross. And there is never a soul that thus believes and comes in sincere and humble obedience to the gospel (Acts 2:38), but is thus made the recipient of the Bread of Heaven that giveth life to the world.

SELLING THE BIRTHRIGHT. Who seeks first his present comfort shall lose the comfort of God which is to come; who seeks for earthly wealth shall fail of the true riches; who takes his ease now shall fall short of the rest that remaineth for the people of God; who finds his pleasure here shuts himself out from the true joys beyond; who makes present enjoyment his aim shall miss the satisfaction God provides. Whoso findeth his life shall lose it; but he that loseth his life for My sake, the same shall find it.

 

  1. H. Boll was a well-known preacher among the Churches of Christ and served from 1904 until his death in 1956 as minister of the Portland Avenue Church of Christ in Louisville, KY. He was Editor of the Word and Work Magazine from 1916 to 1956.



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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8