Maslow was wrong. Well, he was right before he was wrong. It is true enough that we all have a hierarchy of needs. Some things are more important than others. Trouble is, he didn’t know what the most important things were. Foundational in his system are those things necessary for survival, things like food and water. King David had a different, a better perspective. He said that the Lord was His Shepherd, and he shall not want (Psalm 23:1). David, at this point, has no green grass, and no still water. To be sure God does provide these things, but before He does, David already has everything he needs, the Lord for His Shepherd. Survival is still up in the air, but David has already finished with his worrying. He has what he needs.
One of the most foundational principles in the modern marketing of the church is the notion that we need to tap into not Maslow’s needs, but “felt needs.” This language leaves open the question of what is truly needful, and calls us instead to make our pitch for what our target audience believes their needs to be. Is our target market afflicted with fear? Offer them peace. Is our market suffering from ennui? Offer them excitement, adrenaline.
We serve a big God. He does indeed give us not just peace, but the peace that passes understanding. We serve also a thrilling God. He is no tame lion. So why wouldn’t we meet the lost at their point of need with all the riches our God has to offer in Christ Jesus? Because our greatest need is to stop worshipping ourselves. When we market Jesus, telling people that He will provide for them this or that, when we list the bullet point benefits awaiting those who will walk the aisle we do not meet people where they are, but leave them where they are. Their problem, which is my problem, is self-worship. If the glory of God is that He allows me to better serve myself, I am still worshipping myself. When He becomes a means, I remain the end. Jesus didn’t tell us to count His benefits. He told us to consider the cost, and to take up the cross.
Jesus didn’t tell us to count His benefits. He told us to consider the cost, and to take up the cross.
I don’t need to survive. I need to die. I need to do the will of my Father in heaven. That must be my meat and my drink. I need His life, His death, His Spirit, His Word, His fruit, His resurrection, His promise, His obedience. I need Him. And I need to come to understand that every other desire, no matter how pious, is the pathway to death.
The glory of God isn’t that He so potently serves me. The glory of God is that in His grace He teaches me to serve Him, working in me to do and to will His good pleasure. Every good gift, every drop of still water, every blade of green grass, is designed to show us Him. They are just the shimmering reflection of the one true gift, the one needful thing, the Pearl of Great Price.