My dictionary defines human hunger as feeling of pain, emptiness, appetite, desire, need and craving. As far as I know every living creature on the planet cannot survive without food and the planet (presently under serious threat) has provided a pantry of sustained nourishment.
Food, as a consumable substance, critical as it is for the human body, is one of a number of hungers evident in our human nature, differentiating us from all other species. We have manifest a hunger for knowledge (in exploration, experiment, information), for power (in control, economic, wealth), for love (in affection, acceptance, belonging), for God (in worship, prayer, spiritual aspirations). Our Western thinking (dualistic) separates them, but they are interconnected to form our whole being as a person. The absence of any one part affects the whole.
Consider food hunger. We pray ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. Millions of people consume tons of food every day. Provided we exercise the necessary care, the planet is so constituted it yields the necessary harvest. There is enough food for everyone, but not everyone receives it. Individuals, families, entire populations are deprived of this necessity by drought, poverty, greed, self- interest and inefficient distribution. Luxury, wastage and starvation exist side by side. Jesus knew this and concerned as he was for the poor he refused ‘to turn stones into bread’ knowing at heart maldistribution and economic equity is a spiritual issue. Lazarus lay at the gate of the wealthy, starving. Zacchaeus, having met Jesus, emptied his wallet for the poor. Since that incident soup kitchens, food centers for the needy and the like have sprung into service through those energized by meeting with Jesus.
Consider knowledge hunger. It has been both benefactor and destroyer. This hunger has driven us into planetary probes and space travel. It has drawn us into research for medical cures and into cyber-hacking for information. School, college, university, provide the classroom for education and learning initiating science, engineering, technical, architectural, cultural skills. Providing immense benefits and unprecedented weapons of mass destruction. Intellectual acumen without moral absolutes has proven ruthless and an irresponsible disregard for human welfare and dignity. Jesus knew the limits of the mind ‘You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times’ (Mt.16:3) Paul stressed the right use of the mind and its power.
Consider power hunger. Every generation, every nation has witnessed the appearance of people besotted with power. Today the world reverberates, shudders and in places smolders from the fanatical speeches and actions of demagogues, dictators and presidents hungry for power, but power without wisdom is inevitably destructive. Our human ego misuses power in the home, the office, the boardroom, the throne. Jesus exercised the greatest of all powers – love. Paul named it the greatest of gifts.
Consider love hunger. From childhood we are hungry for love; to be seen, picked up and held. Wood and stone make a house, but love makes a home. A wedding is a passing ceremony, but marriage is a daily commitment to love whatever the cost. Paul described love (1 Cor.13). Jesus embodied the unrestricted, unlimited, ‘furious love of God’ which embraces and holds us.
Consider spirit hunger. The hunger for God is vividly portrayed in scripture, but also evident in the generations pre-existing the writing of the Bible and in all religions. The human being has had a longing for and an awareness of Some Thing, or some Being, Power, other than human flesh. Worship, devotion, loyalty, sacrifice, ritual are spiritual activities applied in various forms. Ancestors, tribal gods, mystical traditions are all undeniable evidence of the hunger of the Spirit within the human being for a Power that exists.
You, dear reader, have this hunger. You attend worship, share in fellowship, study the bible, read religious books, engage in prayer because deep within your heart is a spiritual hunger, longing, ache, appetite, craving – name it what you will. God is not a substance, or an object. You look for him. You search for some experience. Dr. W. E. Sangster came to a period in his ministry when he doubted his call. Lost his faith in God. Questioned God’s existence. He was desperate. He shared his dilemma with a colleague who said, “The hunger within you is a sign of his presence”. That counsel became a brilliant light. If Sangster was sure of anything, the one thing that he was sure of was his hunger for God. The psalmist has cried ‘O God, I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you’ (Ps.63) NLT. For Wesley the experience of God was a ’warmed heart’. For Sangster it was a ‘consuming hunger’. You are hungry for sure. What if the hunger itself is an experience of God’s breath (his creative power) in you? Then can you believe the hunger (yes the hunger) within you is a sure sign of his presence? Look within, that’s where Jesus said you would find the kingdom.