What you can’t live on
What does Jesus mean by “live” and “bread”? The Greek word he uses for live is zoe, and it means “the enjoyment or quality of life.” It’s not the word bios which is just the existence or quantity of life. This means that you can exist on bread alone, but you can’t live on bread alone. Now what is meant by bread? Bread means more than food; it’s a metaphor for the various material and physical things of life. It’s your career, your family, and your health – good things that you were meant to live with but never on. For example, in the very beginning of The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins’ life centered on maintaining the comforts of his hobbit hole. But, when the wizard Gandalf invites Bilbo on an adventure, Bilbo follows and finally begins to live, not just exist. The greatest treasure that Bilbo found on his journey was learning how to have a right relationship to the material things in this life. There’s no lasting meaning, hope or joy by anxiously trying to grasp or maintain the various “breads” of this world. You were meant to live with them, but never on them. So how do you truly live?
What you must live on
Jesus teaches that life to the full comes by living on every word that comes from God. Imagine that you’re looking out a window and you keep seeing a bird flying back and forth to a particular tree. This goes on for several hours until finally the bird lands and inches its way to it’s nest. Now, why was this bird going back and forth to this tree so many times? Because it lived on the tree. In a similar way, that’s how you are meant to be with the Bible. People should be able to look at Christians and see them like little birds going back and forth to the Bible. Why? That’s what they live on. God’s word is what calls you out of your safe hobbit holes of comfort and guides you, encourages you, and causes you to experience life as it’s meant to be. And Jesus wants you to live on every word; not on most of the words or your favorite words, but on every word of God. The entire Bible is important, but how can you actually live on it?
How you can live on the Word
For many people, reading the Bible with effectiveness and regular satisfaction can seem so out of reach. Here are some ways that can help:
Live on the word made flesh. Tim Keller says it this way: “Before you can live rightly on the word made text, you need to live on the Word made flesh.” Because Jesus, the Word made flesh, lived and died for you, you can read the word made text not to get or keep God on your side, but because you know that through Jesus, he is already on your side.
Use a Bible reading plan. In order to live on every word, it’s helpful to have a reading plan that guides you through the entire scriptures. As they say, “If you fail to plan, then you’re planning to fail.”
Show up even when you don’t feel like it. There will come a time when you don’t feel like reading God’s word. Read it anyway. You know how to show up for work when you don’t feel like going. Just do the same with God.
Come to the Bible prayerfully. David prayed, “Open up my eyes that I might see wonderful things from your word.” He acknowledged that the problem was with him, not the scriptures. You can open up the word, but God must open up the word to you.
Go to get a feeding not a feeling. Your daily reading may not always taste like an amazing feast, but meals are like that. Sometimes you don’t have this great experience, but you’re still being nourished. Likewise, trust that God’s word is transforming you even when it doesn’t feel like it is.
Take time to search the scriptures. God’s truth is also compared to gold that a man searches and finds. A search takes time and effort. Don’t skim the Bible like a newspaper; search it like you’re digging for gold.
Let the God of the scriptures search you. When you come to the Bible, do you have the red pen or does God? Let God rearrange your understanding of an issue or situation, and be a doer of the word. Live your life on every word that comes from God and you will experience the good life.
Jeremy McKeen is the Lead Pastor of Truth Point Church. Jeremy received his B.A. in Communications and Philosophy from Florida Southern College and his MDiv from Knox Theological Seminary.