I have told this story before, but it seems good to re-tell it.
Years ago, our family once had to leave church quickly for a 60-mile trip to make a 2 p.m. meeting. Before going to church that morning, Terry prepared drinks and sandwiches for us to eat while traveling. Jamin, 5 years old at the time, was hungry by the time he arrived at church for Sunday School, and wanted to dig into the picnic basket. But, Terry told him he would have to wait until after church before he could eat his sandwiches, which disgruntled him.
After the sermon, I extended the invitation, to which several responded by coming to the altar. But, on the second verse of the invitation hymn, Jamin left the side of his mother, who had her eyes closed and head bowed in prayer, and began to walk toward the back of the church. I thought to myself, “Now, where does that boy think he’s going? He knows better than this.”
Toward the back, he entered a pew, and stood for a moment, then he exited and entered the pew behind. The next thing I knew, he just walked right out of the church!
I was flabbergasted and bumfuzzled at what he did. By the time I got to the car after the service, the family was eating. Jamin was already chewing on his third sandwich. But, I was irritated at him, and, as soon as we were out of the church parking lot, I started the scolding process. Driving through our town of Mason, I scolded about inappropriate behavior in God’s house. Across the bridge over the Ohio River, I emphasized the importance of reverence during the invitation part of the worship service.
By the time we got into the cross-river town of Pomeroy, I had vented an adequate portion of exasperation, when it finally occurred to me to ask, “Jamin, why did you sneak away from your mother and leave the church?” Sometimes parents get so worked up over their kid’s actions that they forget to ask the obvious questions.
He replied meekly, “So I could get to the car first before Micaiah and Jeshua.”
“Why did you have to get to the car first?”
There was a pause. The question obviously embarrassed him. I adjusted the rear view mirror so I could see him. He had his head bowed. His little lips quivered. He loosely held a sandwich part in one hand, and a pop can in the other hand.
Finally, he answered lowly, “’Cause … ‘cause I was hungry.”
Terry and I looked at each other. In a half-whisper, struggling to suppress bubbling laughter, I leaned slightly toward her, and said, “He said he left because he was hungry.”
It struck me as absolutely funny that our five-year-old had been so intent on beating his brothers to the car to be the first one to the food. We snickered the rest of the way through Pomeroy.
But, the boy demonstrated in a biting way a serious spiritual circumstance which is so typical of many people. Jamin left the worship service because he was hungry.
Without question, people are hungry today. However, their hunger is representative of a grave spiritual shortcoming, for they are not hungry for the things that matter most.
Food is not necessarily the focus here. Rather, the pivotal point concerns people who are hungry for personal pleasure and sensual satisfaction to the exclusion of experience with God.
Philippians 3:19 explains that the god of today is the “belly.” A vast portion of people is driven by what the self wants. Furthermore, the hunger pains for gratification direct decisions and dominate choices. The Scripture accurately portrays the people of these last days as “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” For all that is available, the type of hunger people have today never brings a lasting satisfaction to living.
What has happened to being hungry for God? Jesus said, “Blessed they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Our contemporary society is severely, spiritually short because there is little hunger for Almighty God.
“Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labor for that which satisfied not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness,” wrote Isaiah.
Man’s innate hunger will never be satisfied until we belly up to God’s table and feed on His fine fare. Hunger for God, and let Him fix you a good meal.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.