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Wants and Needs

“My goodness, Mom! How many kinds of ketchup do people need? And all of the barbecue sauce choices! Who needs all of this?”

Our daughter was home on leave from her Peace Corps service in the Dominican Republic. We were shopping in our local grocery store, wandering the aisles. The array and variety of food items were too much for her. When mayonnaise and ketchup were luxury items in her town, having so many choices was overwhelming.

I have a wonderful friend who is the shopper I’m not. She somehow gets me to try on clothes and check out items I normally would walk by. I might even purchase something, even if I don’t need it. But I feel guilty.

“I don’t really need another pair of slacks,” I tell her.

“But they look terrific on you! Don’t say you need them. That sounds desperate. And really what do we actually need? Don’t say you want them. Then you’re just being greedy. Just say, ‘I can use them.’ After all, you can always use another pair of pants.”

Though this was a roundabout way to justify a purchase, Shirley was right about one thing. How much do we actually need?

There are basic needs common to all people: food, clothing and shelter. Those needs have been expanded over the years to the need for health care and freedom and other necessities for a quality life. Certainly no one would deny any of those to someone truly in need if it were possible to provide it.

I have other needs too. I need to finish a project, clean my glasses, get some sleep. When my mother had put off something long enough she would say, “I need to get going.” She wasn’t actually going anywhere. She just knew she shouldn’t be sitting down any longer, avoiding the inevitable task.

There are other things more difficult to express or admit: I need to talk to you. I need your help. I need a kind word.

There are those who insist they can go it alone. They don’t want any help. How many times does a young child who is learning to be independent insist, “I don’t need you!” How often does pride cause someone to shout, “I don’t need your pity!”

There is plenty of need in the Bible. The poor and needy are mentioned often, and how we are to treat them is spelled out implicitly.

In Matthew 6:25-34 we are reminded that Our Heavenly Father knows all our earthly needs and will provide for us. And yet Jesus says that only one thing is needed (Luke 10:42) and it is much more important than even the food and water we crave.

One of the wealthiest of kings, King David, understood this need. In the Psalms he often referred to himself as truly poor and needy. He knew how much he really lacked when he was in the presence of the Almighty. It was the mercy and grace the writer of Hebrews spoke about (4:16). And in our time of need we should have the confidence to approach that throne of grace to ask for them!

I know my Lord has given me the confidence to put aside my pride and appeal to His ever-present love. I know I need Him. Even when I don’t want to admit it and insist I can go it alone. Even when my tears of anger and self-pity conflict with my honest assessment of my life.

In the old hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour” I cry out my desire for His peace… His presence… His blessing… His promise of forgiveness… “I need Thee, O I need Thee. Every hour I need Thee!”

It’s something I can use. It’s something I want… more and more.

Most of all, it’s something I truly need.

Leaving my guilt at the cross,



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