“Show me a man with his needs satisfied, and I’ll show you a man in serious trouble.”
Novelist Walker Percy comments in his 1989 speech to the National Endowment of the Humanities
“Show me a man with his needs satisfied, and I’ll show you a man in serious trouble.”
The sentence seems to make no sense. The great success of our civilization over the last 100 years has been the meeting of needs. Look at all of the things we have resolved. Haven’t most of fears and concerns that were common less than 100 years ago been banished?
Peter Kreeft in an article on Suffering makes a vital observation about our power over pain.
To live is to suffer – that was Buddha’s First Noble Truth, the truth that he thought was the most obvious and indisputable truth in life, the data on which any quasi-scientific theory of human life must be erected. Pain is the most obvious problem in the world. This is no less true today, for now that our civilisation has succeeded in conquering half of humanity’s physical pains, by anesthetics and medical technology and boogie boards, it has also doubled humanity’s spiritual pains: depression, despair, divorce (which is more painful than death), other betrayals, loneliness, emptiness, meaninglessness, the existential vacuum. Victor Frankl says, quoting Nietzsche, “A man can endure almost any how if only he has a why.” The how is the circumstances, including the suffering. The why is a purpose and a meaning. This is not a theory; this is an observation. Frankl is a scientist. He observed this to be true in the laboratory of Auschwitz.
The corollary of this truth is that if we do not have a purpose and a meaning, then we cannot endure any suffering that’s inconvenient. Our culture seems to have made the Faustian bargain of giving up a better why for a better how; giving up meaning for comfort. We’ve conquered the world of pain, but we’ve lost our soul, our meaning, our hope, our purpose. And that’s why the physical pains that remain, though only half as bad in quantity compared to those of our ancestors, are twice as bad in quality, twice as unendurable, without the meaning to surround them.
The end result is that though the pains are less, we fear them and feel them more. It’s like the difference between childbirth and abortion. To use a quantitative analogy for something that is not quantitative, the birth has a hundred pains, but a thousand transcendently meaningful joys. The abortion has only a dozen pains, but no joys.
Why do the rich and beautiful take their own lives?
The two mysteries that have been in the news this week have been the disappearance of Malaysian Flight 370 and the suicide of L’Wren Scott. Of the two the flight will more likely be solved.
Ms. Scott was a model, a clothing designer and Mick Jagger’s girlfriend. It seems hard to get more successful than that, yet she took her own life. Gossip of course fills the void because we wonder, why would this woman who has so many of the things so many would want take her own life?
In summer 2012 Tony Scott (no relation) successful Hollywood director also took his own life leaving wife and sons behind.
We’ve had overdoses by Health Ledger, Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Whitney Houston, and Cory Monteith. Look at the list. These people seemed to have access to all the pleasures this world has to offer. All took their own lives either intentionally or accidentally by trying to escape their own pain through drugs.
The news cycle passes and these lives are forgotten, just like almost all other lives.
Is happiness a function of circumstance?
As a pastor I listen to the never ending longing for resolved problems. Someone looking at us from a hundred years ago would likely wonder how on earth we could complain about this amazing time we live in. Much of what plagued people 100 years ago has been resolved.
I was reading Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place where before the war she lived with three aunts in the home, Tante Anna, Tante Bep and Tante Jans. Tante Anne was the only healthy one and she gave herself to keeping house as Corrie’s mother, Tante Jans and Tante Bep were not well. Tante Bep had tuberculosis and Tante Jans eventually was diagnosed with diabetes which was then a death sentence. When Corrie finished school she took over the housework from Tante Anne
THAT SPRING I finished school and took over the work of the household. It had always been planned that I would do this, but now there was an added reason. Tante Bep had tuberculosis.
The disease was regarded as incurable: the only known treatment was rest at a sanatorium and that was only for the rich. And so for many months Tante Bep lay in her little closet of a room, coughing away her life.
To keep down the risk of infection, only Tante Anna went in or out. Around the clock she nursed her older sister, many nights getting no sleep at all, and so the cooking and washing and cleaning for the family fell to me. I loved the work, and except for Tante Bep would have been completely happy. But over everything lay the shadow: not only the illness, but her whole disgruntled and disappointed life.
Often I would catch a glimpse inside when I handed in a tray or Tante Anna passed one out. There were the few pathetic mementos of thirty years in other people’s homes. Perfume bottles—empty many years—because well-bred families always gave the governess perfume for Christmas. Some faded Daguerrotypes of children who by now must have children and grandchildren of their own. Then the door would shut. But I would linger in that narrow passage under the eaves, yearning to say something, to heal something. Wanting to love her better.
I spoke once about my feelings to Mama. She too was more and more often in bed. Always before when pain from the gallstones had got too bad, she’d had an operation. But a small stroke after the last one made further surgery impossible, and many days, making up a tray for Tante Bep, I carried one upstairs to Mama also.
I glanced out Mama’s single window at the brick wall three feet away. “Mama,” I said as I set the tray on the bed and sat down beside it, “can’t we do something for Tante Bep? I mean, isn’t it sad that she has to spend her last days here where she hates it, instead of where she was so happy? The Wallers’ or someplace?”
Mama laid down her pen and looked at me. “Corrie,” she said at last, “Bep has been just as happy here with us—no more and no less—than she was anywhere else.”
I stared at her, not understanding.
“Do you know when she started praising the Wallers so highly?” Mama went on. “The day she left them. As long as she was there, she had nothing but complaints. The Wallers couldn’t compare with the van Hooks where she’d been before. But at the van Hooks she’d actually been miserable. Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings, Corrie. It’s something we make inside ourselves.”
Boom, Corrie Ten; Elizabeth Sherrill; John Sherrill (2006-01-01). The Hiding Place (p. 48-49). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
If one is Good, 5 Would Be Better
Today we’ll meet a woman with 5 husbands and 6 men. We imagine “a woman needs a man”, and that is often true, but shouldn’t we then also imagine “if one is good then 2 would be better.” This is how we approach much of life isn’t it?
There was a dear Christian friend of mine who passed away a number of years ago. After she passed her daughter told me how many marriages she had had. I never knew this even though I was her pastor. It was something she was ashamed of. Why do we imagine in most of life that having more money, more power, more wonderful experiences, more travel, even more lovers or sexual partners all equals “more life” but not more husbands or wives?
Giving Up the Ten Commandments For Lent
Lent has become in our “do it yourself” religious context a time to deprive yourself of whatever it is you imagine depriving yourself of will make you a better person. There’s something strangely counter-productive about this approach.
I tell people “I gave up the Ten Commandments for Lent” and that puzzles them. It doesn’t seem right. (I really just mean we paused one sermon series to start another.) But it illustrates something about how even voluntary withdrawal can be twisted into the “more” game.
Our Lenten series began with Jesus and the temptations and it is good to return to them and puzzle over the mystery of why Jesus refused to use the power he had to “do good” for himself and the mission we all imagined he should undertake.
Jesus realizes what Mr. Incredible learns
No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved! You know, for a little bit? I feel like the maid; I just cleaned up this mess! Can we keep it clean for… for ten minutes!
Jesus will do plenty of Mr. Incredible rescuing but does it fully understanding the risks and not being sucked into the temptations involved.
John 2:23–25 (NIV)
23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.
First, Jesus Confronts the Religious
What follows are two stories that are told to give us a window into the Kingdom of God and Jesus’ inauguration of it. In John 3 we have the story of Nicodemus and in John 4 the story of the Samaritan woman that Jesus meets at the well.
In John 3 Jesus is approached by a wealthy, powerful, learned man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus has through the reports about Jesus come to the conclusion that something powerful is going on in, with and through Jesus but he would have much to lose by approaching Jesus publicly so he arranges a covert meeting with Jesus at night. Nicodemus sees a need for Jesus’ power and wishes to appropriate him, and it by perhaps hoping to make a deal or come to an agreement. In some ways Nicodemus is a humbler more naive version of the devil and the meeting a subtler form of temptation for Jesus.
Nicodemus expects to be treated with the kind of deference that he feels his position and accomplishments merit and is dismayed by how unimpressed Jesus is with his credentials. Nicodemus imagines that if Jesus really is the Messiah that Jesus will see the value of a possible relationship with a man like Nicodemus, one with connections, reputation, influence, wealth and power. Nicodemus imagines that he is exactly the kind of man that Jesus needs, as so imagines everyone else.
Nicodemus stands in for those of us who are religious, who have researched what it is that God wants or needs and have positioned ourselves in the divine market place to take advantage of its opportunities for advancement and profit. Religion in this way is a spiritual means used to control circumstance.
This meeting would crush Nicodemus’ religious expectations and hopes.
In characteristic fashion in the Gospel of John Jesus approaches Nicodemus with an ambiguity that will not only trip Nicodemus up but do so in a way that will reveal to Nicodemus, and to us, the shape of our bias which keeps us from seeing, believing and following Jesus.
Jesus will tell Nicodemus “unless one is born anothen you cannot see the kingdom of God”. “anothen” has two meanings in Greek, it can mean “again” or “from above”. Nicodemus will express his incredulity by embracing “again” but Jesus clearly means “from above” which is from where Jesus claims to have come. We will see Jesus enter into this kind of ambiguities with people repeatedly in the Gospel of John.
The Religions Vs. the Irreligious
Now we, and everyone else in Jesus’ day would with Nicodemus imagine that Nicodemus is EXACTLY the kind of person that Jesus needs for his mission, but we would also have imagined he’d turn stones into bread, show some angel power and flex some political muscle.
While the writer Luke takes two books to show us the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in sending out emissaries to the world, John will do his work with one book. In the book of Acts the Holy Spirit will move disciples of Jesus out into the larger world, in John Jesus begins the movement, and he does so with the most unlikely agent.
All of the things that Nicodemus is, the woman at the well isn’t. Nicodemus is a man in a world where only men were allowed to be witnesses in court because only men were thought to be reliable tellers of the truth.
Nicodemus is a Jew, educated, respected, influential. This woman is going to the well at midday when she knows the other women of the town won’t be there. Who would want to carry her daily supply of water at the hottest time of day? Everything Nicodemus had in reputation this woman had in notoriety.
This woman was also a Samaritan. The Samaritans were the half-breed heretical cousins of the Jews and there was nothing below the surface about the contempt the two groups had for each other. Nicodemus had a pedigree, the Samaritans were considered to be Assyrian-bred mongrels who pretended to be God’s chosen people but who revered an altered Bible at a knock-off temple at Mt. Gerizim which a hundred years before the Jews had destroyed. Jews traveling from the Galilee to Judea did their best to avoid contact with Samaritans and the Samaritans resented having to allow them passage through their land.
Nicodemus was an upstanding man in his community whose morals were undoubtedly beyond reproach. This woman, as we will see had marital if not sexual issues. Jews were allowed to marry three times, this woman had been married 5 times and was currently living with a man who was not her husband, and possibly the husband of another woman. Women couldn’t normally initiate divorce in that context so she had been either widowed or disposed of by five different men. This together with the time of day she went to the well are clues to what kind of reputation she had with the respectable Samaritans of the town.
Jesus Humbles Himself, Jesus appears not only irreligious but naive
Jesus is left alone by the well as his disciples have gone into town to buy food. We find Jesus again, as we found him with the devil in the desert, bereft of even the common supplies needed for human life. Here, as in the desert, he doesn’t use his “Mr. Incredible” powers to supply himself with even the most basic needs. He is voluntarily reduced by all appearances to a beggar.
When he approaches the woman she is startled. He comes to her from below, beneath her, making her in that moment a possible benefactor. Being a benefactor in that culture was a very big deal. It was a position of power and authority.
I wonder if this woman had ever in her life had the opportunity to be a benefactor for anyone. Having been divorced by not three but five husbands, and now occupying the socially shameful and powerless place of depending upon a man who had no social obligation towards here she is a poster child of a sinful victim. The last thing she could be was a benefactor, responsible for the survival, welfare or well-being for anyone.
Empowered by her new-found position she does what many powerful people do, remind her inferior of her position of superiority according to conventional wisdom. “How can a Jew ask a Samaritan woman for water?”
The question besides illuminating the religious, historical and social barriers between them reminded Jesus of the rules that were supposed to bind him, the rules of ceremonial cleanliness. Jews didn’t share utensils with Samaritans so partaking of water from her bucket would have been verboten.
While Nicodemus had approached Jesus at night, here Jesus approaches this woman in broad daylight. While Jesus is willing to engage a potential disciples like Nicodemus, this is the kind of disciple Jesus seems eager to seek out.
The Woman’s Filter is Circumstance Improvement
As the Samaritan woman is enjoying her moment of potential benefaction and her rare opportunity to remind her cultural adversary of his place of need, Jesus invites her into the same language ambiguous space of learning with which he engaged Nicodemus.
John 4:10–12 (NET)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who said to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”11 “Sir,” the woman said to him, “you have no bucket and the well is deep; where then do you get this living water?12 Surely you’re not greater than our ancestor Jacob, are you? For he gave us this well and drank from it himself, along with his sons and his livestock.”
If you remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus you’d feel the ambiguity of God’s electing grace. Unless this woman is born from above she cannot SEE the situation that she imagines is clear before her. All she sees is the blinding drive to attempt to fix her life by managing the circumstances of it.
Jesus names two things “the gift of God” which refers to the Holy Spirit and “who it is who said to you” meaning himself. This is John doing Luke and Acts in the same story.
The one before her who seems so inept as to not meet his most basic needs suggests that she should have offered him “living water”. She is thinking natural, moving water but again Jesus’ message is ambiguous. Later Jesus will say this…
John 7:38–39 (NET)
38 let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’ ”39 (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.)
Her response is essentially the same as that of Nicodemus with his “born again” incredulity. Nicodemus in expecting Jesus’ advice as being circumstantial found it absurd. Now she presciently and yet mockingly asks if this seemingly ignorant and disabled Jew would be greater than Jacob, the great benefactor of their common ancestry who was supposed to have provided the well. The point is piercing, bringing again into the conversation all the political and relational conflict between their peoples together with the Samaritan claims of lineage and correctness. Who would claim to be greater than patriarch Jacob? Someone without enough sense to bring a bucket to a deep well? Such a man who asks for water then offers water from some unseen source? She sees him not as any sort of potential benefactor but rather as some sort of fool.
If Not Mr. Incredible, Then At Least A Competent Water District
Jesus now begins to press into the ambiguity of his invitation and illuminate where this woman’s very practical thoughts lie. If this Jews at the well without a bucket will be any help at all he could at least help her with her misery and her problems. She is a sinful victim who is stuck in life with few resources to help herself. She is trapped in this world of suffering and the ways she has worked to try to give her options and solutions have only dug her whole deeper. The five men she’s married, the socially acceptable means of economic and social security have all failed to pan out.
She, like Lindsey Vonn has learned to chart her own course. Conventional wisdom of “marriage” has failed her, so she makes up her own way. Again, what she’d really like out of Jesus is a little help. She has needs that 5 husbands and six men have not fulfilled. Maybe some indoor plumbing would be the solution!
Nothing demonstrates the difference between Mr. Incredible and Jesus better than the observation that if you were omniscient and omnipotent and you wanted to “save” and “cure” a lot of people addressing the needs one by one is a foolish way to proceed. Like this cartoon of putting Superman to work generating electricity Jesus could have extended far more lives by teaching the people how to produce penicillin and teaching the basics about good sanitation. In this case what the woman would really like is indoor plumbing. Need meeting or context switching like rescuing is an endless job. Something needs to change from the inside.
Her Religion is a Fig Leaf
Now Jesus begins to reveal himself to her in a gentle, but confrontative way. She’s been the one playing the culture cards against him, now he asks for the most basic element of propriety. “Is the man of the house home?” before we go any further inquiring about your plumbing request?
No, there is no husband.
“That’s right, five husbands have left you without resources and the man you’re living with isn’t even extending any legal or social responsibility towards you.”
She is undone. Her moment of benefaction dissolves. Her vulnerability is exposed. What will this Jewish man now do?
She defers again to the divide between their peoples as if perhaps she can hide behind it. “Jews worship in Jerusalem, Samaritans at Gerizim, maybe you should move along and continue your journey to be with your kind and leave me alone.”
In his answer Jesus acknowledges the divide but subtly closes the distance and includes her into the community of those who call the creator God Father.
Jesus doesn’t say his Father is only the father of Jews, but her father as well. He now invites her to stand with him and worship their shared Father. He crosses over the divide and positions himself as her brother and she as his sister. While other men have left her and rejected her or refused to become family with her, Jesus now includes her. Her problem is not all the needs she’s been trying to meet with the limited power and shrewdness she possesses. She doesn’t needs a closer spring of literal water, but a spring of living water that wells up from within her and that, like the “born from above” Nicodemus is faced with cannot be satisfied by her own resources. It must be given to her.
The Messiah, The I Am
Now instead of pointing out the religious division between them, she again presciently mentions the Messiah, the promised one who in the minds of Jews and Samaritans will fight a war of national liberation and free their people from pagan imperial rule.
Jesus here does something very unusual. He claims to be the Messiah, and he claims to be Yhwh in language more direct than he often did with his own people.
The Gospel of John is known for this “I Am” sayings of Jesus but it is interesting that this is the first one. Jesus now discloses himself to her. How will she respond?
He knows all, but loves me still
Suddenly the disciples return and they see a very startling and awkward social, moral and religious situation before them. Their moral and religious filters are engaged and questions immediately pop into their minds. This all looks inappropriate but they don’t dare to say anything.
The woman too is caught in this new space. When this situation arose she was in a position of power by how Jesus approached it. As the conversation unfolded she felt safe with this man in the ways she had always been unsafe with other men, and unsafe spiritually and religiously in the ways she had felt safe by virtue of appealing to the religious tradition of the Samaritans. She flees the scene leaving her water jar behind.
The next scene is her back in her village. The village that she avoided out of shame, out of shunning, now she seeks. She comes as someone who might be warning of a storm, or an invading army, but her words bring good news, not news of doom.
Her message couldn’t be more ironic or shocking. This woman who has been shamed or shunned by the village for her moral failures or failures as a woman of value cries that THIS man told her everything she ever did. We might imagine that the village would be horrified at the thought of this. This woman who married and was rejected by 5 husbands and now lives with a man who isn’t her husband and may be someone else’s is happy because this prophet has seen her past?
What is alarming, gloriously, wonderfully alarming, is that this man knows everything she’s ever done and yet invited her into his friendship, into his fellowship, into his circle. She fled at the appearance of the other men, but this man seems different from all other men she’s ever met.
Birth, Food and Water Needs
The disciples return. What strings these two stories together is the insistence of Nicodemus, the woman and the disciples as primarily understanding Jesus’ program for them as circumstantial improvement.
John 4:31–38 (NET)
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 So the disciples began to say to one another, “No one brought him anything to eat, did they?”
34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to complete his work.35 Don’t you say, ‘There are four more months and then comes the harvest?’ I tell you, look up and see that the fields are already white for harvest! 36 The one who reaps receives pay and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that the one who sows and the one who reaps can rejoice together. 37 For in this instance the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap what you did not work for; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”
They don’t understand, but his words will be fulfilled before their eyes.
John 4:39–42 (NET)
39 Now many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the report of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they began asking him to stay with them. He stayed there two days, 41 and because of his word many more believed.
42 They said to the woman, “No longer do we believe because of your words, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this one really is the Savior of the world.”
Jesus goes from being a hoped for but frustrating Mr. Incredible who was supposed to improve their lives by doing them circumstantial favors, into something quite different.
It is important to see here that in this case the change didn’t happen yet for Nicodemus or the disciples but did come to the Samaritan village. What I think we see here is a time shifting where what happens later in Luke through Phillip comes now for this village through this woman, but what was the nature of their salvation?
Relational Shift that would Transform her Life
At the heart of the woman’s torment were not primarily her circumstances but the her assumptions about “how to make life work” that drove her to seek the circumstances (the men) that she thought would rescue her, give her value, give her meaning.
If we are to look at Kreeft pointing to Frankl we see that the circumstantial is secondary and the internal is primary. Kreeft’s point is that while the modern world has greatly improved our circumstantial condition, the relational/emotional situation has gotten worse in inverse relation to the circumstantial.
In the example of the Ten Booms here we have a house full of sick, and even the healthy will be hauled into torture and death in the Nazi camps not because of their ethnicity but for voluntarily sacrificing themselves for men, women and children who were not of their ethnic group nor their religion. While they would all suffer and lose grievously, what you also discover are fountains of joy welling up inside of them that would in fact bring the water of life even to those suffering excruciating horrors the likes of which even a first century primitive village couldn’t compare with.
The guards wouldn’t enter the barracks where Betsie and Corrie were consigned because the flees were so horrible. With a Bible the women had smuggled in they held multi-language, multi-denominational services that became the living water for these prisoners consigned to death.
They were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28. A single meeting might include a recital of the Magnificat in Latin by a group of Roman Catholics, a whispered hymn by some Lutherans, and a sotto-voce chant by Eastern Orthodox women. With each moment the crowd around us would swell, packing the nearby platforms, hanging over the edges, until the high structures groaned and swayed.
At last either Betsie or I would open the Bible. Because only the Hollanders could understand the Dutch text, we would translate aloud in German. And then we would hear the life-giving words passed back along the aisles in French, Polish, Russian, Czech, back into Dutch. They were little previews of heaven, these evenings beneath the lightbulb. I would think of Haarlem, each substantial church set behind its wrought-iron fence and its barrier of doctrine. And I would know again that in darkness God’s truth shines most clear.
Boom, Corrie Ten; Elizabeth Sherrill; John Sherrill (2006-01-01). The Hiding Place (p. 213). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
But as the rest of the world grew stranger, one thing became increasingly clear. And that was the reason the two of us were here. Why others should suffer we were not shown. As for us, from morning until lights-out, whenever we were not in ranks for roll call, our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of help and hope. Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light. The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
I would look about us as Betsie read, watching the light leap from face to face. More than conquerors. . . . It was not a wish. It was a fact. We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute—poor, hated, hungry. We are more than conquerors. Not “we shall be.” We are! Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.
Boom, Corrie Ten; Elizabeth Sherrill; John Sherrill (2006-01-01). The Hiding Place (p. 206). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The Samaritan woman who was driven from community and suffered a self-imposed slavery to male love and whim now became the spring of living water that watered the village.
What Is Your Religion and What Are Your Seeking From It?
What we see in this is that not only the religious are religious. We all seek to create meaning from circumstance when in fact life works the other way around. It is from the well of meaning that circumstance if not transformed is transcended. We can endure almost any how if we have a why.
Just as Jesus’ words were ambiguous so also is his image to us. We see him as a way of getting what we think we need. He comes to us to show us what our actual need is, himself.
The remarkable difference between Christianity and the other religious solutions out there is that most of them recommend a program to us that promises us that if we work it we can receive what it is we are seeking.
- The Hindu believes that if you work the various forms of yoga you can escape the endless enslavement of the cycle of death and reincarnation into this suffering world. American secularized yoga just promises to give you a hot body, good health and a calm spirit and you can believe in reincarnation if you think it’s a cool thing.
- The Buddha promises that if you apply yourself diligently to the work of meditation you can transcend the illusion of individuality, good and evil and then relieve yourself of all suffering by extinguishing desire within you.
- Islam promises that if you devote yourself to obedience and submission to God that He will reward you for your good deeds.
- Mormonism promises that if you are obedient to God then someday you will get to be God over your own universe.
Jesus does not provide a program as much as himself. He comes to this woman and simply says “ask”.
She has no idea what is happening but even under the false impression that Jesus is offering her a practical solution takes a risk on him and she does, in fact become a spring of living water that not only transforms her life but her community as well. Jesus asks that we trust him more than we trust ourselves and promises that he can bring the kind of transformation to us and to our community that we have no power to offer ourselves.