Wants and needs

Published 5:19 pm Tuesday, September 24, 2019

By Scott Baker

My wife Sheryl told me about a recent conversation she had with our son, Ian. They were discussing the difference between wants and needs in people’s lives and how to make the distinction between the two. Being from very different generations, needless to say they had very different takes on this topic. Our son is 16 and has never known a world without screens or Google or Youtube, etc. My wife and I are both over 50 and certainly remember a vastly different world. As Sheryl conveyed the conversation to me, it seemed the crux of the discussion centered around what one considered an extravagance as opposed to a necessity.

As I listened to the play-by-play of the conversation, I couldn’t help but to think of the various occasions in the Bible where the people of God have to make the same distinction. In particular the Israelites as they cross the Red Sea into the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. They had witnessed the many signs of power in Egypt culminating with the miraculous rescue through the Red Sea and no sooner had they arrived in freedom on the other side, they long to go back to all the things they had left behind. They sit down and start to count their losses and long for things they deem necessities. “If only we had meat to eat. We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic…” (Numbers 11:5). And although they don’t get what they want, God provides them what they need. What they get is nothing short of the food of the angels and water from a rock and flocks of quail to satiate their craving for meat. God not only meets their needs, God does so in abundance.

All too often what we think is absolutely essential is superfluous, perhaps even opulent. A modern example might be cell phones. I used to see cell phones as a luxury; something that was extravagant and unnecessary. Of course, as we enter more fully into the 21st century, the necessity of having a cell phone is becoming more and more apparent. What once was thought of as a luxury item, has become a virtually necessity in our lives.

After further reflection about needs and wants, I began to ask myself the question, “How many people in our country, cities, towns, and communities are unable to meet their daily needs?” If you query the question on the internet, the numbers are staggering. There are millions in our country that go hungry on a daily basis. Basic health care is vanishing, especially in the more rural areas of our country with the closing of rural hospitals. Although many municipalities are attempting to tackle the homeless crisis, much work still remains. These three needs, often times thought of the basic needs, are just to name a few. I’m sure a cell phone is much farther down the list. As we enter into this time of year when our hearts and minds are tuned to the holidays and thanksgiving and giving, perhaps those of us who adequately meet our daily needs with abundance might turn our attentions to how we can help others do the same.

THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 562-4542.