Food that endures

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you (John 6:27).
As the summer draws to a close and fall approaches, we feel a sense of urgency about harvesting the fruits of the land. The gardener realizes that his produce has to be picked at peak if it is to be its best. The farmer prepares himself for long hourse with his machinery to get his crops out of the field at just the right time.

Getting the crop out of the field or garden is only half of it. Preserving it is quite another matter. To be sure, there have been great improvements both in home and commercial food processing, but even with the most sophisticated methods, the product that results has a limited shelf life. Food remains perishable.

Proper priorities

Is Jesus criticizing such efforts when he says, "Do not work for food that spoils"? Not at all! Rather, he is teaching us proper priorities. Look at the setting of Christ's words. He was speaking to people who had just experienced the miraculous feeding of the 5000. Recall that when the people flocked to Jesus, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, not realizing their spiritually helpless state. Jesus alerted them to the seriousness of their sins and their lack of righteousness. But he also pointed to the remedy: the forgiveness of sins that was to be found only in him, the Son of God.

And to prove his deity, Christ did what only God could do. He multiplied the five small barley leaves and two small fishes into a meal for over 5000 people. However, in the excitement caused by the miracle the people forgot about Christ's message and thought only of the meal. Instead of seeking a Savior from sin, they wanted a king to feed and clothe and house them.

Crass materialism

To such Jesus says, "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life." He is warning his hearers against materialism. He urges them not to let an interest in temporal things crowd out a realization of their need for things spiritual.

That is a warning needed not only by the hearers of Christ's day but by us as well. We too tend to get all engrossed in "food that spoils," to the neglect of the even more necessary things--spiritual food for the soul.

We need this encouragement at all times and in all aspects of our life, but there is one area that seems especially pertinent at just this time of year. That is the area of Christian education. As our schools once more open their doors, it's very easy for us as parents to notice the increased cost of tuition, books and supplies, transportation--and to deplore what that does to our family budget. Or on a congregational level, it's tempting in financially troubled times to say, "If only we didn't have to support a school, we'd be in much better shape."