We all have wants in our lives. We want a new TV and a toaster. Maybe you want your favorite food from the States (French fries, Taco Bell) or that new pair of sneakers or the new iPhone. Some of us might want new friends, a new job, a new school, or to be back in our country overseas. It is human nature for us to want things.
We also have needs in our lives. We need food and water. We need clothing and a place to live. Sometimes we can get needs and wants confused. What we think are needs are actually wants. “Mom, I need that new pair of jeans” and “Dad, I need you to buy me a car” are just a couple of examples you might have heard or maybe even said yourself.
Let’s look at Numbers 11 to see what we can learn about wants and needs.
- We can perceive wants as needs.
In Numbers 11 we find the Israelites wandering in the desert and getting a little restless. A certain group within the camp is complaining:
Then the foreign rabble [commoners] who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna! (verses 4–6)
The Lord was providing plenty to eat for the Israelites, but people began to want more. They wanted meat. They did not need meat, because the Lord was providing manna, but the people thought they needed it.
How often do we think we need something when actually it is just a want in our lives? We might have a perfectly working TV, but when we see one that’s “better,” we begin to want it, and eventually we think we need it in order to survive, or we justify needing it because the one we have is old and not working great.
The Israelites were in danger of getting stuck in the moment because of what they wanted and were forgetting the greater purpose of being in the desert. It was a part of the journey to the Promised Land.
- What we need is not always exactly what we want.
Another lesson we can take from this Scripture is that our wants and needs don’t always match up. Sure, it would be great to have a big, new TV, but that might not be what we need in our lives right now. Maybe what we need is to learn not to spend so much time watching TV (gasp!) and focus on other things in our lives that are more important.
The desert was supposed to be a place of transition from Egypt to the Promised Land, not a place to settle. Like the Israelites, our journey can be difficult sometimes, but that can push us to move closer toward the goal instead of getting stuck in the desert wanting things we don’t really need.
- God will always give us what we need.
The most important thing to grasp from this Scripture is that God will take care of all our needs. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (NIV).
The manna God provided for the Israelites might not always have been the tastiest of foods, but it satisfied their hunger and nourished their bodies. In the same way, in our lives things aren’t always going to be comfortable and easy, but God is always going to equip us with everything we need. It may not always look good or be what we want, but it is going to fulfill its purpose for what we need in that moment.
You can look at what you have and don’t have in your life and know there is a purpose to each. If you don’t have it, maybe you don’t need it after all.