In September 2013, the then CEO of Nokia, Stephen Elop, in announcing their acquisition by Microsoft, ended his speech tearfully with the parting words, “We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost”. Nokia lost precisely because they didn’t do enough to maintain their relevance in a fast-changing world. Likewise, there are many critics of the Bible who claim that Christianity has lost its relevance in the modern world, with campaigners for equal rights pushing for women to serve as pastors and preachers, and advocates of free love pushing for acceptance of homosexual marriages. These critics insist that the Bible must be reinterpreted in light of societal norms and human philosophies. However, the Bible assures us that God has given us “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2Pe 1:3), and that He will “supply all [our] need” (Php 4:19), so Christianity will never lose its relevance because the needs of man remain the same, albeit in different forms. In this article, we shall discuss the relevance of Christianity to the needs of man as illustrated in the famous Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Physiological needs are needs like food, water, shelter, clothing, sleep etc. To fulfil these needs, some in the world resort to stealing and robbing to fill their stomachs. But Jesus assures us that “your heavenly Father knoweth that [we] have need of all these things” (Mat 6:31-32). Not only does God know our physiological needs, He also provides for us if we will only “seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Mat 6:33). King David declared that throughout his life from a lowly shepherd boy to a powerful king, he has “not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psa 37:25). If we follow the principles of the Bible, surely we would not need to worry about not having a job, for which employer wouldn’t want a Christian employee who is loyal, honest, and hardworking? God also provides for us physically in giving us sunshine, rain, and air, which are needed for growing crops (Hos 2:21-23). But what if we are unable to work and earn a living because of physical limitations? God provides us a safety net by means of our physical family (1Ti 5:4) and spiritual family (1Jo 3:17-18) to take care of one another’s needs. While we may not have everything we want in life, we will certainly be provided for by God.
Safety and security needs
Safety and security needs are needs like health, employment, property, stability etc. To fulfil these needs, some in the world resort to superstitions and amulets to give them a sense of security. But Jesus promises to give us peace that is “not as [what] the world giveth” (Joh 14:27), a peace that “passeth all understanding” (Php 4:7), enduring even in times of tribulation (Joh 16:33). Such peace is possible because we have an all-powerful God who delivers us out of all our afflictions (Psa 34:19), in not allowing us to be tried “above that [we] are able” to bear, but providing us a “way to escape” (1Co 10:13). As children of God, we have the privilege of coming before the “throne of grace” of the Greatest Being in the universe to seek His mercy and grace in our “time of need” (Heb 4:16). But what if we suffer health challenges and God does not seem to grant our requests for recovery? This does not mean that God does not care or that He is unable to help us because He gives us grace to bear the trials (2Co 12:7-10) and He gives us a spiritual family to “bear one another's burdens” (Gal 6:2). While we may not have a comfortable life, we will certainly be cared for by God.
Love and belonging needs
Love and belonging needs are needs like friendship, family, intimacy, connectedness etc. To fulfil these needs, some in the world resort to immorality and vice to find a sense of belonging and “brotherhood”. But God knows that “it is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 2:18) and so He instituted marriage and family for our happiness (Mat 19:4-6). But what if we are not married and we come from broken homes? To address this need, God has given us a spiritual family where we are commanded to “love one another; as [Christ has] loved [us]” (Joh 13:34). Even if all men forsake us, we still have the assurance that God “will never leave [us], nor forsake [us]” (Heb 13:5). This fellowship with God and the church is indeed something to be treasured (1Jo 1:3), because it is a relationship that will carry through eternity. While our friends and family may ostracize us for following Christ, we will certainly be cherished by God.
Self-esteem needs are needs like achievement, respect, individuality etc. To fulfil these needs, some in the world resort to bullying and oppression to feel good about themselves. But Jesus tells us that we have an esteemed place in God’s creation, being of “more value than many sparrows” (Luk 12:6-7). Such high regard has God for man in “[crowning] him with glory and honour” and “[making] him to have dominion over the works of [God’s] hands” that the Psalmist could only wonder in amazement, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psa 8:4-6). Even though man is “a little lower than the angels”, yet Christ “took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham” to “make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:16-17). Listen carefully, Christ did not die to save angels, yet He died to save man! In addition, God also gave us a spiritual family where we are commanded to “esteem other better than themselves” (Php 2:3-4). While we may not be well regarded by the world, we will certainly be honoured by God.
Self-actualization needs are needs like morality, creativity, purpose, potential etc. To fulfil these needs, some in the world resort to material pursuits and dangerous excitement to find meaning in life. But the answer to a more abundant life is found in Christ (Joh 10:10), as attested to by the apostle Paul’s declaration, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Php 1:21). God has given us a greater purpose in life than ourselves, that is, to “fear God, and keep his commandments” (Ecc 12:13-14). Man often desire to leave legacies that will be remembered by future generations, but the greatest legacy that will never be forgotten is our “work and labour of love” for God (Heb 6:10), for “[our] works do follow [us]” after this life is over (Rev 14:13). To this end, in pushing us to our greatest potential, God has given us a spiritual family to “provoke [us] unto love and to good works” (Heb 10:24-25). While we may not live a life of excitement, we will certainly enjoy eternity with God.
No wonder the Psalmist proclaimed that he shall not be in want with God as his shepherd (Psa 23:1). God has met all his needs – physiological needs (Psa 23:2), self-actualization needs (Psa 23:3), safety and security needs (Psa 23:4), self-esteem needs (Psa 23:5), and love and belonging needs (Psa 23:6). In fact, the apostle Peter acknowledged that there is no better alternative in life than to follow Christ (Joh 6:67-69). To the world, religion becomes an afterthought only after all their needs have been met; but for Christians, Christ should be the centre of our lives (Col 3:4). Brethren, let us “set [our] affection on things above, not on things on the earth”, “for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2Co 4:18). Praise the Lord that Christianity is still relevant and very much alive today!