Let us look back at the context in which Jesus Christ chided His followers for following Him for the wrong reason. He had fed them the day before—five thousand of them with only five loaves of bread and two fishes and twelve baskets of uneaten food was collective after everyone had their fill.
And the Bible says: “After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (John 6:14).
His followers all saw the signs and marveled at them. In just a short time they had all satisfied their hunger from food that was meant to satisfy one little child. Something which would have required so much money, time and effort to accomplish unfolded before their very eyes with Jesus not spending one penny or breaking a sweat. But instead, he accomplished it effortlessly out of a child’s meal. Jesus Christ satisfied for them what they each toiled for everyday to accomplish for themselves—food.
Hearing the story in this passage in the Bible, most of us today marvel at the sheer enormity of what was done, but Jesus Christ in the passages maintained that most of those who were feed in this miracle and come back looking for Him did not do so because of the enormity of the miracle but rather in the hope of getting more food or satisfying their other material needs.
And Jesus did not stop at just reproaching them. He pulled a Gideon-type test on them and conclusively made His point. When we read from John 6:14 that the followers marveled at the sign and “intended to come and make him king by force” we immediately think that they finally believed in His deity and wanted to receive eternal life from Him. But that is far from their real intention.
They intended to make Him king by force so they would be sure of their daily provision in much the same way we work on and around our government today to ensure that we will continue to get our life’s provisions. If they had made Jesus Christ their earthly king as they intended, Christ would have automatically become responsible for ensuring their material wellbeing just like the Jewish authorities were; and just like our government is today.
They were going to make Jesus Christ their king so He would continue to meet their needs for material things and physical comfort. They were looking to replace their current government with this one that had shown signs of having the capacity to make anything instantly available for the satisfaction of their lives’ demands. They would not make Jesus Christ their king because they loved Him and cares about His message. They wanted to make Him their king to make sure their daily provisions will continue to come.
And much of Christianity today is going about their faith in much the same way: Christ to the rescue to ease our tough times so we can store up for ourselves and be sure to survive into the future. Society has taught us the right way to earn a living, and the right way to hold on to what we have earned.
So if we earn it fair and square, it is our right to hold onto it and spend it on ourselves. It is not our fault if anyone fails to get something. After all we are not breaking any laws!
And a great percentage of Christians today are now beginning to subscribe to the so-called Prosperity Christianity where they carefully measure and monitor how much they give to each cause based on the percentage of returns the Bible promises for that type of giving. A number of Christian preachers actually reprimand listeners in their sermons for giving to the ‘wrong’ causes what they should have wisely given to the ‘right’ ones to maximize the returns on their giving.
And Jesus knew that the understanding His then followers had was the wrong understanding—not at all what He wanted them to get out of the signs and wonders He performed before them. He said to them: “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.” (John 6:49).
By this statement, Jesus was further criticizing them for being more motivated by earthly materials and physical comfort than by the desire for spirituality and eternal life. Materials and money satisfy temporarily and then fades away whereas spiritual food—the word of God—satisfies forever.
Neither did the manna stop the Israelites that ate it in the wilderness from dying, nor did it prevent them from disobeying God and challenging His authority many times. It is the same way today with money and our earthly pursuits. None can make us spiritual and none can get us into the kingdom of God. Their value to us will only be temporary. And then, they will fade away. Christianity must never be about materialism and return on our giving! Christianity must always be about our love for God, our love for Jesus Christ and our love for our fellow man. Christianity must be about allowing the Holy Spirit who has come into us when we received Christ to lead us into the things God wants us to be doing. Christianity must be about following the directions of our spirit.