- Hebrews 5: 11 About this we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding. 2 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; 13 for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.
- 1 Corinthians 3: 1 And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4 For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
- 1 Peter 2: 1 Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
- John 3: 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
I have three boys (who, at the time of this writing were ages 9, 7, and 5) and they can eat a ton of food. The old curse has come to haunt me. You know the one, “I hope you have children just like you when you grow up.” When I was in ninth grade, I had a football coach who was concerned that I was a little slender (I was already over six feet tall), and he asked my mother, only half joking, “Why don’t you feed this boy?” Well, my parents had an emergency and needed to be out of town, so the coach asked that my brother and I stay with him. My parents brought several bags of groceries with them, and the coach objected, saying that they had plenty of food for the weekend. Needless to say, when my parents returned, the coach told them that he would never question the amount of food I was eating again. Later, toward the end of my senior year in high school, we took a trip to Tulsa and decided to eat at a Mexican food restaurant that had an all-you-can-eat dinner. Several of us decided to have a contest to see who could eat the most. My best friend and I tied after eating THREE full platters of food plus sophapias. I am telling you I could consume vast quantities of food. Now, as father, I have not just one son who eats, but three. It’s a good thing we live in the country and my father-in-law has cattle, otherwise, I think we would go broke just paying the grocery bills. These guys have been know to consume 18 tacos in one setting. They eat a large pizza for an appetizer. The oldest, who I remind you was only 9 years old, would routinely eat TWO large hamburgers, then beg for desert because he is still STARVING.
Man, all of this talk about food is making me hungry. Do you ever get hungry, I mean really HUNGRY!!!!? I am talking about stomach-growling-so-loud-that-your-neighbor-calls-911 HUNGRY! I bet when you are that hungry, you only take a little bitty sip of milk. You don’t? You mean that when you are hungry you actually eat a whole meal? I wonder why we don’t do that with our FAITH?
Hebrews 5:11-14 tells us that we Christians spend too much time sipping milk. Why is that? I can only think of two reasons: Either we are not hungry, or we settle for having our hunger unmet. The funny thing is that if we do not satisfying our hunger or our instinct of hunger is absent, either way we end up dead of starvation. By the same token, spiritually, if we ever stop being hungry, we end up dead eternally. I’m sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself again.
We had a running joke at our house, if one of the boys says that he is REALLY HUNGRY, I would put ONE pea on his plate and say, “There you go, that should be plenty.” Amazingly none of the boys ever just ate that one pea. They were even competitive about how much they eat. A common comment was “I ate five tacos so I am going to be bigger than you.” But we as Christians do just the opposite. We sip on our little saucer of milk and say “I don’t want to drink too much.” What we are really saying is, “I don’t want to GROW too much.” It is as if we are afraid of the responsibility of being MATURE Christians.
The author of Hebrews is saying just that, “You should be teaching,” he says, “but you haven’t grown and are still having someone hold your hand as they explain the ABC’s one more time.”
I remember when I was a growing teenager, if I was hungry (which was almost everyday) I had this habit of eating a snack after school. I’m not talking about a granola bar. I, on several occasions, cooked an entire ROAST (yes I mean an entire Sunday noon meal roast) and eat it for a mid-afternoon snack. By the time I was seventeen years old I was six foot-three inches tall and 210 pounds. I would never have grown to that size if I had only drunk milk. Spiritually, I cannot grow if I never get past the Ten Commandments. I mean, if I am still having trouble with Thou shall not Kill, or Thou shall not Covet, then how can I possibly be ready for Blessed are the poor in spirit? Paul chastises the church at Corinth saying, “I can’t talk to you like adults because you are still thinking like babies.” Don’t get me wrong about milk. Milk is great. I love it. My family drinks about five to six gallons of milk a week. I drink milk for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And yes, physically, we can live, we can survive, on milk. First Peter even tells us that we should start by drinking milk like newborns. But we cannot grow strong on milk alone. God wants us to grow up, to start eating meat.
Now a few of us think we are above such criticism. After all, a few of us are Sunday School teachers. There is even a preacher or two among the congregation. I know I personally am spiritually not still drinking milk. I am a smart guy. I mean, I have a Ph.D. I know a lot of stuff. How could I ever be accused of not being a growing, mature Christian?
Jesus has a very indicting answer for such foolish thoughts. Remember the midnight meeting with Nicodemus? Nicodemus was, as Jesus pointed out, a TEACHER of ISRAEL. Nicodemus was part of the ruling class. We are talking about almost Pope status here. If anyone should have had a clue about God’s Word, Nicodemus should have. But Jesus looked at him and says, “Man, you are clueless! How do you expect me to tell you the profound truths of God, when you can’t even understand that 2+2=4.”
Jesus sort of hit me between the eyes with this, in a loving gentle way of course. I was on the brink of defending my doctoral dissertation. After a long distinguished career as a graduate student (it was a retirement not a graduation), I was about to finally complete my degree. God took the opportunity to remind me that I should not begin acting like I was too big for my britches. One evening, as I lay in bed about to drift off to sleep, God whispered, “You still have so much to learn about My ways.” It wasn’t a word to condemn but to teach. Lying there I had this vision of me sitting on the side of a hill looking out over the landscape. Christ was there, and, with a gentle voice and a tone of expectation, He said, “We are only getting started. I have so much to teach you. All that you have read and experienced only serves to prepare you for this moment.” The very next day, I picked up my Bible and by some strange coincidence (like there is such a thing with God) the next passage in my pre-set journey through the New Testament was John 3, Nicodemus’ encounter with Christ. The question placed in front of me was, “Are you ready to get started? Are you ready to start eating meat?”