What Do You Need?
A sermon based on Genesis 2:18-24
Sunday, October 11, 2015 – Pentecost 20B
"What do you need?" I don't mean this question like an impatient parent asks his child, "What do you need?" I mean it. Seriously. "What do you need?" But before you answer, consider that I didn't ask, "What do you want?" but, "What do you need?" We discussed it a bit in Bible Class last week as we talked about God's providence. But what do you need in life that you absolutely could not do without?
Air. Food. Water. Shelter. Heat. (Especially if you live in Alaska, right?) But what else do you need? A nice home? Respect from your wife? Love from your husband? Are these things you need? Or things you just want? You know what Beatles thought: "All you need is love…"
In our text for consideration this morning, God revealed to Adam what he needed: a spouse. And God, in love for Adam, then met that need. God shows us that he made us with a need for relationship—for each other. And he's met that need. But we mess up our relationships with our selfishness. And so what we really need—more than even air and food and water—is forgiveness. And after God shows us that need, in love for us, he meets that need too. And we, in turn, moved by gratitude to God, resist our selfishness and try to meet the needs of others before we try to get our wants as we show our thanks to him.
"What do you need?" God told Adam he needed a wife. "What do you need?" We need forgiveness for our selfishness in all of our relationships. "What do you need?" we eagerly ask of others as we show our thanks to God for the forgiveness he's given.
Our text for this morning is taken from Genesis 2:18-24—the account of God establishing the institution of marriage…
18 The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man."
24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
I. What Do You Need? – God to Adam: "You need a wife!"
The guy was an absolute slob. His apartment was always a mess. He didn't know how to cook. He didn't know how to clean or even do his laundry. The guy could barely take care of himself. His buddy told him frankly, "Dude, you really need to get yourself a wife."
That is NOT what God did for Adam. He wasn't showing how helpless Adam was to care for himself by giving him a mom—someone who would cook and clean and care for him. No. God made Adam perfect. He wasn't lazy or stupid. He wasn't lacking any skills to care for himself. But he was still lacking. For the first time in his creative process God said, "NOT good." After day one, he saw that what he had made was good. After day two, he saw that what he had made was good. After days three, four, and five, he saw that what he had made was good. But now on day six, God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
God made mankind to be interdependent. He made us to crave and seek and have relationships. And he would show Adam that need before he met it.
He brought [the animals] to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
Can you picture it? God parading the animals two by two before Adam in a grand procession (almost as if they were heading to an ark, right)? And Adam coming up with a name for each kind. Bear… Cat… Dog… Uh… Aardvark??
But why did God have Adam name the animals? Couldn't God just name them himself? Well, it wasn't for God's sake that he gave the job to Adam. It was for Adam's sake. He wanted Adam to notice two bears, two cats, two dogs, two aardvarks, and… wait a minute! … only one Adam. "But for Adam no suitable helper was found."
God led Adam to see his need. Then, God, in love, would meet that need:
So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
And in doing so, God created marriage. God made marriage, not for himself, but for us. For the good of man. For the good of woman. He gave us each other to meet each other's needs. To balance each other out, like two gears in a machine, not grinding against each other, but meshing together in perfect synchronization and spinning together in perfect harmony. And God made us for relationship, not just for the good of man and woman, but for the good of their offspring. It's good for kids to grow up with a mom and a dad—to be protected and nurtured. God made marriage for our enjoyment and to fill the earth as the two became one flesh.
And in perfection, Adam and Eve perfectly met each other's needs. They were completely unselfish. So verse 25 reads, "The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame," because they weren't judging each other, they weren't looking to use each other, they weren't lusting after each other, but were only loving each other. What a beautiful design God created! He showed Adam the need, then God met the need. Just like he does for us….
II. What Do You Need? – God to Us: "You need forgiveness!"
God made us to be in relationships as well. He made us to be in committed, that is, life-long, unions with members of the opposite sex. Marriage between one man and one woman for one lifetime is God's perfect design. And what a mess the world has made of it!
But before you think I'm going to go after the laws that congress passes or the gay pride parades, what about Christian marriages? What about us? Forget homosexuality for a minute and look at your own marriage. Would you rate it a perfect 10? Is your marriage is the ideal marriage for all the world to admire and mimic? If not, let's focus there.
We've made a mess of marriage – No. More precise: What a mess I have made of marriage. Each of us can claim that whether married or single, whether a grown up or a child.
Husbands, have you always led your wives in a way that looked to meet her needs before yours? Have you even had more concern for her needs than your wants? Have you shown love to your wives—the unconditional love that God calls upon us to give? You've made a mess of marriage.
Wives, have you always helped your husbands in a way that looked to meet his needs before yours? Have you even had more concern for his needs than your wants? Have you shown respect to your husbands—the unconditional respect that God calls upon you to give? You too have made a mess of marriage.
Singles, have you always held up marriage as the esteemed institution that God has designed it to be? Or have you thought, "What's the big deal if I treat this relationship as if I were married… until I get tired of it."? "I don't need to save myself for marriage. I want to have fun while I'm young!"? You too have made a mess of marriage.
Kids, have you sometimes made a mess of marriage as you try to pit mom and dad against each other to get what you want? Have you ever said to dad, "But mom said I could?" Have you ever said to mom, "But dad said it was okay?" You too have made a mess of marriage.
Why do we do all these things? Because for all of us too often the first questions we ask are "What do I want? And how can I get it?" instead of "What do they need? And how can I serve them?" We've made a mess of the family that God has intended to be a blessing because of our selfish sinful nature. And for that we deserve to be kicked out of his family. We deserve to be divorced from God forever in hell—that's really what hell is separation from God and his love.
"So what do you need?" What we need isn't a better spouse. What we need isn't a good book on the perfect marriage. What need isn't better behaved kids, or a better job, or a nicer home. What we need isn't a more respectful wife or a more loving husband. What we need… is forgiveness.
And God has revealed that need to us. And once he's revealed to us the need (and brought us to repentance), then God meets the need and gives us the forgiveness we so desperately need though the blood of Jesus. Jesus was perfect, sinless in every way. Even though he was a red-blooded male, he never once lusted. He never viewed people as objects. He always honored and upheld marriage as God designed it, even as a single man. (We saw that in our Gospel lesson.) But what's more, he never asked, "How can I get what I want?" before asking, "How can I give them what they need?" and "How can I do what God wants, even if it's uncomfortable or painful for me?"
And having lived a perfect life, Jesus died an innocent death. And by that act, he gave us credit for his perfection and he took our selfishness and our sin and the hell that those earn all on himself. And so, we have the forgiveness that we need the most.
In one sense the Beatles were right: "All you need is love"—God's love. And you have it—through Jesus. He's shown you your greatest need. And he's met that need! And that fact fills us with gratitude that changes the way we live and the questions we ask first…
III. What Do You Need? –Us to Each Other: "How can I serve you?"
The waiter at restaurant came to the table and asked, "What can I get for you?" The entrepreneur asked his client, "How can I serve you?" But as both humbly served, they were still really being self-centered: They wanted to keep their job. They wanted to keep their customers. They wanted their business to grow. But both were still really asking, "How can I get what I want?"
But as Christians we can genuinely ask, "What do you need?" and "How can I serve you?" before worrying about ourselves. Husbands can show love even to wives and kids who show no respect. Wives can show respect even to husbands who show no love. Singles can serve their future spouse by honoring God's gift of marriage now. Children can serve their parents without being forced or even asked.
We can—and do!—change our first questions from "What do I want? And how can I get it?" to "What do you need? And how can I serve you?" And we do this with little concern to having our needs met first because we know that our greatest need—forgiveness from God—has already been met in Christ. And we trust the promises he gives us in his Word: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32) and, "My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)
"What do you need?" God told Adam he needed a wife. "What do you need?" We need forgiveness for our selfishness in all of our relationships. "What do you need?" we eagerly ask of others as we show our thanks to God for the forgiveness he's given to us. In Jesus' name, who gives us all we need. Amen.