“Sloppy Joes! Sloppy Joes!” was being chanted loudly by the kids as I brought out the white Ikea plate on which was enthroned a simple piece of bread, topped with the chunky, meaty sauce from last night’s spaghetti. I recently heard the Bible verse, “Man does not live by bread alone” (Deut. 8:3; Matt 4:4, RSV). It makes me think of Sloppy Joes. You take a miserable, little piece of crusty bread and add to it some divinely flavored meat sauce and... voila! Sloppy Joes! The bread is not alone anymore. On May 1st, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, our family had Sloppy Joes. I couldn’t believe the kids actually cheered - I didn’t realize they had such an endearment to it.
The full verse is: “Man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” Now, obviously God wasn’t chastising the Israelites for having a bland food repertoire. This is a potent passage. It’s so potent that Jesus fought the devil in the desert with it - and put him in his place, I might add. The devil was challenging Jesus to prove himself to be the Messiah, just as the children of Israel, almost 1200 years before him, had challenged God, not being satisfied by all the extraordinary works that He had done to get them out of captivity. For God, the purpose of the miracles (like giving them bread from heaven) was to draw them into a trusting relationship with Him - fulfilling promises, while bringing the people themselves true fulfillment.
For the peoples’ part, they didn’t see that purpose; they just wanted more miracles - more bread. They wanted God to prove himself according to their terms. The devil was challenging Christ in this way too - as do we when we things like, “If you help me do well on my exam, then I’ll believe in you!” The conditions we put on God reflect our terms for life, not His. He made us and knows us fully, so only he can fully know what makes us fulfilled.
Everyday life, relationships, and responsibilities must continue to happen (these are the “bread” in the passage - ordinary, necessary human activities), except that only lives hinged upon his plan find happiness and fulfillment (this is what comes “out of the mouth of the Lord”). The ‘meat’ of life is struggling to find time to pray, aiming towards virtue in your daily choices, or loving others when it’s difficult - for love of God. It’s the real nourishment.
It’s an attitude shift from “I know better” to “Father knows best”. In Jesus, human and divine activity come together: the Bread and the Word. In Sloppy Joes, the simple bread is joined with the heavenly meat sauce (hmmm.). Sloppy Joes might never be the same! You just may have a divine encounter next time you have it (maybe peanut butter and jam sandwiches, or even a simple piece of toast with butter).
Speaking of heavenly foods, what’s your top five favorite foods? Does Sloppy Joes make it there? For me it’s close, but it actually doesn’t make it!
1) Prosciutto wrapped in Provolone Cheese, served with red wine! (My most heavenly encounter with this was on the streets of Rome!)
2) Homemade Chicken Cacciatore (Nobody makes it like Colleen)
3) Sushi (we’re talking sashimi, nigiri, rolls, anything)
4) Pizza (specifically Pineapple Curry Chicken Pizza from Me & Ed’s [pizza joint in the Lower Mainland of BC] - this pizza has raisins on it!)
5) Ribs (I’m sure it’s mostly the rib sauce that I love - if there’s ribs on the menu, it’s tough for me not to choose them).