“The menu is not the meal.”
-Alan Wilson Watts
This quote has been on my mind this week. By God’s grace some close new friends reminded me of Christ’s words to the Pharisees in John 5:39-40:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
What strong words for us today! In a culture where the average person owns 3.6 Bibles, it can be so tempting to believe we are right before God by our proximity to his word. But Christ reminds us that the Bible is a means, not an end. The Pharisees had made their faith about Scripture itself instead of the God of Scripture. They justified their disobedience to Christ by giving their lives to memorizing Scripture without ever obeying it.
Have you ever sat down in a restaurant just to read the menu? It would be absurd, wouldn’t it? No one goes to the restaurant merely to read the menu. Why? Because the menu is not the meal! Without food, a menu is pointless. A menu is not the end. It is the means to an end. A menu aims to move you to place an order. It has no other purpose than to draw you towards one of its items so that you may eat. How silly it would be to sit in a restaurant for hours hoping to get full by reading the menu and never act off its guidance to place an order.
As senseless as the above scenario may be, it is all too common to our own walks with Christ. It can be so pleasant to consume the word of God. But quite often we refuse to act on it. We read Jesus’ many teachings hoping to be stirred but we often walk away unfulfilled. Why? Because the Bible isn’t meant to fill us! Jesus is. And the Bible is meant to lead us to Jesus in such a way that we are stirred into obedience to Him. The Bible is like a menu. It’s meant to lead you to order; to place all your hope on its one menu item and feast on it. If we only read the Bible, say a prayer, and simply go on with our day, we’re just reading the menu. Of course we are still going to be hungry.
It may be silly to sit in a restaurant just to read the menu, never order, and then complain about being hungry. But how much more foolish is it for us to read the Bible, never act on its instruction, and then complain about God being boring to us. The Bible is a menu with thousands of descriptions on how to draw closer to its main course, Jesus. If we don’t eat, we will never be full. And therein lies the grace of God: He has not merely given us a menu, He’s given us His Son. May our prayer be this week that we don’t stop at the menu; we partake in the feast.
I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and however believes in me shall never thirst.