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  • Writer's pictureRick LoPresti

The spiritual hierarchy of needs

Psychology has some value as long as it is in harmony with the principles of scripture. When it becomes humanistic and eliminates God from the equation, it falls short. A famous theory in psychology is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is usually depicted as a pyramid with 5 levels. The most basic needs are at the bottom and the highest needs are at the top. The 5 levels are physiological, safety, belonging, esteem, and self-fulfillment. This hierarchy says that the needs must be fulfilled in order and priority as described in the pyramid. For example, if someone is starving, that will occupy their focus. They are not thinking about esteem issues.

The value system of the world and the value system of God are at odds (Gen 3:1-7, Mt 4:1-11, 1Jn 2:15-17). The value system of the world involves satisfying earthly desires of lust and pride. Three of the big ways people seek to satisfy these are sex, money, and power. The value system of God is based in love (Mk 12:28-31, 1Cor 13:13). This love is not defined by secular means. It is defined by the truth of the word of God. It is self-sacrificing and altruistic. Lust says, “I will satisfy myself at your expense”. Love says, “I will see your needs met at my expense”. The unique word translated love in many passages in the Bible is the Greek word agape, which does not appear in Greek secular literature before the New Testament. The spiritual mind that we receive from the Lord and the carnal mind are enemies and cannot be reconciled (Rom 6-8, 1Cor 1-2). They are based on two opposite sets of values.

The spiritual, Biblical hierarchy of needs does two things. It sees the same needs but through spiritual eyes. Instead of just food for the flesh, it seeks the bread of life which is the word of God (Mt 4:3-4, Jn 6) and doing His will (Jn 4:31-34). The soul seeks safety from the assaults of the devil, the world, and sin, and to be safely close to God (Prov 18:10, Prov 21:31, Prov 29:25, Phil 3:1). Christians find their sense of belonging first in their relationship with God (Jn 1:12, Phil 2:15, 1Jn 3:1-2). Second, they find a part in the community of believers called the church (Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:32, Eph 1). They find a far more powerful sense of esteem from the value God places on them than they could ever manufacture for themselves on their own through so-called “self-esteem” (Mt 16:26). There is no greater way to find identity and self-fulfillment than by becoming who God created us to be. He is the original identity (Ex 3:14), and all true identity comes from Him (Mt 16:24-25). The reason many people today are confused about their identity is because they have abandoned the identity of God.

The other thing the Biblical, spiritual hierarchy of needs does is it turns Maslow’s hierarchy of needs upside down. It says that the first priority is not our flesh, but our spirit (Mt 6:33). It knows that it doesn’t matter how well fed our flesh is if our soul is starving (Mt 16:26, Lk 12:15-21). When we are hungrier for God than for earthly things, we will truly find satisfaction (Job 23:12, Ps 42:1, Mt 5:6). This is especially evident when we look at things from an eternal perspective and not just the temporal (Lk 19:19-31). When people voluntarily choose to forego earthly things for heavenly, their reward is truly great, not only on this life, but that which is to come (1Tim 4:8, Heb 11). This can be done in many ways such as choosing God’s will over ours, spiritual activities such as praying, Bible study, fasting, serving in the church, outreach, and giving financially. When we seek to honor God, He will also honor us (1Sam 2:30, Prov 3:9-10, Prov 22:4, Jn 12:26). That is how our needs are truly met.

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