I wrote the other day about poetry. Two of the most famous poems I had to memorize as a child were the 23rd and the 100th Psalms. I don’t know how many of you were like me in this regard, nor do I remember how old I was when I first had to memorize them, but they are still with me to this day. I talked about poetry placing an economy on words and the 23rd Psalm certainly does that.
I was never quite clear about the meaning of “I shall not want” in the 23rd Psalm. Does that mean I don’t want a truck or a nice glass of wine? Or does it mean God provides me with all I need and if I would just relax he will provide, like the “lilies of the field” example. Either way I flunk the test. No matter how many times I recite “I shall not want” that word covet sneaks in my mind and that siren song of materiality sings.
Maybe the phrase is meant for people my age. When I was younger a bigger house, a nicer car, and other material knick-knacks had more appeal. Now a days, I realize there are very few material things I want or certainly need. The more one downsizes and gives away the more we learn we can do without.
In reality, King David probably didn’t have material things in mind when he wrote Psalm 23. Maybe he was talking about intangibles like good health, happiness, to be understood and appreciated for ourselves and for those we love. Yet the more I think about it, like material things, we realize that life isn’t going to give us a pass or total relief from those things either. No matter how much we pray for those intangibles, life does not continue without pain from loss of health, some unhappiness, and lack of understanding. We learn over time to downsize our expectations in these regards as well, and ultimately realize we can live without those intangibles, as well.
Perhaps,when David was saying “I shall not want” he was talking about the one thing we cannot downsize or do without. That whatever is withheld, tangible or intangible, we will never be in want of God. If we keep our eyes open, and we keep our hearts and lives open, we will always have God in our lives. When that is the case “we shall not want” or need.
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