If you’re a student of psychology (or a student in any field that applies the behavioral sciences), you’ve likely heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow suggested that humans have a collection of fundamental needs, and that these needs are “hierarchical”. That is to say, some needs must be met in order to go on to seek after the “higher” needs.
As per the diagram below, Maslow suggests that physical needs are the base, followed by the need for safety, and then for love/belonging, and then for esteem. At the pinnacle, Maslow has placed “self-actualization”–a vague term for a number of feel-goods ultimately summed up in “reaching one’s potential”.
Image from the Wikimedia Commons, licensed under a CC 3.0 license
Maslow’s theory has been critiqued for its insistence that the “lower” needs be met before the higher needs are sought. Experience teaches us that even a hungry child still seeks love and acceptance (to fulfill a “higher” need). Additionally, while Maslow’s hierarchy may have utility in explaining Western patterns of behavior, it breaks down when applied to Eastern cultures where community is regarded more highly than individuality.
I don’t really care to discuss Maslow’s hierarchy–I’d much rather propose my own.
Enter Menter’s Hierarchy of Needs Induced by the Fall of Mankind:
I propose that the fall of mankind followed a progression–and that the redemption of mankind requires a reversal of that progression.
When Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent, their first step towards sin was to turn their eyes from God to self.
“…the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise…”
Having turned their eyes from God, they chose to obey the tempter rather than God.
“…she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”
And once they ate, they experienced the consequences of sin.
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked…”
The fall induced three vital needs in the spirit and soul of every man.
He needs to be saved from self-centeredness, he needs to be saved from the mastery of sin, and he needs to saved from the consequences of sin.
I propose that, at least for most people, the awareness of each of these needs follows the reverse progression.
First, man becomes aware of the consequences of sin–and seeks to escape them. He experiences guilt or shame. He sees broken relationships, physical and emotional suffering. He fears death. And he needs a Savior to free him from these consequences.
He receives Jesus as Savior. “Free me from hell,” he cries.
Get-out-of-hell-free card safely in hand, he discovers his second great need. He becomes aware of his bondage to sin. He wants to do what is right, but he finds himself unable to do so. Even recognizing that he IS freed from sin through Jesus Christ, he still finds himself inclined towards sin. He needs a new master.
He receives Jesus as Lord. “I will submit my life to Your mastery,” he affirms.
Watching his steps carefully, anxious to be obedient to his new master, the man discovers his final need. He is discontent with this. Somehow, this falls short. Is this all there is? he wonders. He might even wonder if it’s worth it. What has he gained by submitting to Christ’s mastery? He needs a new treasure.
And at some point, by the grace of God, he receives Jesus as Treasure. “You are worth everything,” he proclaims.
There, as he is lost in the greatness of the Treasure, his needs disappear. Christ has met them, He has fulfilled them. For really, all of our needs are simply metaphors for our truest need–God Himself.
(This is a reflection on John Piper’s concept of receiving Christ as Treasure, as articulated in the second chapter of Desiring God. For more reflections on Desiring God, see my notes here.)