Through the Bible in One Year

Day 47

Mark 1:29-2:12

If you recall from yesterday that Mark’s Gospel is action packed and has more of Jesus’ actions than his actual words.  Yesterday we saw the baptism of Jesus, the handing of the baton from John to Jesus and the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  It is that one event that drives everything that we are going to see today, because the people who witnessed this exorcism had never seen anyone be able perform an exorcism with just a single command.  And it was this amazement that led to people flocking from all over the region to not just hear Jesus’ words but to see and possible experience the miracles that they were hearing about from their friends.  Which leads us directly into the events in today’s passage, which starts like this:

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.—Mark 1:29-34

The reason people flocked  to Jesus was not because of the words that he was speaking, but rather they came to Jesus because of his actions.  Jesus met people where they were and took care of their most basic needs first before he ever tried to take on their spiritual needs, which was something that the religious leaders of that day did not do.  The question now becomes what are these needs that we talking about and why is it important to take care of the basic needs first before trying to care for a persons spiritual needs?  And to answer that question we are going to have to delve a little into the realm of psychology.

In psychology needs are talked about as being a hierarchy, and this idea was first proposed by a psychologist by the name of Abraham Maslow.  His hierarchy of needs is what is known as motivational theory and it comprises a five tier model of human needs that is often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid.  From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological (food and clothing), safety, love and belonging needs, esteem and self-actualization.  The needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up.

This five stage model, that we are talking about can be divided into deficiency needs and growth needs.  The first four levels are often referred to as deficiency needs (D-needs), and the top level is known as growth or being needs (B-needs).  Deficiency needs arise due to deprivation and are said to motivate people when they are unmet.  Also, the motivation to fulfill such needs will become stronger the longer they are denied.  For example, the longer a person goes without food, the more hungry they will become.

Maslow initially stated that individuals must satisfy lower level deficit needs before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs.  However, he later clarified  that satisfaction of a need is not an “all-or-none” phenomenon, admitting that his earlier statements may have given “the false impression that a need must be satisfied 100 percent before the next need emerges”.

When a deficit need has been “more or less” satisfied it will go away, and our actives become habitually directed towards meeting the next set of needs that we have yet to satisfy.  These then become our salient needs.  However, growth needs continue to be felt and may even become stronger once they have been engaged.

Growth needs do not stem from a lack of something, but rather from a desire to grow as a person.  Once these growth needs have been reasonably satisfied, one may be able to reach the highest level called self-actualization.  Every person is capable and has the desire to move up the hierarchy toward a level of self-actualization.  Unfortunately, progress is often disrupted by a failure to meet lower level needs.  Life experiences may cause an individual to fluctuate between levels of the hierarchy.  Therefore, not everyone will move through the hierarchy in a uni-directional manner  but may move back and forth between the different types of needs.

Maslow stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others.  Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behavior.  Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on. 

  1. Physiological Needs—these are biological requirements for human survival, e.g. air, food, drink shelter, clothing, warmth, sex and sleep.  If these needs are not satisfied the human body cannot function optimally.  Maslow considered physiological needs the most important as all the other needs become secondary until these needs are met.
  2. Safety Needs—once an individual’s physiological needs are satisfied, the needs for security and safety became salient.  People want to experience order, predictability and control in their lives.  These needs can be fulfilled by the family and society (e.g. police, schools, businesses and medical care).
  3. Love and Belongingness Needs—after physiological and safety needs have been fulfilled, the third level of human needs is social and involves feelings of belongingness.  Belongingness, refers to a human emotional need for interpersonal relationships, affiliating, connectedness, and being part of a group.
  4. Esteem Needs are the fourth level in Maslow’s hierarchy and include self-worth, accomplishment and respect.  Maslow classified esteem needs into two categories: (1) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery and independence) and (2) the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g. status or prestige).  Maslow indicated that the need for respect or reputation is most important for children and adolescents and precedes real self-esteem or dignity.
  5. Self-actualization Needs are the highest level in Maslow’s hierarchy, and refer to the realization of a person’s potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.  Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be.

“It is quite true that man lives by bread alone — when there is no bread. But what happens to man’s desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled?

At once other (and “higher”) needs emerge and these, rather than physiological hungers, dominate the organism. And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still “higher”) needs emerge and so on. This is what we mean by saying that the basic human needs are organized into a hierarchy of relative prepotency.”

This is Maslow’s original five stage model, but this model has been expanded to include cognitive and aesthetic needs and later transcendence needs.  Which means that the new and improved hierarchy of needs actually has eight stages rather than five.

  1. Biological and physiological needs—air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex and sleep.
  2. Safety Needs—protection from elements, security, order, law, stability and freedom from fear.
  3. Love and Belongingness Needs—friendship, intimacy, trust, and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love.  And affiliating, which is being part of a group.
  4. Esteem Needs—esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery and independence) and the need to be accepted and valued by others (status or prestige).
  5. Cognitive Needs—knowledge and understanding, curiosity, exploration, the need for meaning and predictability.
  6. Aesthetic Needs—appreciation and search for beauty, balance and form
  7. Self-actualization Needs—realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.  A desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming”. 
  8. Transcendence Needs—A person is motivated by values which transcend beyond the personal self, e.g. mystical experiences and certain experiences with nature, aesthetic experiences, sexual experiences, service to others, the pursuit of science and religious faith.

Instead of focusing on psychopathology and what goes wrong with people, Maslow formulated a more positive account of human behavior which focused on what goes right.  He was interested in human potential, and how we fulfill that potential.  Psychologist Abraham Maslow stated that human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth.  Self-actualized people are those who were fulfilled and doing all they were capable of. 

The growth of self-actualization refers to the need for personal growth and discovery that is present throughout a person’s life.  For Maslow, a person is always “becoming” and never remains static in these terms.  In self-actualization, a person comes to find a meaning to life that is important to them.  As each individual is unique, the motivation for self-actualization leads people in different directions.

Maslow believed self-actualization could be measured through the concept of peak experiences.  This occurs when a person experiences the world totally for what it is, and there are feelings of euphoria, joy and wonder.  It is important to note that self-actualization is a continual process of becoming rather than a perfect state one reaches of a “happy ever after”.  Maslow offers the following description of self-actualization:

It refers to the person’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially.

The specific form that these needs will take will of course vary greatly from person to person. In one individual it may take the form of the desire to be an ideal mother, in another it may be expressed athletically, and in still another it may be expressed in painting pictures or in inventions.

Maslow estimated that only two percent of people would reach the state of self-actualization.  He was especially interested in the characteristics of people whom he considered to have achieved their potential as individuals.  By studying 18 people he considered to be self-actualized, including Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein, Maslow identified 15 characteristics of a self-actualized person.

  1. They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty
  2. Accept themselves and others for what they are
  3. Spontaneous in thought and action
  4. Problem-centered and self-centered
  5. Unusual sense of humor
  6. Able to look at life objectively

Highly creative

  1. Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional
  2. Concerned for the welfare of humanity
  3. Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experiences
  4. Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people

Peak experiences

  1. Need for privacy
  2. Democratic attitudes
  3. Strong moral/ethical standards

If these are the characteristics of self-actualization, then what  behaviors lead to self-actualization?

  1. Experiencing life like a child, with full absorption and concentration
  2. Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths
  3. Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority or the majority
  4. Avoiding pretense, or “game playing” and being honest
  5. Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority
  6. Taking responsibility and working hard
  7. Trying to identify your defenses and having the courage to give them up

Although people achieve self-actualization in their own unique way, they tend to share certain characteristics.  However, self-actualization is a matter of degree, “There are no perfect human beings”.  It is not necessary to display all 15 characteristics to become self-actualized, and not only self-actualized people will display them.  Maslow did not equate self-actualization with perfection.  Self-actualization involves achieving one’s potential.  Thus, someone can be silly, wasteful, vain and impolite, and still self-actualize.  Remember, that less than two percent of the population achieve self-actualization.

Now that we know why the people flocked to Jesus, let’s turn our attention to whom in this passage was self-actualized.  The disciples certainly were because they brought Jesus to Peter’s mother-in-law (the man referred to the text as Simon).  But there was one other group people in today’s passage who were self-actualized and to see who they were we need to look at Mark 2:1-12.

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

The men here in this passage clearly had had their deficiency needs fulfilled by Jesus otherwise they would not have gone through such great lengths to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus.  But this not the only important thing here, because the paralyzed man clearly was looking to have his D-needs fulfilled, because when Jesus saw the faith of not only the men who brought their friend to him, but of the man himself he said these words, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5).  You see the only way to truly have our D-needs fulfilled is bring them to Jesus, because Jesus himself said these words: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Leviticus 4-5, Mark 2:13-3:6, Psalm 36:1-12 and Proverbs 10:1-2

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