Man Shall Not Live by Bread Alone

Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone,” but by every word of God. Why is the Bible so important, and what are the benefits of following it?

One of the United Nations’ goals is to end hunger by 2030.

But according to the 2022 edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI), the UN is moving backward from its target at an astonishing pace. The report says that global hunger affected as many as 828 million in 2021—which is 46 million more than in 2020 and 150 million more than in 2019.

These statistics paint a grim future for the second of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals.

What about spiritual hunger?

As painful as it is to view those numbers, imagine your reaction if you could see a report on the state of spiritual food security and spiritual nutrition in the world!

What would such a report reveal? Would its numbers be equally devastating?

Truth be told, what is more worrisome and plagues far more people is the world’s condition of spiritual hunger—people’s failure to feed on God’s words.

The Bible, authored by God Himself, tells us that following its words is more essential than even food itself.

Jesus meant this when He countered the devil’s temptation by saying: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

But why should the world’s condition of spiritual hunger be even more alarming than having 828 million who are undernourished? Why is it that man needs more than physical food in order to live? What does spiritual food offer that physical food does not?

Here are three solid reasons why man can’t live by bread alone, but must live by every word of God.

God’s Word reveals our purpose in life

The perennial question of why mankind exists has stumped academics, philosophers and gurus.

In keeping with the profound nature of the question, the apostle Paul named this inquiry “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations” (Colossians 1:26).

Does that mean no one knows? Do the words mystery and hidden mean the answer can never be found or understood? Should everybody throw in the towel and opt for nihilism instead?

Paul continues, “But [this mystery] now has been revealed to His saints.”

In other words, God’s saints have been given a glimpse into the secret of life—why we are here, where we are going, what our purpose is—which is otherwise hidden from every human being. Only by divine revelation through the gift of the Holy Spirit can these saints know the secret.

(For more information on how you can be a saint and have God’s Spirit, see our article “How to Become a Saint.”)

But how did they get this knowledge? By what means?

Again, Paul writes, “By revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Ephesians 3:3-4).

Understanding of spiritual things is revealed through the Holy Spirit and often comes through reading, as this verse points out.

Continuing, “Which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (verse 5). And what God’s Spirit revealed to those holy apostles and prophets—the understanding of this awesome mystery—was written down and preserved in the pages of your Bible. That’s why reading the Bible is so critical.

By reading, a person who has God’s Spirit is able to connect various scriptures together like a jigsaw puzzle. Little by little, the complete picture of what God is doing with mankind will be brought into focus. He or she will finally be able to make sense of statements in the Bible like “bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10) and “when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

The Bible shows that our ultimate destiny is to be born into the family of God as spirit beings with eternal life.

This mystery is likely what David pondered when he gazed into the glorious cosmos and asked God, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:4).

It is hard to say which specific individuals throughout the course of time were privy to this knowledge. But what we can say with absolute certainty is that God has indeed revealed this mystery to His saints through His Word.

That book, tucked away collecting dust on many people’s shelves—the Holy Bible—is the source of the revelation of man’s purpose.

(To learn more about the meaning of life, read our article “Why Were You Born?”)

God’s Word promises blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience

It’s sometimes only after a lesson from the cruel teacher of experience that a person realizes there are certain spiritual laws that govern the course of life and regulate human happiness, success and fulfillment. Even intuitively, many understand how obedience to these laws yields benefits.

For example, most people know that being an honest employee, showing up to the job on time and working diligently can lead to promotion, increased pay, a good reputation among coworkers, influence and so on.

In biblical terms, those results are called blessings. They are a direct result of following, even inadvertently, the spiritual laws God has set in motion—and in the long run they are as sure and dependable as the law of gravity.

But, on the other hand, when somebody breaks those laws—when he or she transgresses them knowingly or unknowingly—the violator can ultimately expect curses. A habitually lazy, dishonest, cheating, unyielding person will undoubtedly experience things like misery, heartache, stress, anxiety, depression, financial difficulty, relationship issues and so on.

It’s a fulfillment of what the apostle Paul said in Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

Still, what many fail to piece together is that the root cause of our global upsets is that these spiritual laws (as well as the other laws that are revealed by our Creator) are repeatedly being trampled on a vast scale by nearly everyone everywhere. If one were to trace the source of any problem that mankind has faced, sin—the violation of God’s perfect law—would rear its ugly head somewhere along the way.

Virtually all of this world’s problems can be attributed to either ignorance or downright rejection of God’s laws, which are outlined in His Word.

God be thanked that the gift of free choice gives every person the opportunity to avoid sin and its curses and instead choose righteousness and its blessings. Through the knowledge of God’s instructions—the laws, statutes and judgments contained in His Word—we know what to follow to ensure God’s blessings in our lives.

This is the lesson Moses wanted the Israelites to learn before they went into the Promised Land.

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you,” Moses said in his farewell address, “that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life [obedience], that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

God’s Word tells us how we can have eternal life

God desires to bring every human being into His divine family by the process of salvation, offering eternal life to each person until everybody who has ever lived has been given a personal opportunity.

The road map of God’s Word shows the route to take and identifies potential obstacles.Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that God will ultimately accomplish this purpose by transforming physical beings into spirit beings (verses 21-22). While attaining this resurrection is every Christian’s goal, there is a great deal to do in the interim—specific instructions to follow that can only be found in the Bible.

Without reading or hearing the Word of God, how would someone know what to do to receive eternal life? Is that something a person can just figure out on his or her own?

After a person accepts his or her calling from God through repentance and baptism, he or she must live a life of overcoming (Revelation 3:21; Acts 14:22).

(To learn more about God’s calling, see our infographic “7 Steps of the Christian Calling.”)

But overcoming what exactly? To overcome means to conquer and defeat, but what battle are we fighting?

Every hindrance to eternal life can be categorized by one of three labels: Satan, our own nature or the culture in which we live. Put differently, every battle a Christian fights is against either Satan, the self or society.

These are the very forces that can keep someone out of the Kingdom of God and ruin his or her chances for eternal life. Fortunately, the Bible talks at length about how we can win these spiritual wars.

James’ epistle, for example, specifically addresses how to stay the devil’s influence, among other helpful strategies for avoiding sin. He writes, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Paul provides a laundry list of the “works of the flesh,” which are the vices and behaviors that will bar someone from eternal life. He says they are “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21).

And John gives instructions on how to avoid being contaminated by the influence of the world, encouraging Christians not to “love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15).

In short, the Bible lays out a plan of action for every person to follow in order to receive eternal life. The road map of God’s Word shows the route to take and identifies potential obstacles.

It also documents the life of Jesus Christ, the Forerunner of salvation for all people, in whose footsteps we are to follow (1 Peter 2:21).

The key to avoiding spiritual hunger

Everybody knows that food is a fundamental requirement for human life. But something far less understood is that human beings need the Word of God more than food itself.

It is unquestionably tragic that global hunger affects so many people, but it’s even more tragic to consider how spiritually deprived the majority of the world is at this time.

No, a person won’t physically starve to death because he or she doesn’t read the Bible. But spiritual hunger—which is the condition of not taking in and obeying God’s words and instructions—will invariably lead to feelings of disillusionment, curses and, ultimately, spiritual death.

On the flip side, taking in God’s words and applying the Bible’s teachings in every aspect of life will result in fulfillment, blessings and the free gift of eternal life. (Eternal life cannot be earned, because its value is beyond anything we could ever deserve. But God in His mercy will give it to those who repent and strive with His help to live by His every word.)

That is the conclusion of the experiment King Solomon ran and tested in his own life. After his bout with wine, women and song, he gave this advice to every generation that would read his words: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

In other words, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

If you would like to delve into a study of the Word of God in an organized way, sign up for our free Bible Study Course.

About the Author

Kendrick Diaz

Kendrick Diaz

Kendrick Diaz is a full-time writer at the Life, Hope & Truth offices in McKinney, Texas. He spends his workdays writing blog posts and articles for Discern magazine and

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