The Love of God: Better Than a Man-Made Pyramid

Included in the requirements for a college degree was the obligatory psychology class lesson on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As psychology was a general education class for me and not part of my major, I must have pushed the lesson to the back of my mind. However, it was not altogether forgotten. This message in Pastor Bryce Beale’s series “Christ and No More” brought Maslow’s theory to the forefront of my mind for good purpose – to abolish it!

According to Maslow, basic human needs must be met before a person can focus on his higher needs and ultimately reach his highest potential. Psychology Today explains this further:

Maslow called the bottom four levels of the pyramid ‘deficiency needs’ because a person does not feel anything if they are met, but becomes anxious if they are not. Thus, physiological needs such as eating, drinking, and sleeping are deficiency needs, as are safety needs, social needs such as friendship and sexual intimacy, and ego needs such as self-esteem and recognition. In contrast, Maslow called the fifth level of the pyramid a ‘growth need’ because it enables a person to ‘self-actualize’ or reach his fullest potential as a human being. Once a person has met his deficiency needs, he can turn his attention to self-actualization; however, only a small minority of people are able to self-actualize because self-actualization requires uncommon qualities such as honesty, independence, awareness, objectivity, creativity, and originality.

In contrast, Beale points to the teaching of Scripture:

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13

Paul was able to do all things because he turned to Christ for his strength. He did not depend on the fulfillment of his basic physical, security, and social needs as proposed by Maslow. Paul humbly acknowledged his dependence on Christ, further debunking Maslow’s theory that “self-esteem, power, recognition, and prestige” were necessary to reach the top of the “pyramid.” In fact, Scripture explains that pride is detrimental, not essential:

Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.
Proverbs 16:18

At the top of Maslow’s pyramid is “self-actualization: the need for development, creativity.” However, Psychology Today notes that not many people are capable of reaching this ultimate goal because they lack key qualities such as honesty, independence, awareness, objectivity, creativity, and originality.

Is “creativity” the best that it gets? Is this the most that a person can hope for? To be honest, that is a pretty depressing thought. I can think of better goals including peace, joy, and love. In fact, it is the love of God, not the base of a pyramid, that is the rock that holds me up. The love of God satisfies me regardless of whether my other needs (as defined by Maslow) are being met or not. The love of God produces fruit such as honesty in me through the Holy Spirit. The love of God is ultimate, much higher than the top of any man-made pyramid.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13



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