Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thou Shalt Make Brownies?

Abraham Maslow is perhaps most famous for his Theory of Human Motivation, which involves a "hierarchy of needs." This hierarchy consists of five "levels" of human needs that range from the physical to the spiritual. The lowest level of needs is the physiological level, which includes needs like food, water, sleep, sex, and breathing. The highest level of needs is the level of self-actualization, which includes the need to address introspective topics such as morality, creativity, and other issues that can be labeled "spiritual". According to Maslow, the needs on the lowest level, the physical needs, must be met first. Then and only then will a human being be able to "graduate" to the next level of satisfied needs. Oh, really?


Consider this quote from Maslow (1943) himself: "Anyone who attempts to make an emergency picture into a typical one and who will measure all of man's goals and desires by his[her] behavior during extreme physiological deprivation, is certainly blind to many things. It is quite true that man lives by bread alone — when there is no bread." I don't think I need to slam anyone over the head with the incredibly obvious here, but this is in direct opposition to scripture.

Maslow is advocating the proper care and feeding of the flesh. The flesh takes priority over the spirit. He does have one thing correct: this certainly is a theory of motivation:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3, NIV, emphasis mine)

If we were to invert Maslow's "hierarchy," we would see the proper order of our priorities as God sees fit: The spirit takes precedence. The flesh is the last thing we need to be focused on. (Note: Maslow is also wrong in his thinking. We do not become more "spiritual" when we meet the needs of the flesh. The richest countries in the world that have all their physical needs met are also the most discontent.)

Now let me just switch gears for a minute.

Perhaps it's just me. But I've noticed that most "resources" geared toward Christian Women seem to coincide with the first level of Maslow's heirarchy. Do a quick Google Search on "Christian Women" or "Proverbs 31," and you are most likely to find physiological fluff that is supposed to pass for "marriage and parenting" issues. One example that comes to mind: online communities designed for Christian women are replete with endless threads on how to make a tasty casserole or knit a cozy sweater.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not taking a feminist stance and suggesting that these topics should be discarded. On the contrary, these topics often provide very useful information for everyday, practical affairs. (In fact, I enjoy baking and I still like to crochet every now and then.) But for a Christian woman who is looking for some kind of solid food upon which to build her faith, focusing solely upon recipes and sewing patterns can leave her asking, "Is this all there is?"

I think this is one of the reasons so many Christian housewives and full time mothers become so disenchanted with their lifestyles. I think this is why so many of them are tempted toward feminism. They are not properly taught that Biblical femininity starts with the needs placed at the highest level on Maslow's hierarchy. Where are the websites that encourage women to a deep study of God? Where are the books that cheer women on to a greater understanding of sound doctrine? Where are the Bible studies that allow women to focus on who they are in Christ, instead of who they are in the kitchen? When women continually focus their energies into activities that are designed to comfort the flesh, it is very easy to feel less than significant in God's kingdom.

Satan would love for women to remain on this basic level of operating in their femininity. But God wants every one of his daughters to grow in their faith! The Bible says that God's will is our sanctification (1 Thess 4:3). If you are increasing in knowledge of how to bake cookies and set grass stains, yet doing nothing or very little to feed your spirit, you are spiritually malnourished, and if you haven't already, you will most likely become unimpressed with all that biblical femininity has to offer.

God does not want you to just sit around baking brownies. He wants you to be a shining example of Christ to everyone you meet. This means sharing your faith. It's having the strength and the knowledge to teach your children the difference between truth and error. Don't sit back quietly - confront that sister in sin. Learn to exercise leadership within the boundaries of biblical femininity. Make a difference for the kingdom of God.

Christian wife, Christian mother, if you feel that your everyday routine has become mundane, look at the pyramid and ask yourself which level of the heirarchy are you placing the greatest importance? Continue to feed and clothe your family as Proverbs 31 directs, but do not let the physical become the main thing. The Bible tells us that Christ is the Chief Cornerstone. Let's flip that pyramid right-side up and put Jesus where He belongs: at the foundation of our needs and priorities.


Reference


Maslow, A.H. (1943) A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review,(50)370-96.

2 comments:

Sammybunny said...

A VERY interesting post! As a psychology minor I am very interested in human psychology but I completely agree with your assessment of Maslow's hierarchy. Some things that one can learn in the psychology classroom are like "duh, God told us this ages ago" and other things are big flip flops!

LisaM said...

When I studied psych. I always disagreed with (hated) that Maslow's pyramid. Just so glad you articulated this in public. May ALL aspiring psych and soc majors read and be turned away from these lies and back to the Truth! I've seen several Christians who wanted to "help people" study these majors and fall away from God and His mighty Word. Tell it like it is! (But don't forget the brownies - they do make life sweet while you're studying... ;) )