Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.
In the beginning of John 6, the miracle of the loaves was recorded, along with a few other miracles. And when the people were looking for him, finally finding him on the other side of the lake, Jesus said, Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill [John 6:26]. In this verse, Jesus explains why the motivation of the people’s effort to find him was incorrect, as he compares our physical needs and wants to the eternal life that is in God. In this study, we will examine this explanation of Christ and try to understand it in a practical manner.
Do not work for food that spoils – what did Jesus mean by food that spoils? Probably literally ‘food’, as we know it. Things we eat for our body to function, things that perish when we consume them. They do not last long, and we cannot survive on food alone – but it supports us, keeps our body working. It is important that we constantly consume food regularly, because once the food is digested by the body, it perishes – we will need more. On a deeper level, food that spoils could also refer to all worldly possessions and pleasures, whether sinful or luxurious or gained by hard work.
but for food that endures to eternal life – food that endures unto everlasting life, likely referring to the grace of Christ, which refreshes, strengthens and supports, brings nourishment and growth.
If we read take this literally, it would be very conflicting – are we not to work for food? Then how would we survive? Would food just fall from the skies, like the mana of the Israelites in the wilderness? We cannot take this at face value, but instead, when we regard the surrounding verses and context, we get a very clear picture – We are not asked not to work. We are not asked not to care about working. Work we must, but for the right focuses – on the kingdom of God, on our assets in heavens and not the earthly benefits. Work, but don’t work for worldly things, but work with your heavenly assets in mind. Work so that you have food, but don’t work simply so that you can eat, but work in order to please God. Along the way, when we work for food that endures to eternal life, we will find that the food that spoils will come along the way.
eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you – It is through Christ Jesus himself that we gain our salvation, for he is the only way to God – our only bridge to God. Yet it has been promised us, for we who believe with our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus is our Lord and God raised him from the dead. Indeed, at the point of speaking this verse, Jesus hadn’t died – the people surely did not truly understand what Jesus meant. But today we have no excuses – we cannot not know. When compared to our eternal life, all our temporary needs and wants, all our worldly possessions and pleasures become insignificant. Again, not that we do not need to eat, and not that we do not need to work so that we can eat, but that our focus and priority, our motivation should be on the Lord, and our sights set on what is unseen.
As humans often we worry about our inabilities to meet our own worldly needs and wants. Jesus explains our worries and why we shouldn’t worry about our worldly needs very eloquently –
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. [Matthew 6:25-34]
Indeed, as Paul says, but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. [1 Tim 6:8]
For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval – who is ‘him’? Very simply, referring to the previous part, the Son of Man, and hence Jesus Christ. The one whom God declared most emphatically – This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased [Mt 3:17]. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t thing many things or many people can ever receive a seal of approval from God. Jesus was authorized, selected, appointed to be the Saviour, the Redeemer. He didn’t just run away from heaven in rebellion or anything as dramatic as the Greek or Roman mythology. He came with a missioned from God, armed with the holy spirit, and accompanied with the voice of God. He is sealed by God – he is true.
I do certainly wish this verse was simpler and stopped at do not work for food that spoils. That would be excellent. If food still dropped from the skies, it would be great if quail and manna came freely everyday. If that happens, it would be truly so that we do not need to worry about food that spoils. That is a very visible explanation and reason. But our God is greater, and we must be reminded of that which is unseen – eternal life. When we truly understand the concept of eternity and the fact that we have eternal life, our life on earth becomes very short in comparison and our needs and wants seem insignificant. Not that we shouldn’t work, not that we should wait for our free manna to fall from the skies, but that we should simply focus in working for God and God’s kingdom, rather than our own worldly possessions and pleasures.