Jesus and Maslow talk about Safety

Part 2 of the blog series “Pyramid of Needs – Re-evaluated”.

I have decided to deviate drastically from my originally intended format. This post (and maybe others) will now be framed as a discussion with three participants. Me, asking the question, Maslow, with quotes from Theory of Human Motivation, and Jesus, with quotes from the Gospels.

Me: Maslow, after we fulfill our most basic need for food, what is the next need we must gratify?

Maslow: “If the physiological needs are relatively well gratified, there then emerges a new set of needs, which we may categorize roughly as the safety needs.”

Me: Do you mean strictly physical safety or something more broadly?

Maslow: You can observe this need most in children and, generally, we can say that “the average child in our society generally prefers a safe, orderly, predictable, organized world, which he can count, on, and in which unexpected, unmanageable or other dangerous things do not happen”

Me: How does the safety need arise in adults?

Maslow: “We can perceive the expressions of safety needs only in such phenomena as, for instance, the common preference for a job with tenure and protection, the desire for a savings account, and for insurance of various kinds”

Me: So, is the “need for a savings account” really the next most basic motivator to the need for food?

Maslow: Not quite, “the need for safety is seen as an active and dominant mobilizer of the organism’s resources only in emergencies, e. g., war, disease, natural catastrophes, crime waves, societal disorganization, neurosis, brain injury, chronically bad situation.”

Me: Jesus, Maslow says that a healthy person is going to pursue their physical safety before almost any other need. Is this how we should be motivated?

Jesus: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:23b-25)

Me: Surely, you’re only talking about how we live, right? You’re not asking us to give up our very safety. Could there be a circumstance where you would call us to give up our very lives?

Jesus: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. … Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. … Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:16-18, 21, 28)

Me: If God could put His people through such trials, it seems like He doesn’t care about us much.

Jesus: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

Me: I see how this applies to early Christians who underwent persecution, and to Christians elsewhere in the world who are persecuted, but I feel pretty safe right now. What about Maslow’s connection between safety and financial security? Should this be our next biggest priority in life, as Maslow seems to suggest?

Jesus: Let me tell you a story about that: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’  Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’  But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” (Luke 12:18-20)

Me: So, it sounds like this guy actually lost his safety, his life, because he built up bigger barns and sought life-long security. But what, exactly, did he do wrong?

Jesus: “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21)

Me: So, it sounds like you’re saying that we have a more fundamental need, and should therefore have a more fundamental motivator in our life than for personal safety or financial security. How, then, should we live?

Jesus: “Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:33b-34)