On 05-07-1991 at Sat-tal ashram when I was reading John 6:1-35, when I was meditating verse 26, I wrote the following song:
What could be the reason O LORD?
For the people to seek after you?
They seek you each day
And you know them well
The need of the body
Is much more important
By thinking and seeking it
They become tired in this life
Even though they are suffering
After bearing all the burden of life
They don’t understand the truth
Inert is their true nature
There is true food for life
When they were told
What is its price and what is its measure
They ask and seek it
Are you perishing food?
They don’t understand even after receiving you
Therefore open their inner eye
To know the truth
The gospel is inclusive. It never addresses one need at the cost of another. God is concerned with our physical and spiritual needs. Those who serve the Lord giving preference to physical needs are not wrong, provided they never use it as a means to an end. Similarly those who are interested in saving the soul are not on a higher ground. Those who have compassion for the physical needs of people should do it to show God’s compassion and concern without any hidden agenda. Similarly those who are more concerned about the soul when required, should address the physical needs of the people without any ulterior motive. Any dichotomy between physical versus spiritual is anti-gospel in its nature.
Particularly Indian bhakti tradition never shies away seeking the physical needs to God. One can read several saints demanding God for their physical need.
For example, Sundarar who is also known as ‘friend of god’ (Tambiran Thozar) always ‘demanded’ not only the need for everyday life but even to lead a luxury life both for him and his wives:
Beloved lord both for me and (my wives) Paravai and Sangili, whom else I have other than you. You have to remove the shortage of your bhakta. I need pearls, jewels, silk cloths , flowers, Kasturi and other scented items.—[T. M. Baskarat Thondaiman, Venkatam Mudal Kumari Varai [from Venkadam to Kumari], Chennai, Nallarappadippagam, 2009, 6 vols. Vol. 3. p. 141. (my translation) Not only here but Sundarar asked so many times gold, paddy and other things from the Lord in different pilgrimage centres. (For more on this see ‘Demanding God’ in my blog).