Anyone who’s seen Little Shop Of Horrors will recognize those words from the song of the mysterious potted plant named Audrey 2 that grew to a giant size on a diet of human flesh and blood. You can read the dialogue that leads up to the song and the lyrics at http://www.metrolyrics.com/feed-me-git-it-lyrics-little-shop-of-horrors.html
Audrey 2 is a selfish, manipulative plant from outer space that takes advantage of Seymour’s simple desire to help it flourish. It does everything to cajole Seymour into feeding him human beings. He whines like a dependent child, playing on Seymour’s sympathies. Audrey 2 entices Seymour with promises to make his every dream come true, but in reality this potted plant is a menacing threat, not worth Seymour’s slavish devotion.
As fans of the movie will tell you, there is something very laughable and entertaining about the character of Audrey 2, even though it eats people. This is dark humor, couched in science fiction. But humor and fiction cannot succeed without dramatizing something that is honest, true or real. There is something strangely real about the destructive self interests of this alien plant.
The line between comedy and tragedy is very thin. The very same elements that make people cry also make them laugh. It’s just a matter how those elements are presented. Why do we laugh at the tragedy of a man-eating plant? Because it represents qualities we have seen in actual people we have known.
There is a certain type of self-proclaiming Christian who attends church, makes friends, acts nice and blends in, like everyone else. You can’t spot them in a crowd. Their sole identifying mark is that at some point they leave the church, saying, “I’m just not being fed”. These aren’t new believers who really do need to be fed. They have been around for a while, but they do not stay. They only remain in a church as long as the church – usually the Pastor – is feeding and watering them, as if they were some potted plant.
I have seen so many of these potted church-goers that I am convinced they are sincere in their belief that they need to be fed. Yet they are sincerely wrong. They are stuck in a stage of development that is only appropriate for seedlings. But even seedlings aren’t supposed to remain in the nursery. At some point, they need to be taken out of their pots and placed in soil, where their roots can grow and they can feed themselves.
1 Corinthians 10:3 points out that all Israel “ate the same spiritual food”. This was the manna that God gave them. He also fed them meat, by bringing quail to them, not to mention the water he had Moses bring forth from a rock. So, Israel was being fed. Nevertheless, we read in verse 5 that God was not pleased with most of them and they were overthrown in the wilderness. This represents a serious spiritual dysfunction. God in fact provided them with what they needed to live, asking in return that they live according to his commands. But those Israelites who perished in the wilderness did not heed God’s commands. They only complained about what they were being fed.
For a Christian, the metaphor of being fed applies to new Christians who have been born again but still need to be discipled. How long should a Christian be discipled? In part it depends on their age and their ability to learn, but most importantly it depends on their personal devotion to the Lord and how much they want to grow. It is not the role of a church or pastor to continue to disciple everyone in the congregation indefinitely. All Christians have the responsibility to mature in Christ.
When a person first receives Christ, those who are more spiritually mature need to teach them what it means to be a Christian – how to live, how to grow. They need to be taught to pray, to serve, to fellowship, to worship, and they need to learn what the Bible says. Those are things we would call spiritual “feeding” for “babes in Christ”. They don’t know what they need, so believers who are more mature need to feed them.
As new believers grow, they (should) gradually learn to pray for themselves, serve by themselves, seek for themselves fellowship and worship with other Christians, and learn Scripture themselves by reading, meditating, studying and memorizing. Church is designed to supply opportunities for all these things.
But an important part of spiritual growth is learning to feed yourself so that you do not remain spiritually dependent upon others. Just as babies cannot feed themselves, but must be fed milk, children grow and learn to eat solid food and how to feed themselves. This is what is meant by Hebrews 5:12 when it says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.” Those folks should have been feeding themselves, but were acting like spiritual babies.
And babies who grow from eating milk to eating solid food also grow from being held, to crawling and finally to walking. Christians are being childish and self-absorbed when they continue to expect to be fed long after they have had time to mature and learn to walk with the Lord. Spiritual maturity means you can’t spend your life as a potted plant needing constant feeding by someone else. Believers are not to remain babes in Christ. We are to grow up and learn to feed ourselves.
The church is the body of Christ. Our dependence should be upon the Head, not on our pastors or church leaders. What we have in the church body is loving, inter-dependent relationships with one another. And that is always (or should be) reciprocal (going both ways) and mutual (equally helpful to one another).
We are all different parts of a single body. We have a shared purpose for which we are joined together in unity to accomplish God’s will. When new Christians are babes in Christ, they need to be nourished by the whole faith community until they mature enough spiritually to participate in ministry themselves and serve others as the Holy Spirit directs. But that cannot happen when people look to “someone else” for their own spiritual development, expecting “someone else” to feed them.
Immature believers tend to see church leaders (especially pastors) as extraordinary servants to be placed on a pedestal over everyone else. They are seen as more-perfect beings who have somehow reached a higher level of spirituality. More is expected of them in terms of their time, energy, availability, tolerance, interest, wisdom and service. It’s a wholly unrealistic expectation, but somehow it persists on the part of these potted church-goers who demand they get their feedings.
I confess to feeling angry about this because pastors and church leaders are just human beings. They struggle with the same difficulties and temptations as everyone else. When a church member says, “I’m not being fed” they have an expectation that has no basis in Scripture, and they are making a demand that abrogates their own accountability to the Lord and transfers it to someone else. That is a childish, spoiled and irresponsible attitude. If you are a Christian who is reading this and thinking I am wrong, then answer these questions:
What do you want from your church or your pastor? What do you think is the purpose and function of a church? How do you need to grow spiritually? How would you describe your personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Where does the church’s responsibility end and yours begin?
Is your faith based on the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible, or do you pick and choose what you want to believe? Do you believe you must submit to the authority of Scripture or do you only consider it a guide?
How well do you know God’s word? Are you reading your Bible regularly? Are you in a Bible study? Do you meditate on the word? Do you memorize Scripture? Do you discuss it with others?
How much time do you spend in prayer? Who and what do you pray for? Do you meet with others to pray?
Do you regularly attend Sunday worship services? Have you formed relationships with other believers? Do you meet with some of them during the week? Are you a witness to your faith in your daily life?
Are you serving in some capacity in any church ministry? Do you know what your own ministry is? Have you seen a need and tried to fill it, or thought of a new ministry and brought the idea to your church leaders?
All of these are indicators of your spiritual walk. If you are crying, “Feed me!” while the above opportunities are offered at your church, you are no more able to walk with the Lord than a potted plant. If you go to church to be entertained by the worship music, social activities or stirring oratory, you are there for the wrong reasons. You are just a pew warmer. Jesus didn’t say, “Sit and act nice; the pastor will teach you what you need to know.” He said, “Deny yourself” and “Follow me” and “Go and sin no more”.
In Matthew 5:6 Jesus spoke of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. There is the tacit presumption in his words that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness do more than merely demand to be fed. Just as faith without works is dead (James 2:17), to be hungry but not be willing to feed oneself is senseless.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are to make every effort to seek righteousness, pursue righteousness, and take whatever steps they can to feed themselves. God expects us to grow up and take responsibility for how we work out our own salvation (Philippians 2:12).
Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. – Hosea 10:12
Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the LORD: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. – Isaiah 51:1
Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD. – Zephaniah 2:3
When Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it will be opened to you” he was not speaking to infants who needed to be fed by someone else. He was speaking to adults who needed to learn to be persistently engaged in seeking answers from the LORD. The verbs in Greek mean to keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking. That requires maturity, responsibility and persistence in our faith walk, not demanding that others do what we should be doing for ourselves.
Christians who think like potted plants and leave their churches because they “aren’t being fed” are seriously deceived. They think the kingdom of heaven is built up when churches give them what they want, leaving to look elsewhere when they don’t get it. It’s really all about what pleases them, not about what is pleasing to God.
This is a distortion of the shepherd and the sheep model because the Bible tells us that Jesus is the true Shepherd, not pastors or leaders. While pastors and leaders do indeed have some “shepherding” tasks, the folks in the congregation – as sheep – are not to remain helpless or dumb animals. Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commands” (John 14:15). So, as I mentioned above, we are all to work out our own salvation. I am very sure that Jesus commands us to live and grow according to his word, rather than expect our happiness to come from how our church “feeds” us.
Rather than acting like that bizarre potted vegetable of Little Shop of Horrors fame, seek the Lord in prayer (Hebrews 11:6), look for wisdom in his word (James 3:17), remember that his thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9), and ask him how he wants you to build up his body (1 Corinthians 14:12). He will build you up as you obey him and learn to function as part of his body (Colossians 2:19).
Remember, Jesus said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28) and “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35). If you want to be Christ-like, seek to feed others. Don’t demand that others feed you.