A Different Perspective

What You Want vs What You Need

This episode is part of my podcast series DEAR ATHEIST… If you prefer, LISTEN NOW.


My son has been watching “The Princess and The Frog” movie for over a month now, almost on a daily basis…  I’ve come to know the film well and the lyrics to the songs too!  One of them that I found fascinating was the song by Mama Odie, “Dig A Little Deeper”.  Here are the lyrics at the beginning:

Mama Odie: Don’t matter what you look like
Don’t matter what you wear
How many rings you got on your finger
We don’t care
Choir: (No we don’t care)

Don’t matter where you come from
Don’t even matter what you are
A dog, a pig, a cow, a goat
Had ’em all in here (we had ’em all in here)

And they all knew what they wanted
What they wanted me to do
I told ’em what they needed
Just like I be telling you

You got to dig a little deeper
Find out who you are
You got to dig a little deeper
It really ain’t that far

When you find out who you are
You’ll find out what you need
Blue skies and sunshine guaranteed
You got to dig (dig)
You got to dig (dig)…”

The main message of the song is that you shouldn’t be so concerned with what you want, but what you need.  I tend to agree with this philosophy.  In fact, the last part quoted, about how finding out who you are reveals what you actually need to survive and be happy, is so on point, and we’ll look at that later on.  I think, whatever your religion or spirituality, EVERYONE knows that needs trump wants!   It is in their definition.  But which is more powerful?

Over the weekend, I have some important things I needed to do.  I prayed to God to help me do those things.  I fully intended to do those things in the morning when I prayed.  But when I got on my laptop, I did WHAT I WANTED!  The whole weekend, gone!  That is the power of want.

Wants originate from the heart, and passionate wants have a crippling effect on the mind.  They override sensible thinking and frustrate the mind, until it either gives up trying to resist the heart, or it is tricked into thinking that what the heart wants is what it NEEDS!  When that happens, the person begins to operate with passion, even at the level of the mind, though it began with a desire of the heart.  This is really how addiction works, and how it takes over the lives of those under its influence.

There are some basic things that we all need as humans.  The truth is we don’t all need the same things, there are levels.  Our needs change as we progress from one level to another.  NEED IS RELATIVE.  A poor man in Africa needs a lot of things, but his most important need for survival is food and clean water, and he is desperate for it.  He also needs clothes and shoes, and a home, and a family to love, and a job to give him self-esteem.  He doesn’t need or want a car!

A working class man in Africa needs a lot of things.  He has met his most important needs, through his job.  He has all the things the poor man doesn’t.  Right now, he desperately needs a car.  He doesn’t simply want one.  His commute by public transportation is frustrating his situation at the office, and he has been given a final warning from his employer about his lateness.  If he doesn’t get that car, he might lose everything else.

Now, there is a rich man in Africa who has everything he needs to survive and more.  He has his own car and his own home.  Whether he worked his whole life to get to have these things, or whether he was born to riches, it matters little right now…because he doesn’t have what he WANTS!  He is not in love with his wife and he is not happy with his work.  He wants passionate love and fulfillment, and feels he has wasted his life.  He begins to go in search of it…at the risk of losing everything he has and needs!

These three people are driven by different wants and needs.  Some might even say the rich man’s search for true love and fulfilment is a genuine need, and not simply a want.  But it sure helps to WANT what you need, so that you are driven to meet that need.  Maybe the problem with the unhappy rich man was that he didn’t really know what he wanted earlier, and was driven his whole life by his need for security and stability.  If he knew what he wanted, he might have forgone some needs or put off some needs, while trying to fulfil those wants on his journey to fulfilling his needs.

What we want matters.  Realising what we truly want might change how we prioritise our NEEDS.  Do we really want to be happy or just to be rich?  I think people want to be happy more than they want to be rich, but they think that being rich will make them happy.  Sometimes, you just have to be content with being happy, and not being rich!

But as the song goes…  Let’s dig a little deeper.  There is a need every human has, the same as the need for survival.  That is the need to KNOW and be KNOWN by God.  It is a spiritual need.  Until we realise who we are, that we are spirit, made in the likeness of our Maker, we may never realise this need.

Many people go through life not knowing that they have this need.  Many people are told that they have this need, but do not realise it until they have spent their whole lives meeting other needs.  Many people realise their need for God, but they don’t WANT Him, they want other things to do with this world.

So even when presented with an opportunity to know God, many people will decline the offer.  For possibly two reasons, they don’t realise they need it and/or they don’t want it!  But what if you do want to know God, and you realise you also need to know God…will that lead you to fulfil that need?  I think it depends on how much you WANT God compared to how much you want everything else!  But it helps to want Him just a little bit…we can start there.

God realises the power of our heart!  He realises that we are driven by our WANTS, even more than we are driven by our needs.  At a basic level of survival, a man would choose to follow his heart at the expense of meeting some other important need.  For example, let’s imagine the working class man fell in love and was promised a promotion to CEO of a company, if he would marry his Boss’ daughter, who he didn’t love.  He would most likely turn down the opportunity for wealth, to have love.

God wants our hearts!  He doesn’t want us to come to Him simply because we realise we need Him, though we don’t want Him.  He knows that we will be fickle!  When presented with the opportunity to get what we truly want, at the expense of our relationship with Him, we would drop Him like a hot potato!  But if He is WHAT WE WANT, and what we want the most, then we would sacrifice everything else…even our basic needs for survival, so that we can have Him!  That is the level that God operates at (Luke 14:26).

So why do we keep saying that it doesn’t matter what you want, but what you need?  It matters more what you WANT!  If you want the wrong things, it matters!  That is dangerous.  No, we shouldn’t follow our hearts…we should rather CHANGE our hearts.  We should change what we want, so that we want what we really need…and then, we will be happy!  True transformation doesn’t begin with the mind, but with the heart!

The world knows this too, and that is why advertising is a BIG business!!!  They are in the business of changing our hearts, and getting us to want what we don’t need, until we trick our minds to believe that we need them…and viola, we’re going to get that thing at any cost!  The heart is a very important part of a man.  You can control a man with it, just as you can control a ship with a small rudder (Jam 3:4)!

The Bible says: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov 4:23).  Is there a truer saying?  You may feel powerless over your heart, that you can’t change it yourself.  It’s okay, because God can!  That’s what He wants to do…  He knows that you NEED a heart change.  But you first have to be willing to be made willing (by changing your mind)…and want the heart change…and then give your heart to Him to work on.  He actually promised:

“…I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Eze 36:26).

If that sounds real good to you, jump for joy!  There is salvation!  You don’t have to be led around by a heart that is foolish…hurting yourself and hurting others.  You can want what you need the most, and you can want it the most too!  And when you do have your greatest need – God – you will know the joy of contentment, which is a gift He gives to the righteous.  “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim 6:6)!

Finally, “…delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psa 37:4).  Knowing God is what you truly need, and it can be what you truly want too!  When it is what you want above everything else, you will finally be happy…  You will have joy and a peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7).  All the others things you thought you wanted or needed will pale in comparison…and you will be satisfied by Him!

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt 5:6).

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ…” (Phil 3:7-8).

The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds…”” (Jeremiah 17:9:10).

Photo credit: http://www.unsplash.com


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