Need and Desire

Last week I argued that it’s not a human responsibility to define the human need, giving three reasons why it’s better to let the Creator choose. Today I want to continue on that theme and further show the dangers of letting people name their needs.

You and I tend to say we need things that we don’t actually need. For example, we say we need a bigger house when we own one with running water and functioning appliances. We say we need a newer car when the one we drive functions normally on a daily basis.

We define needs relationally as well, not just physically. We say we need a more loving spouse, a more obedient child, or a more respectful boss. This might confuse and irritate you, but the Bible never promises those things.

Is it wrong to want to live in comfort with a big house and a new car? No, as long as those desires don’t consume you. Is it sinful to long for people in your life that love, respect, and cherish you? No, those things are beautiful in God’s eyes.

But in a fallen world, where life doesn’t operate the way it should, there’s a difference between need and desire. Need means essential for life; desire means a strong feeling of want. Many of our desires aren’t wrong, as long as they don’t rule us, but they’re simply not needs.


There are 3 dangerous things that happen when you name a desire as something you need.

1. Entitlement

First, you feel entitled to that desire. To ‘entitle’ means to give someone a legal right or a just claim to receive or do something. When we name a desire as a need, we’re basically telling God that we have a legal right or just claim to _________ [fill in your desire].

The Bible never says sinful human beings are entitled to anything from a perfect and holy God. Actually, that’s not true; the only thing that you and I are legally entitled to in this life is death. We continually rebel against the wise law of a loving God, and the consequence of that rebellion is death.

But God, in mercy and love, removes legal condemnation from our sentence and transfers it to Christ. Let me encourage you: the next time you think God owes you something, please reconsider. The only thing God owes us is something we don’t want.

2. Demand

Once you feel entitled to something or someone, you believe it’s your right to demand it. I don’t know about you, but I’m not in a rush to spend time with demanding people. They’re harsh, impatient, and unforgiving; we all know that unpleasant and demanding relative, coworker, or church member.

But maybe you’re more like them than unlike them. Is it possible that you feel entitled to something and then demand it from others? Theologically we all know that we aren’t big enough to demand anything from God, but could it be that we demand it horizontally from other people?

3. Judgment

After entitlement and demand come judgment; we’ll judge the love of others by their willingness and/or ability to provide for us that which we’ve declared a need. If it’s provided quickly, I treat you with respect and love, but if you delay or refuse or are unable to provide, I make life difficult for you.

We do the same with God, often unknowingly. If God provides us with comfort and wealth and good health, how quick are we to sing Great Is Thy Faithfulness? But if God doesn’t provide those things, or instead allows difficulty to enter our door, we’re so tempted to question his love and run away from worship.


Do you see how dangerous this concept of ‘need’ can be? If you name something as a need that’s simply a desire, it can dramatically alter your life. You’ll feel entitled to it, you’ll demand it, and you’ll judge the love of others by their ability to provide it.

It’s always best to allow your Heavenly Father to define what you need. Trust the Bible; you’re in good hands when it comes to your family privileges. As an adopted child of God, you’re entitled to heavenly grace as an heir of Christ (Romans 8:16-17).

You NEED that grace every day. But many of the other things you claim as needs are simply just desires of the heart. I would encourage you to revisit your list of needs and put them back into the proper perspective.

There’s no reason to fear to place your needs list in the hands of God; he will meet every need of yours (Philippians 4:19). No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11).

This content was originally posted by Dr. Paul Tripp on and was republished with permission. 

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