Matters of Faith: Beyond Self-Actualization

20161113_JLRussellBy Rev. J. Loren Russell, BA, MDiv.​

Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

‭‭Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that there are three levels of human need – – basic, psychological and self-actualization. Basic needs are metabolic, i.e., physical, requirements for survival and must be met. If air, water, food, warmth, rest, security and safety are not met, there is the certainty of a death. Psychological and self-actualization needs — higher up on Maslow’s chart — are not vital for survival, but essential if one is to realize his full potential. To Maslow, having friends and being in intimate relationships enable people to achieve their full potential but they are only parts of what it takes to reach the epitome of the human experience — self-actualization.

When Maslow released his theory in 1943, it made a significant impact in the educational system as it revealed a new approach for teachers and instructors to implement in the learning process. His theory showed how cognitive learning would be substantially increased if a student’s basic and psychological needs were satisfied. While this article seeks to neither confirm nor refute Maslow’s theory, I am referencing it in order to show how centuries before this theory, Paul found a place of contentment that did not depend on physical, psychological or personal needs.

His contentment came because of his personal relationship with Christ. If I can get you to imagine with me for a moment what Paul was trying to share with us in this letter, you would see that even if you had no reason to suspect you will ever come to your full potential, none of it would matter. To be content and satisfied no matter your state of need — your spiritual need. In so doing, you’ll get the strength to meet your needs. One might say, “that’s an oversimplification.” To which I would respond,”you’re right if from a secular perspective. But, Paul’s view is spiritual.”

With confidence and boldness, Paul writes in Romans 8:37-39

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

While Maslow’s theory is grounded in humanity’s ability to satisfy its own needs, Paul talks about satisfying the human need from a spiritual perspective, a perspective that is rooted in faith — the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Paul’s faith was beyond self-actualization!

Be Blessed!

Rev. J. Loren Russell is an associate minister at both Goodwill and The Greater Universal Baptist Churches in the Bronx, President/CEO of The JLR Company for Church Financial & Strategic Consulting, and hosts “Matters of Faith – The Radio Show” on Soul 1 Radio, Mondays 8:00 – 10:00 PM. Listen here or by phone at 626-226-1448. Be sure to friend “Matters of Faith” on Facebook, Twitter @jlorenr, and email us at  

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