It just sort of happens. What harm can three miniature peppermint patties do? And if three isn’t so bad, then how much worse could four be? And why do I seem to be getting hungrier as I keep eating these? I guess I’ve been working out more, burning more calories . . . I deserve a little reward now and then. Hey, a few hours have passed and I bet my body could handle it if I just had one more . . . or two.
I head to the trashcan to discard yet another peppermint patty wrapper. To my horror, the trash reveals “a few” more than a few empty wrappers. If I’m to be perfectly honest, I had the foresight back at the store. I knew the danger when I picked up that bag of York Peppermint Patties, but Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and I needed a few bags of candy for my daughters’ class parties.
Some people might ask me, “What’s the big deal? You’re not overweight.” No, I’m not overweight. I’ve never struggled with weight. I remain fairly active. My normal food choices are much healthier than the standard American’s diet. So, why am I left with this feeling? It’s not satisfaction. It’s defeat.
The “diet discussion” is not new to our culture. Overeating leads to all sorts of issues that hit deep. Body image issues, for instance, are very emotionally real. Physical health issues can literally be life or death, and all caused by the foods we eat. The list could go on. I don’t mean to belittle these, yet I believe they are only scratching the surface. Our real problem is spiritual. Our real problem is sin. God desires so much better for us.
“ ‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12)
It’s tempting to ignore the feeling of defeat – to brush aside the fact that what you hoped would be fulfilling only revealed a deeper emptiness. Granted, some people may become so accustomed with these feelings that they hardly know any different. It’s the feeling of being mastered by something. You’re not even the servant, you’re the slave.
Food is an interesting element to navigate because we need it, and unlike the Garden of Eden scenario and some of the old covenant Jewish laws, most theologians agree that we are “free” to eat anything. We may know that gluttony is a sin, but often we don’t realize that we’ve crossed over into it until it’s done. In my case, since I don’t struggle with weight I may even try to argue that my eating must not be excessive, therefore not gluttonous and therefore not sin. Yet, I can’t deny that nagging feeling that something seems spiritually amiss.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
I used to view the fruit of the Spirit as a work that God simply took over in me. If love is a fruit of the Spirit, then God will fill me with love and I’ll automatically love everyone. This may happen to a certain degree. What I’ve since realized is my need for continued cooperation with the Spirit. Sometimes I don’t feel loving, but it’s my choice whether to act loving. If you want to argue this for some reason, then I must direct your attention to a certain fruit of the Spirit called . . . Self-Control. There’s something funny about this fruit if you don’t want to take responsibility. You see, although it is a fruit of the Spirit, it is not called Spirit-Control, it is called Self-Control.
” For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” (Galatians 5:17).
No doubt you’ve felt the war within yourself before, the war of wanting something that you know is wrong. Here is one question for the morally-minded: is it easier to keep yourself from stealing, or to keep yourself from overeating? And why? Most likely the answer is that they are not seen at the same degree of sin. I would agree with you, though some Christians dispute whether any degree differences exist at all in terms of sin. Nonetheless, I believe that if we also (like stealing) see our use of food as serious in matters of our relationship with God, then the strength of our conviction against its misuse will also increase. After all, it’s not about how I fit into my pants, it’s about how I fit into the image of Christ.
Disclaimer: The following are points over which God has convicted me. Personally, I love this about God. His word says that He rebukes and disciplines those He loves (Proverbs 3:12, Hebrews 12:6, and Revelations 3:19). His correction is always because He desires us to have His best. What this does not mean is that He condemns (see Romans 8:1). Conviction draws us closer to Him. Condemnation pushes us away. Draw nearer! God always offers hope and His mercies are new every day!
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“Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19)
1. Admit if food is an idol in your life. Exodus 20:3, Deuteronomy 5:7, and numerous other verses in Scripture command us not to have any other gods before the Lord. Most would never outright claim that they desire food more than they love God. Nonetheless, remember Paul’s admonishment not to let anything master you? When you hear in your conscience that you’ve had enough to eat, what do you bow down to – God or food? Jesus warned us that no one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13). Though He was discussing money, the principle equally applies to food. Who (or what) is your master? If it’s not God, ask for His forgiveness and His grace to overcome!
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“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)
2. Humble and submit yourself. I know, if your personality is a bit stubborn and independent like myself, then the word “submit” can send near-violent shivers down your spine. How many of us dream of being our own boss? Yet, Colossians 3:23 tells us that we are supposed to do all things as unto God. ALL is inclusive of our food choices! In fact, 1 Corinthians 10:31 includes food specifically, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
I’ve heard so many times, “I’m (fill-in-blank) years old, I can make up my own mind!” Well, here’s a good swift wake-up call to all of us Christians: age isn’t the point. Your mother may not be there to keep your hand out of the cookie jar, yet that does not mean you have the right to put it in. Jesus is not only our Savior, He is supposed to be our Lord. The two are mutually inclusive. You are no longer your own! As jarring as this may sound, it is cause for rejoicing. When we offer ourselves to Him, we are transformed from broken vessels into holy temples. As Paul proclaims in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” There is no greater freedom than in submission to God.
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“You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.” (James 5:5)
3. Identify the true treasure and go after it! It’s natural to want comfort. It’s natural to admire beauty. It’s understandable to crave the delicious. There’s something greater than natural, however . . . it’s the supernatural! Earthly treasures are momentary, whereas God tells us to seek eternal treasure (Matthew 6:20). The hard truth of this matter is that the two cannot be sought together (see 1 John 2:15, Colossians 3:2, and James 4:4).
My very wise mother-in-law once told me that the system of this world is set up in such a way as to distract us from God. If we seek the luxuries of this world, our heart is inevitably distracted from the treasures of God. Spiritual discipline is the opposite of self-indulgence. Ever wonder what the point of fasting is? Esther did not underestimate its power and Jesus declared that some demons won’t be cast out without it. There is a power in denying the savory earthly delights in that it resets our internal compass toward what is greater.
Let’s take Daniel’s discipline as an example, who did not indulge in all that was made available to him from the king’s food. He took the “high road” and he was brought into a higher calling. Let’s redefine our nourishment and reset our cravings . . .
“Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:34)
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