When my Sweet Girl was four, she snuck into the pantry to get after the Easter candy. She crept into the privacy of the bathroom and dove into the contraband. Her father sensed something was amiss and asked through the door what she was doing. “MMmmm, nothing”, but upon further inspection, the evidence was there on her face and wrappers littered the floor near the trashcan. She had been tempted and gave in. Been there, done that…recently! In fact, over-indulging led me to make a goal this year…to “not to”…and instead to live in moderation. But this year, so far…not so good. 🙁
Lately, gluttony is like my own personal and spiritual kudzu infestation – I can’t seem to get rid of it! As I make headway on one front, it gains the advantage on another. And, as the kids and I are talking about how our hearts are like a garden and God is the gardener (I know, that’s another post, another time), I can’t think of a better analogy than kudzu.
Once when we were in the middle of an awful drought in Texas, we drove home to New Orleans to visit. I almost cried when we hit Houston and I saw all the kudzu—it was such a beautiful, brilliant green after all the brown, dried-up vegetation we’d had that year in San Antonio! But the truth of the matter is that kudzu is considered a major nuisance. And it is actually worse than a “nuisance” because it crowds out any other plant growing in the same area. It covers plants, trees, and yards, choking out the native vegetation. Kudzu is a botanical disaster in the South.
Gluttony (greed/excess) is a sinful response to man’s emptiness. It tries to creep into the holes in us. Gluttony attempts to meet our needs, to fill our stomachs, hearts, thoughts, closets, time…and in its’ wake, it creates more and more emptiness. It is a weed in the garden of your heart, re-seeding itself.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Gal 6:7-8).
The emptiness and futility of gluttony makes it self-perpetuating — it is constant craving, a vicious cycle, a perfectly evil design that leaves us vulnerable. “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov 25:28).
For some people, gluttony digs a deeper hole with every bite, every drink, every dollar spent. For others, gluttony overtakes them with every extra hour at work, every extra hour at the gym, every penny saved; because fanatical self-control is NOT the ultimate answer to the sin of gluttony. It is just another kind of gluttony.
If most of our thought-life and our time is consumed with counting calories, tweaking our budgets, getting in our workouts, and checking everything off our to-do list, we are NOT better off than those people who gorge and binge and squander. Rather we are just like them.
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun (Ecc. 2:10-11).
Godly self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). Substituting human self-control for overindulgence is just a deception. The problem is not the behavior, it is in the heart, in the thought-life. Gluttony and human self-control take over your thought-life and your real life too sometimes. Godly self-control frees you from your thoughts and leads you back into relationship with God, seeking Him first in your life.
Man’s antidote for emptiness is the Word of God.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt 4:1-4).
Over eating? Over spending? Over working? What can fill that hole? What can bring us resolution and answers? The Word.
For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Heb 4:12-13.
So Jerry McGuire got it wrong. As much as we ladies loved to hear that line in the movie, and then elbowed our significant other sharply, another human cannot “complete” us; and neither can another bite, another pair of shoes, another promotion at work or another exercise goal achieved.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17).
We are complete in the Word.
It seems then that we who know Christ, and Him crucified, should be above gluttony. After all, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). Yet, somehow, for many of us, and to our own great distress…a battle rages on. “As I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things” (Phil 3:18-19). Paul said that. But he also said this:
I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:19-25).
Jesus is our remedy. He has made the Way for us to be in communion with God – to be one with Him, as we were meant to be. We are to find our fulfillment in Him. He is the Word of God (John 1:1). Whether we know it or not, we crave relationship with Him and He is constantly seeking to meet us where we are and pull us closely to Himself.
God declares, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself” (Jer 31:3). We were created to walk closely with God. Drawing near to God requires a laying down of our own will to follow His, but this is our rescue! “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8). There is power in prayer and in reading the Word; it is the power of building relationship with God.
So, after all this season of Lent and, just in time for Easter candy — I am on the Bread of Life diet. I am tired of both sides of gluttony – the feasting and the famine. I have expended more mental energy over a measly five pounds than anyone in their right mind should! I know I must find my nourishment in every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deut 8:3). I am thankful I can draw near to God and He will draw near to me. Instead of trying to battle my own will, I lay it down. And I lay my gluttony down too. And my human effort towards self-control. I know the Lord finds my offerings acceptable.