An Inordinate Quest
By: Julie Barrios and Brooke Meyer
Though Solomon was a king, many of us here in SF find ourselves not much different in our access to delicacies. One of the running jokes with our group of friends is that we eat our way through the city. We live in a fairly healthy and fit city but just because we tend to eat well and generally look healthy does not mean we do not struggle with gluttony and the overindulgence of natural appetite.
Food is necessary for survival and God desires that we enjoy, in moderation, the food He has provided for us. “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17). But, when we become too wrapped up in the joy and comfort of food, we can neglect God, the true provider of our joy and comfort. We also risk ignoring the real, potentially harmful, reasons we are eating and drinking. If the food we intake, or avoid by dieting, controls our thoughts and actions, we are acting as gluttons on the inordinate quest for either pleasure or control.
A personal experience I (Brooke) have with gluttony is around one of my favorite foods: donuts. They are my guilty pleasure that I usually enjoy in moderation. However, when I am stressed or anxious, I overindulge because I want to taste something palpably good instantly to immediately relieve these feelings. I put donuts in an authoritative place over my body and mind because I want them to be my ultimate source of fulfillment; I know they taste good. The problem is that I believe that they are making me feel wholly better by satiating my need for something good. I always seem to forget how empty (and sick) I feel afterwards though. I also seem to forget that there is something greater than food, in Jesus, my ultimate provider and relief.
While tempted to constantly overindulge in such instances, temperance requires moderation and self control. Moderation, especially in our “more is better” culture, is a very difficult thing to discern and pinpoint. This is why historically, the church has valued the disciplines of feasting and fasting in order to orient the heart towards true moderation. Self control requires us to be disciplined enough to both feast and fast while living most of our lives in a healthy middle place.
It was Jesus who instituted the discipline of feasting, using food as the means of remembering His life, death, and resurrection through communion. He uses food as a means of memorial celebration. Even in our culture, there are foods that have become ritualized that we associate with celebrations of all kinds. We celebrate birthdays with cakes, Christmas with sweets, and Thanksgiving with turkey.
Fasting is intentionally restricting our consumption of food and/or drink for the sake of properly orienting our hearts to God, our ultimate sustenance. When Jesus was fasting in the desert and was faced with the temptation of bread, He rebuked the offer by saying, “Man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Fasting is not dieting. It does, however, make us aware of what our body feels like on empty.
It is the awareness of emptiness combined with the satisfaction of fullness that helps us understand the delicate nature of moderation that hangs somewhere in the balance. We are challenged to healthily orient the posture of our hearts to seek Jesus as our ultimate provider and sustenance. It is this posture that allows us to live into the truth of Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 9:7, “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do”.
In reflection, do you recognize any places in your life where you are on an inordinate quest for either pleasure or control through either overconsumption or prohibition of food and drink? How can you cast your cares on Christ so that He can take His true place in your life as your provider and sustainer?
This blog is a part of our Live Into Who You Are series where we share personal reflections of how the Holy Spirit redeems a heart. Traditional vice and virtue pairings are used to help share and structure these reflections. Read more posts here.