Have you ever been on a diet? If you haven’t, I envy you. You are probably one of those people who eats whatever they like and still moves like a gazelle.
Even worse, like some of my friends, you may go for a 13km run on a Saturday morning to relax! I say this out of admiration, with a sprinkling of jealousy.
Last month I wrote about people being like onions. Yes, inspirational I know. The point was we have layers. The top layer is what we want now – our appetites. But there are deeper layers. The deepest ones being our belief systems – this is the realm of belief, purpose, meaning, and values.
And herein lies the conflict – our appetites often compete with our values. Say you value your health or your physical appearance, but you love to eat cake all day, every day. Well now you have a fight on your hands. What you want is not that simple. On one level it’s clear cake would make you happy right now. On another level, in time, it’s the enemy to my value of health. There are tensions like this in every aspect of life. In our relationships, health, and of course, our finances.
The idea of giving in to your appetites and doing whatever gives you the most pleasure in the moment is an old idea – it’s called hedonism. The problem is it leaves you impulsive, addicted, empty, and most likely miserable. Jesus, in his time of testing, gives us a maxim for human flourishing. ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4) In other words, life is not defined by what I feel like right now, but by my purpose and values. I can’t go into the whole back story of this statement here but Jesus chose a path higher than his appetites.
We live in a culture which sees Christianity as a bunch of “thou shall nots.” It’s not, however Jesus does offer an abundant life, an offer that is only possible when we have our appetites in check with our values – what we want now in check with what matters forever. The offer here is to live a deeply meaningful life based on the word of God – an identity based on a creator God who does not change.