By LESLIE LUDY
As Americans, we live in one of the wealthiest, most self-indulgent nations in history. Very few people on earth have ever had so many food choices, so many leisure opportunities, and so many creative ways to indulge our physical cravings. Feel like a hot fudge sundae? Just drive down the road to your local Dairy Queen! In the mood for a juicy steak? All you need to do is find the nearest steakhouse! Want to get pampered? There’s a spa around the corner! Longing for a luxurious beach getaway? Just hop online and book your tickets! Need a frothy caffeine fix? Starbucks is everywhere! Self-indulgence is not only easy and convenient in our culture, but constantly pushed upon us by advertisers (i.e. “go ahead, indulge – you deserve it!”) and celebrated by our society.
For example, one of the best ways to be considered hip and trendy these days is to call yourself a “Foodie” and become a connoisseur of great food. Foodies, by popular definition, are people who not only enjoy good food, but build their lives around food; instead of just eating to live, they live to eat. It’s easy to jump on this bandwagon simply because everyone else is doing it – and besides, how could enjoying good food possibly cause harm to our spiritual lives?
The danger is not in enjoying food or other comforts, but in letting our physical cravings lead and control us. The Bible warns against making our appetite our god. (See Philippians 3:19.) And Paul says, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). For most of us in the modern Western world, constant self-indulgence is so normal that we don’t think twice about it. But God asks us to put a harness on our physical cravings and desires, so that self-indulgence does not become an idol in our life. When we become slaves to our appetites, we cannot be the devoted servants of Christ that we are called to be.
Remember, it’s not wrong to find a certain amount of pleasure in the comforts of this life – like good food, physical rest, or fun, refreshing activities. (Also, preparing delicious meals as a means of giving can be a wonderful way to bless others with Christ’s love.) But when we can’t live without our favorite cereal or our daily Starbucks fix; when we indulge our every craving without restraint; and when we put personal comforts above our ability to seek Christ or serve others, that’s when we know that we’ve allowed the idolatry of self-indulgence to creep in.
I encourage you to ask God to show you any areas of your life (food or otherwise) in which you are controlled by your appetite, rather than by His Spirit. Write down practical steps He brings to mind for making a shift of pattern in these areas. Remember not to lean upon human willpower in an attempt to bring your physical cravings under control. Rather, ask God for His supernatural enabling power to do what is impossible in your own strength.
As you yield your heart, mind, and body to Him, He will grant you the grace for every step of obedience He calls you to.