Many of us are prone to making ethical and life-style decisions only in sharp contrast. No shades of grey, only black and white. We see things as polar opposites, either good or bad, right or wrong. For the Christian who is attempting to live a life pleasing to God it is all too tempting to divide the world and the choices we make into tidy categories of either evil or good, harmful or beneficial. To please God, we seek to choose the good and evil happens when we choose that which God forbids.
Wouldn’t it be nice if life and godliness were so obvious and simple? While God’s people are commanded to hate what is evil (Psalm 97:10), evil comes in many shades of grey (fifty shades according to one popular book) and evil is at times not always easy to identify, especially in our own lives. Yes, of course, some actions are clearly evil. Murder, assault, and theft would fall into this no-brainer category. Unfortunately, much of what is sinful and corrupt in our world is a perversion of a good gift from God. What happens is something like this: God, who is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), blesses our world and his people with something beautiful. We enjoy this gift and then, because of our propensity to make things an idol, we twist the good so that it becomes perverted and in the process, it becomes corrupt. Let me give three examples of how this can potentially take place in our lives with eating, drinking and sex.
Let’s start with food, because regardless of one’s station in life or personal tastes, everyone eats food. Food in the Bible is seen as a good gift from God. When the elderly Isaac called for Esau to receive his blessing, he asked him to hunt and then make some tasty food. Yummm. The Psalmist, using food as a metaphor, speaks of being satisfied in God, as with the richest of foods. (Psalm 63:5) Jesus declared all food clean (Mark 7:19) and is often found having some of his most important conversations around a table eating food. The apostle Paul points out (1 Timothy 4:1- 5) that, under demonic influence, God’s people will be ordered to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving.
But, while food is a good and necessary gift, eating can be twisted by the sin of gluttony. Eating too much food gives it an inordinate place in our lives. Food, like any number of other addictions, can be used as a way to cope with frustrations in life. Gorging on food can temporarily numb the pain of sadness, depression, or loneliness. But when eating is perverted by gluttony the good gift becomes an idol. The Scriptures are full of warnings against gluttony (these warnings often mention excess drinking and laziness in the same context). Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor…(Proverbs 23:20. See also Proverbs 28:7, Deuteronomy 21:21, Luke 7:34).
The Bible is unambiguous that not only food, but wine also is a gift from God to be enjoyed. Psalm 104:14-15 says, He makes grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man. Anyone who tries to make a case for total abstinence from the Bible will find it an impossible task. The drinking of wine shows up from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus and his disciples ate and drank and were accused by the religious hypocrites of gluttony and drunkenness (Matthew 11:19). Jesus’ first miracle was making lots of wine, evidently of very high quality, so a joyful wedding party could continue. But when you read the numerous biblical references mentioning drink you see that there is a tension. We find both blessings and warnings about wine. It is the apostle Paul who warns the believer in Ephesians 5:18, Do not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery (uncontrolled action), but encourages his understudy, Timothy, to use a little wine because of your stomach (1 Timothy 5:23). Proverbs 20:1 points out the danger of alcohol abuse. Wine is a mocker and beer is a brawler; whoever is lead astray by them is not wise.And yet part of the promise of the coming messianic age are vats that will overflow with new wine (Joel 2:24).
Again we find that what was intended as a blessing from God can be twisted by inappropriate use and turned into a destructive nightmare. The misuse of alcoholic beverages has ruined lives and marriages, taking a huge toll on our society. The beautiful becomes the beastly when moderation is not observed. We should heed the wisdom of G.K. Chesterton who said,
I thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of it.
What about sex? Even a casual reading of the Bible informs us that in the proper context of marriage sex is wonderful gift from God. Sex is, as one Christian book was titled, Intended for Pleasure. It is hard to read the Song of Songswithout a thankful blush as the author waxes sensual about the joy of marital love. In 1 Corinthians 7 the apostle Paul advises married couples to not deprive each other except by mutual consent for a time, so you may devote yourselves to prayer.[These could be short prayers.]Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:5).
But everyone reading this article knows that sex can become a destructive, ugly force that destroys. When the gift is twisted, the result is sexual addiction, pornography, adultery, fornication, abuse, broken hearts, and sometimes broken bodies. When sex is allowed to grow to have a disproportionate place of importance in our lives it becomes an idol that will never satisfy.
This propensity of twisting into an idol what God has given as a blessing can happen with money, possessions, children, work, and more. The sinful nature we inherited from our father Adam makes us prone to be unsatisfied with God’s good gifts and we crave far more than the gift can deliver. So let us be careful to enjoy the blessings of God and not pervert them into a misused idol and in the process destroy them. Every good gift comes from above. But the gift is good only as long as it points us to the Giver, the Father of lights who will never disappoint us.