Matthew 4: 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
I was complaining to the Lord about not being able to lose weight recently. I am glad that God gets me and that He often stays silent during my whining episodes or I’m afraid whining would become an ugly habit. This time though he answered in his quiet unassuming way.
WHAT? WAIT! God doesn’t convict! All of his answers are LOVE, LOVE, and MORE LOVE.
ONLY WHAT IF THE TRUTH IS LOVE?
I balked. “I give a lot of myself. I am in ministry one of the least self-indulgent things. How in the world am I self-indulgent?” I protested as the words began to swirl around in my mind.
Quietly He began to reveal to me the things that needed to be examined. When you’re overwhelmed, you go shopping or take yourself out to eat.
Yes, but I don’t always buy things for myself, I buy things for Cameron, for Erin or Doug, or friends, or family and I rarely eat alone, I phone a friend.
Then it hit me. He didn’t say I was selfish. He said I was self-indulgent. Meaning, I don’t ignore the needs of others but I don’t accept that I have a craving outside of the will of God. It becomes a behavior to examine carefully any time it promises satisfaction that can only be found in God.
Self-indulgence is a pleasure seeking mechanism where we can get stuck in an unproductive cycle of behavior. It doesn’t mean the behavior is bad in of itself but it means that it will do us no good and may even harm us long term. It doesn’t mean we’re using the mortgage money to buy shoes but it does mean something is missing in relationship to God.
We’re great at masking self-indulgence but the temptation of Christ following his baptism shows a necessary process to fulfilling our walk with Christ. After 40 days of fasting and prayer, Satan himself comes to Jesus and tempts his appetite.
Let that word sit with you.
Whisper it. Appetite
Appetite, it was the first temptation of Adam and Eve right? Something is being withheld. Something that we crave. Something that God can’t fulfill or worse is withholding. Jesus passed the test when he answered that it wasn’t only physical bread that man should live on but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. He didn’t say eating was wrong, he said it wasn’t the only thing, and more importantly, he said there was something even more important we needed.
Christianity in America is indulgent in nature and definitely requires observation and self-examination. We aren’t in a famine of things that feed the flesh, we are in a crisis of famine in regards to conviction. The question the Lord was posing to me was, “When am I enough for you?”
The tendency is to exalt yourself because the give to get mentality is so strong in America and comparisons run rampant. This leads you to believe that you may be in a place to judge me:
“Well, I don’t shop so I don’t have this issue.”
Only, if we’re honest, we often have an appetite for something.
Workaholism? It feeds our ego.
Laziness? Oh, this is a big one. The excuses for appetite here are many.
“I work all day.” Honey, we all work all day.
“I attend a small group.” So we give to get.
“I just finished a big project.” Again, give to get.
“I teach a small group.” You got my attention but is this considered reasonable Kingdom service?
I’ll tell you when leading becomes self-indulgent though. When it’s more than you were told to do. When it violates the ministry code but feeds our ego.
One semester I taught four small groups. It meant 4 times a week I was absent from my husband. He was not happy, but people “needed me” and there was “no one else”. You already know what happened no need to guess. My work suffered because I had to study to stay ahead and tweak lesson plans if class was heading in a different direction. My marriage struggled because I was out of order and out of the picture. My ministry suffered because our church says teach one, take one leave time for your family and friends so I had usurped authority. Oh but I was taking one for the team I reasoned. Many want to teach one but don’t take one. So we burn bright and burn out. I noticed another thing too.
The heavens were brass during this period as I was self indulgent doing my own thing. Ok let’s move on.
“It’s time for some much needed self care.” Yes, you need self care but how much is too much?
“I haven’t had a slice of cheesecake in such a long time.” Maybe not, but what have you eaten a little too much of? Social Media? Don’t get mad I am in self examination mode.
“I deserve it.” Sometimes we think we have done something heroic when all we’ve done is what any other normal human being has done.
Or the easiest appetite temptation the appetite of self promotion and judgment of others, “I can’t believe how they spend, how they think, how they live, how they exalt their life, I don’t do any of that. No sister and note to myself, facts are you sin in other ways but whose keeping score of that? Appetite for judgment is alive and well.
What the Lord was pointing out to me that day was that instead of taking my issues to God, I took them to Nordstroms or went to lunch and nursed it.
What do you do when God reveals a thing that has you spinning your wheels and going nowhere?
I’ll write about what I did in another post. Stay tuned. For now consider this question:
What in your life needs a little less you and lot more Jesus?