I heard a sermon 30 years ago that still sticks with me to this very day entitled ‘Eating Your Fill vs. Meeting Your Needs’. The pastor had shared how he became extremely overweight when he was younger because he ate past the point of meeting his needs until he filled his stomach to the hilt. The moral of the sermon was that this world has much to offer, but we must take care. We are safe to meet our needs within the boundaries, but if we cross over the line and stop at nothing to gorge ourselves, especially in forbidden things, it will lead us to ruin. Moderation and self-control are the key words.
Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22, 24 NKJV)
Solomon also speaks from experience when he shares this in Ecclesiastes: I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure”; but surely, this also was vanity. I said of laughter—“Madness!”; and of mirth, “What does it accomplish?” I searched in my heart how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives. Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:1-3, 10-11 NKJV)
I have two stories to share. Maybe you have heard them before. One is a true story and the other is a fable, but oh what a lesson they both bring:
True Story of Duke Raynald III
Part of Thomas Costain’s historical book ‘The Three Edwards’ chronicles what happened back in 14th Century Belgium. There was once a Duke named Raynald III. Raynald was the ruler of the kingdom, and he was a very large man, often called by his nickname Crassus, which is Latin for ‘fat’. After a particularly violent quarrel with his younger brother Edward, Edward resolved to overthrow his brother. After leading a successful revolt against Raynald, Edward captured him alive and imprisoned him in the Nieuwkerk castle. But Edward did not just throw his brother in a cell, lock the door behind him and throw away the key, he had something far more inventive in mind. Edward had a room built around his extremely fat brother complete with doors and windows, except this room contained no bars. The entrances were built too small for Raynald to fit through, although a smaller man could come and go as he pleased. Edward said that Raynald would regain his title and property in full, only if he could fit through the door. This sounds simple enough, but yet again Edward had a trick up his sleeve. Every day he had the castle chefs bring exquisite foods to the room for Raynald, and every day Raynald was presented with a choice: either overcome his addiction, or die in that room. When the Duke Edward was accused of being cruel to his brother, he simply responded with “My brother isn’t a prisoner here. He may leave whenever he so wills.” Raynald lived in this room for 10 years, becoming fatter and fatter, as Edward had expected he would. He wasn’t released until Edward died in battle, and by then he was so unhealthy that he was dead within a year. Raynald was never able to overcome his appetite, and it is what lead to his death.
Jewish Fable of the Fox and the Grapes
Once upon a time Fox was walking along a lane when he passed a vineyard whose vines were heavy with ripe grapes. Fox’s stomach began to grumble with hunger. “Oh, grapes,” he sighed, “how I love grapes.”
Naturally he decided he would sneak into the vineyard and eat as many grapes as he could. After all, how often does a fox come upon such a treat? “And all for me!” he cried. “All for me!”
He grinned from ear to ear, but then, as he looked closer, his grin turned to a frown, for the vineyard was surrounded by a tall fence. He ran around to check the gate, but when he tried to open it, he discovered it was locked.
“Well, then, I’ll just slip through the fence,” he said to himself, as he walked around it, searching this time for a hole.
He couldn’t find a single hole.
Now Fox sat down to think. At last he said to himself, “I’ll just suck in my breath and make myself so thin and narrow, I’ll slip right through this fence. Ah, nothing can stop a sly fox when he has his heart and mind and stomach set on something.”
And so Fox inhaled and pulled in his stomach. He inhaled so deeply and for such a long time, he was nearly blue with the effort. Still, he could not make himself skinny enough to fit through the slits in that fence, for he was a fat fox, having always eaten more than his share.
“I’ll fast for a day,” he said aloud to no one in particular, “and when I’m thinner, I’ll slip through this fence!”
Fox kept his word. He did not eat, or drink, a single thing the whole next day. Finally, on the morning of the following day, with his stomach grumbling louder than it ever had, he tried to slip through the fence.
Alas, he was still too fat.
“Another day of fasting,” he said, and another day passed with him eating and drinking nothing at all. The next day he once again tried to slip through the fence.
He was still too fat!
“Another day of fasting will do the trick,” he told the bluejays who were pecking at the nuts and berries that lay on the ground beside the fence.
Well, sure enough, by the third day he was thin enough to slip right through the fence.
Oh, what a sight! Fox sighed with delight, for that vineyard was full of ripe, juicy grapes. Some of them were black and as big as plums. Some were gleaming red, some purple. Fox feasted, and feasted some more. He ate until he could not eat another grape. He slept a while, and then awoke and feasted again.
After several days he had eaten nearly every grape in that vineyard and decided to be on his way.
Naturally, when he tried to crawl back through the fence, he discovered he was far too fat.
“Oh no,” he cried. The birds tittered and shook with laughter. “Well, never mind, I’ll just have to fast again.”
And so Fox fasted one day, but he was too fat to get through the fence. He fasted a second day, and still he was too fat. He fasted a third day, and by nightfall he was thin enough to climb through and escape the vineyard.
Exhausted, Fox once again walked along the lane, but now he was nearly starving. “I’ll just eat some nuts and berries,” he said to himself. But he discovered that while he had been gorging himself on grapes, the birds and squirrels and chipmunks had gathered all the nuts and berries.
Faint with hunger, Fox fell asleep and dreamed of ripe grapes.
Suddenly he woke with a start, for the bluejays had landed beside him, and they were twittering in his ear.
“No grapes!” Fox cried. “No more grapes, please!”
And the bluejays promised they would share their nuts and berries, if he promised not to take more than his share.
“I promise,” Fox said, for he had learned that greed had made him miserable.
From the very beginning, man was held accountable for his feelings and his actions:
“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” (Genesis 4:6-7 NLT)
Especially now that we are new creations ( http://bible.com/114/2co.5.17.NKJV ) when we accept Jesus Christ as our LORD and Savior and we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the Great Helper ( http://bible.com/114/jhn.14.26.NKJV ). This means we are more accountable than ever to master our feelings and our flesh:
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. You say, “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.” (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:12-13 NLT)
“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Galatians 5:24 KJV)
I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:27 NLT)
PAUL WARNS: DON’T LET YOURSELF BE DISQUALIFIED!