Do I Control My Appetite or Does My Appetite Control Me?
1 Corinthians 6:12 All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.
In my food addiction, I have many times found myself at the refrigerator at 10:30PM, wolfing down 1,500 calories in just a few minutes. My appetite demanded and I obeyed. As the regret set in the next morning, I promised myself I would do better next time. I prayed that I would change but I changed nothing. That night, I would find myself back at the fridge, repeating the cycle of binging, remorse and false promises.
This, not incidentally, almost exactly mirrored my drug addiction. In my addiction, I promised God and self that every time was the last time. I will change tomorrow. I promise I will never do that again. God help me. Like my food addiction, I changed nothing and thus, nothing changed. When my appetite again reared its ugly head, I bowed to its voice and returned to behavior I knew to be destructive. I literally knew that I was going to lose my family and my career if I continued, but I could not stop. Every time, I lied, convincing myself that I could get away with just one more.
Though they have radically different consequences, my food and drug addictions feel very similar. The cycle of toxic behavior, followed by remorse and broken promises, is quite universal to any appetite which controls me.
Most of us can identify with some behavior which seems to control us which we wish did not. For some, it is something we desire: food, pornography, sex, drink, drug, money, status, affirmation, beauty or toys. For others, it is some underlying predisposition to destructive behavior that does not even seem desirable, but is irresistible. Those of us who get angry, do not usually desire to lash out, but we find ourselves doing so anyway. We do not hunger for it like food or drug, but we cannot seem to stop. Then after, we feel remorse and promise to do better next time.
Paul, in today’s passage, addressed those behaviors which control me. Paul acknowledged that such things may not be wrong in themselves. I may tell myself: Eating is not a sin. Everyone must eat something. It is not wrong to indulge in the good life. My appetite and stomach were made by God so I may enjoy his creation.
These are all, of course, true statements. Food, drink and sex were created by God for our sustenance and pleasure. When however, those things come to control our behavior, they become destructive. When we become addicted, we become slaves to our own appetite, which always disables our pursuit of God. When I am enslaved to my flesh, I do not pursue God as I should.
Paul said that though all things may be permissible, not all things are constructive. Just because I can do a thing does not mean I should. The measure of whether or not a thing is right or wrong is whether it pushes me towards God or self. If a thing distracts from God and enslaves me, it is destructive, even if it is as innocent as the refrigerator.