Other people can help us to see if we are gluttonous or lack self-control, especially if our behaviour becomes addictive. But most of us need an honest appraisal of ourselves, before God. It is all too easy for others to misinterpret us. We can see this in the life of Jesus:
"To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: " 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." ' But wisdom is proved right by her actions." (Matthew 11:16-19)
John the Baptist lived a life that was obviously extremely self-controlled, but his opponents used his lifestyle as an excuse to accuse him of being demonized. Jesus’ life was also extremely self-controlled, but he was unembarrassed about enjoying the pleasures of this life in appropriate ways; something that his enemies used as an excuse to accuse him of being a glutton and drunkard.
When we come to practical examples it is very hard to lay down clear lines. If we do, that leads to legalism, which is death. So, for example, with food – we live in a day of superabundance of food. We have a choice of food which is quite unprecedented in the history of humankind. We could respond to the need for self-control in the midst of this superabundance of food by laying down rules – “no ice-cream except at weekends; no chocolate except at Christmas; no second helpings of pudding…” Now it may be that such rules could help you for a time – it may do you good to cut down on ice-cream or chocolate or pudding, but it would of course be disastrous if we tried to apply such rules to the whole church.
What we need to do instead is to follow the example of Jesus, and live a life that has rhythm to it.
Jesus clearly knew about self-control. He lived his life entirely for the glory of God and the good of others. He knew what it meant to go forty days without food and he knew what it was to go without sleep in order to have time to pray. But he also knew how to feast – he went to weddings, he attended parties. He took time out with his disciples and knew when to rest. Jesus lived an ordered life, a life with a rhythm to it. Jesus also lived in a society that had more of a rhythm to it because people lived close to the land, so there was seed time and harvest time. And it was also a society that had a rhythm around the religious feasts – the Sabbath, the Passover, the feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Yom Kippur, and so on.
We live in a society that doesn’t work to a rhythm but which grinds on like a motor. Every day is a working day, a shopping day. We live in a 24 hour, seven day a week, 365 days of the year society.
One of the ways in which we should exercise self-control and fight against hedonism is by a recovery of rhythm in our lives. There should be times when we feast and times when we fast. There should be days of rest – Sabbath days. There should be days of high activity and days of prayer. Days of solitude and days filled with people.
The way we can begin to recapture this self-controlled, ordered, rhythmed life is to live for Jesus. Our society encourages us to live for ourselves, to be hedonists, and in so doing actually robs us of ourselves. By living for something outside ourselves, something bigger than ourselves we will actually recover our true selves. The hedonists first principle is ‘pleasure’. This way lies boredom and distortion. Our first principle must be ‘Jesus’. In His way lays life and pleasures forevermore.
Best of the Rest w/e 24 May 2013 - [image: Best of the Rest w/e 24 May 2013 primary image] You know the drill by now. Here's the stuff that's caught our eyes this week. Share and enjoy. Ar...
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