It’s ‘All Consuming’
Surveys conducted following the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown indicated that Americans gained an average of five pounds during that two-month period. Many people were spending a great deal of time at home, had hours to fill, and decided to fill their stomachs, resulting in some extra baggage! While wandering through the house, our personified refrigerators were crying out to us, “Hey, over here, take a look inside, tasty treats lie within for your consumption!” For many, the temptation was too great and the cake and ice cream, which tasted so delicious at the time, now showed up in the midsection.
We are all familiar with the phrase ‘”You are what you eat”, a great figure of speech to indicate that what we consume becomes a part of us: if we choose to eat that which is lifegiving and nutritious, we benefit with greater health and vitality. If we ingest primarily cookies, downed with a Pepsi or Mountain Dew, this may result in less energy and strength, and in the long term can have a detrimental impact on our overall health.
When the lockdown ended and spring arrived, we started working to shed those unneeded extra pounds. However, there is another, even more important aspect regarding the lockdown period that we can reflect upon, and this also has to do with “consumption”. What did we choose to read, listen to, or watch with the extra time that we had on our hands, and what impact did that have upon our mental and spiritual health?
God knows we understand a great deal about food and drink, eating and drinking, since we engage in those activities multiple times daily. Thus, the Word is filled with analogies to help us reflect on what we are consuming with our eyes and ears, what are we filling our minds and hearts with.
But you, Son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house, open your mouth, and eat what I give you. 9And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 And he spread it before me. […] 1And he said to me, Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel. 2So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. 3And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you, and fill your stomach with it”. Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.Ezekiel 2:8-10a, 3:1-3 (ESV)
What we consume becomes a part of us and will be reflected in our mental and spiritual health. However, there is more to it than simply spending 10-15 minutes in the morning reading the Word. Of course, that is a great start, but there is something else at play! Please consider the man who has a number of serious health issues and goes to the physician for help. The doctor asks about his diet and he proudly replies, “I have a banana every morning, and some kale with dinner at night, so I’m getting my fruits and vegetables.”
“That’s great” says the doctor, “but what else do you eat?”
“Twinkies, cream puffs, six Mountain Dews, bacon, five cups of coffee (with three sugars), Big Macs, and Ice cream sundaes are my normal fare…”
You get the picture. The bananas and kale are wonderful, but the detrimental impact of all the unhealthy consumption completely overpowers the little bit of good intake. Here is where we should consider the parable of the Sower:
And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the Word, 19but the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful.Mark 4:18-19
Just as good items of dietary input can be overshadowed by the volume of the unhealthy, the Word in our minds can be choked by preoccupation and thoughts with things other than God and His Word. Does our consumption of the daily news, the gloom and doom of Covid-19, the politics of our nation, race relations, protests, the economic statistics, and the outlook for our country in the near future fill our minds and hearts to the place where the Word we have read is choked and cannot produce fruit?
I spent many years patting myself on the back for reading the Word every morning before heading out for the day. However, I spent too much time ingesting, absorbing, and digesting politics, sports and the news of the day, and that information served to choke the Word I had read and it proved unfruitful. Anything planted needs room to breathe, grow, and flourish. Such is the case with the Word we read. Perhaps that is why God instructs us in Psalm 1 to delight in and meditate upon the Word. If I immediately dive into the latest celebrity gossip of the day, I’m short-circuiting the opportunity for the spirit of God to work within me and further illuminate the Word that I have learned.
Ezekiel was addressed as Son of Man in the record referenced previously. Christ is referred to repeatedly in the Gospels as the Son of Man. We are instructed to be imitators of Christ. What did Christ consume? What did he think about all the time? If we want to grow to be ‘Christ-like’, then we need to be ‘like-Christ’. (OK, I hear you asking, that seems like the same thing!) The point of my play on words is this: if we want to be Christ-like in terms of exhibiting his qualities, characteristics, and attributes (fruit of the spirit)—and if we want to be Christ-like in demonstrating the power of God so we can bring deliverance to others (manifestations of the spirit)—then we need to be like Christ in his lifestyle and consumption of truth.
So, Jesus said to them, When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing of my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29And He who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.John 8:28-29
Christ’s mission was “all-consuming”, and to effectively carry it out, he had to consume only what the Father taught him, internalize it, and live it out in faithful obedience. If we want to bear the same kind of fruit and be Christ-like, it will take being like Christ in habits and lifestyle. Yes, I do agree that this is a huge challenge and it is difficult to not listen to, watch, read, and be informed and fluent in all that is happening in the chaotic world around us. We know it is a lifestyle of sacrifice, of avoidance and pursuit, of saying no to and yes to, of putting off and putting on. Christ let his disciples know beforehand that it would be a life of deny self and follow, forsake all and follow, take up your cross and follow, so he instructed them to “count the cost”. The lifestyle of the disciple is “all-consuming”, so it is to our benefit to consume all the truth of the Word that we can!
We may be thinking, this sounds pretty legalistic! Actually, this is a free will choice, motivated by love and thanksgiving to God for all He has accomplished for us through Christ. Adam’s sin left us in a precarious position, and God knew that for us to overcome the effects of the flesh, the world, and the devil would require full commitment so that we could realize our destiny and Christ-likeness, and accomplish the purpose of the ages as a body of believers.
Let’s accept the challenge together to be voracious consumers of God’s Word and rejoice as we echo in unison what the prophet Jeremiah exclaimed: “Thy Words were found and I did eat them, and thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart” (Jer. 15:16).