Our appetites for the goods of this world are a gift, but they can also be a source of trouble if we don’t understand how God intends for us to enjoy them. So many of us struggle with appetites. I’m not just talking about what we eat (we all struggle to an extent with that, particularly around Thanksgiving and the holidays), but I’m talking about appetites in terms of just plain consuming things.
In the West we have so much, and if you’re like me every once in a while you sit back and look at what you have and say, “Wow, I just have too much stuff. Why am I always buying stuff?”
I realize there is always a temptation to eat just a little bit more than I really need to. I thought about that a lot and put together a study on it, so let me share just a couple things about it from that study.
What’s Not to Like?
When you look at appetites and the struggles we have with them, it’s something that’s universal—but it goes back to the Garden of Eden. When you look back at Adam and Eve in the Garden, you hear God saying that they’re not supposed to eat from that one particular tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and if they eat of it they’ll die.
What was it about that tree? If you read the description of the tree in the Garden, it doesn’t look bad at all. In Genesis 3:6-7, it says:
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.”
It was good to the eyes, the taste, and it made one wise. So what’s not to like about that fruit? Exactly. There’s nothing. It’s wonderful; and this world is full of so many wonderful things. We have great food, so many luxuries—particularly in America. What’s not to like?
Means, Not Ends
The problem is God wants us to really go after him, the best. He’s got a plan for us, and part of that plan is realizing where all the good things on this earth fit in. They are good, but they’re not the end. God and his will is the end for our lives, and all of these good things on earth are a means to serving God. They’re tools to serve God, they are not ends in themselves. They’re not the goal.
If we take God out of the picture, then food and things become the object of our desire. Anytime we put the good of this world in the place of God it becomes idolatry and sin. That’s what takes us off the path toward the beatific vision, when we begin to think this world is all there is, and we live like that.
Dealing with appetites, whether it’s food or consuming other things, is really a matter of priorities and seeing everything in light of eternity. When you go to the mall and see all of the wonderful items you can buy, they are simply tools to serve Christ. They’re not ends in themselves.
Toward God, Not Things
One of the things we have to do is realize that the problem with our appetites is a spiritual problem, and it goes back to our relationship with God. St. Augustine said we will be restless continuously until our hearts rest in God. There’s a void inside that’s God-shaped and the more we try to put food and things in that void, the more disappointed we are going to become. You can put alcohol, drugs, sexual promiscuity, things—clothes, shoes, cars, motorcycles, homes—anything in that place. And you know what? It’s not going to satisfy. But somehow we keep doing it. We drop everything off at the Goodwill and go off to buy brand new things, and it doesn’t satisfy our hearts.
We need to readjust our relationship with things. We’re not owners but stewards. If we look at everything we have not as our possession, but as something over which we are just a steward, we are on the road toward having a really good relationship with those things. But even more important than that, we need a right relationship with God. What you’re really seeking in your life is that love, acceptance, and intimacy that only God can provide.
I hope you’ll go into our study, Walking Toward Eternity: Engaging the Struggles of Your Heart. We have a whole lesson on appetites. It is really critical today that we start walking toward eternity with God and not things.
God bless you and happy Thanksgiving.
This article is also available as a video here.
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Jeff Cavins is passionate about helping people understand Scripture and become disciples of Jesus Christ. Though he was born Catholic, Jeff went to Bible school and served as a Protestant minister for twelve years before reverting to the Catholic Faith. He then quickly became a leading Catholic evangelist and author. Jeff is best-known for creating The Great Adventure™ Bible study programs published by Ascension, which have been used by hundreds of thousands of people to engage in Scripture in a life-changing way. Some of his recent projects include his podcast, The Jeff Cavins Show, his book The Activated Disciple, and the Great Adventure Bible studies, Ephesians: Discover Your Inheritance, and Wisdom: God’s Vision for Life.