I find food, homes, design and bodies quite fascinating. There are plenty of ways to feed the fascination in front of the screens which litter my life. There are many shades of good and bad bound up with each.
The trouble is, I am starting to expect that I should be able to cook and eat like a Masterchef, piece together a perfectly beautiful home, have a body like a ten year old, and be groomed for a Facebook photo all the time. Of course I am not achieving any of those things. It would be impossible to do it all at the same time.
My old self really wants to be accomplished in the things which rate, but mostly I want to throw them off. It’s an awful, stupid, pitiful, selfish turmoil. Socially endorsed sins are the most easy to indulge. Even now I can hear people questioning whether we should use the word sin for these things…
The life Jesus calls us to undermines and transforms achievement in the realms of food, home and body.
A home is for people. But if I poured myself into perfecting the aesthetics of our home I would get cranky everytime the kids played and were creative (and often I do). I would stop having visitors, because the house is worse for wear when they come (sometimes I do). I would spend time doing jobs which aren’t necessary instead of resting in God’s word and prayer (which I do). I would give less so I can keep my interior up to date (so tempted!). I would be looking for a different house when this one stops satisfying me. I would be very hesitant to leave this home for the sake of serving Jesus and his people somewhere else. I would cling desperately to our current income in order to keep our home. Do you know what I mean?
Food. It is for strength to live and serve and have relationships. If I were to cultivate my culinary skills to the approval of food critics, I would feed fewer people. I would cook but rarely sit down and eat with people. I would only host when I could be sure of excellence. But honestly, culinary excellence is the one I am least tempted by. I find it easy to scoff at food snobs. I actually need to learn skills in the kitchen so I can serve my family and others more consistently. My obsession with food has more to do with its effects.
The body. So often I am more anxious about exercise than prayer. Instead of giving thanks for a body which is reasonably strong to serve others, I get moody about how something is not the shape I want it to be. If I were to work for the ten year old body (I never had one even when I was ten!), I would do it at the expense of rich relationship with God and others. It would take time and energy which other people need. I would miss opportunities to share food with someone because I don’t want to consume those calories. And even if the numbers on the scale got lower, I would always be scared of it going up again. What a terrible slavery.
How does this lifestyle covetousness grow?
In the few quiet minutes when I could read the Bible, or work on something useful, I scroll through blogs of people whose life I like the look of. Aesthetic appreciation becomes lifestyle lust. When I go to the shops I am mentally styling and restyling myself instead of being content and finding ways to be generous. It grows when I am tired at the end of the day, and I sit in front of the smooth, skinny couples renovating houses on TV. This covetousness feeds itself every time I walk past a magazine cover. It happens every time someone announces their cute new shoes or their run or their new diet on Twitter.
Then I start to look at people as mere bodies; the curators of stylish houses; the masters of food. I stop seeing eternal people made precious in the image of God. People made by Jesus and for Jesus. People who need to be told that he is the King who saves. I become too busy measuring myself against people to love and serve them. I become hard-hearted, deaf and dull-witted in the things that matter.
In an era where we are all obsessed with being uniquely amazing at everything, following Jesus will mean we choose to spend ourselves differently. There are areas we’ll choose not to cultivate to glossy TV perfection. Jesus has talked about this before,
“Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”Luke 12:13-34