Silver lining to COVID: Free grocery curbside pickup and delivery. I haven’t taken advantage of that yet, but I’m on the verge. Thus far I’ve held on to in-person shopping because I like getting menu ideas from roaming the isles. But I can see now how this could be a way to apply the strategy / warning Jesus gives us in Matthew 18:9.
“And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”
Sometimes the grocery shelves feel like food porn to me — a place deliberately designed to entice and entrap. The endless variety — entire isles devoted to frozen confections, baked goods, and salty snacks — feels like an assault on my mind and heart. If I end up buying especially tempting items, then my pantry and fridge feel like food porn to me.
Beyond how this affects my waist-line is the dulling affect it has on my hunger for God. As John Piper says, “The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night.”
But I’m not a helpless victim; I can choose to take drastic measures to avoid that temptation — not just because I want to fit into my clothes, but because I want my desire for him to fit with his worthiness and glory. I intend to keep both my eyes, but Jesus’s hyperbole helps us understand the dire nature of fighting sin. No strategy is too extreme, too costly, or too much of a hassle.
Currently, I’m in the process of liberating my house and my mind from the chocolate chips and M & M’s I bought for Christmas baking. My strategy has been to make treats on Sunday evening and then pack up the whole batch for my husband to bring with him to work on Monday morning. Could I throw the chocolate out? My husband with his other-worldly metabolism might object, but yes, that would be in keeping with Matthew 18:9 too.
It reminds me of Paul’s admonition in Romans 13:14 to “make no provision for the flesh.” The Spirit graciously brought that verse to mind once when I was tempted to put snacks in the car for “emergencies” — a term that can be interpreted in very slippery ways.
The context for that verse, here below, is helpful; note especially that “the works of darkness” include “sensuality”:
“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:11–14).
God is giving us clear and unequivocal direction: wake from sleep, cast off, put on, walk properly, put on, make no provision. The emphasis on sexual immorality creates in my mind a vignette of someone being yanked out of a house of ill repute in the early dawn, being brushed off, maybe even hosed down, barred from going back in to grab a prostitute “for the road,” and being brought under a wise and compassionate discipleship program.
The more general term “sensuality” is there because we’re just as vulnerable to being crazed about food excess as sex. Just last week I saw a man on YouTube in awe over a hotel room called Carb Heaven. He toured the room, pointing out in giddy tones real bagels that hung on the walls, a headboard designed to look like a humongous slice of bread, slippers shaped like baguettes and bath soap that looked and smelled like cinnamon toast. Fittingly, the place had the feel of a temple, a place of worship. Is there any doubt our hearts are idol factories? The Israelites made a golden calf to worship; we make golden waffles.
As the man on YouTube finished his tour, he fell back on the bed as if drunk on carbs. At the end of a weekend in “Carb Heaven,” (not the other place?) I imagine he might wish for a friend to yank him out of there and hose him down. A man can only tolerate eau de cinnamon toast so long.
As hard as it is to admit, getting free from whatever version of Carb Heaven we find ourselves in will take drastic measures. For me, that means adapting to a new way of getting groceries. But thanks to the silver lining of COVID, doing so just got a whole lot easier.
How about you? What radical strategies are you considering? Which ones have you employed to good effect? Would you be willing to share your strategies with the group?
 John Piper (2013). “A Hunger for God”, p.17, SPCK