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  • Writer's pictureRev. Christopher Tweel

Not by bread alone

Perhaps the biggest aspect of our human nature is simply that we are addicts.

Our addiction? Success. Success at any cost. We want success, what success brings, what our peers think of us when we succeed, how we are viewed, the assurance of being right that our success brings... It goes on and on -- yet we exist in a religion that says we cannot be successful, that we are already broken and sinful beyond all measure and that we must in fact be saved by an outside source. How could we ever hope to reconcile these two natures?

Augustine states (24.) that "No man, then, hates himself. On this point, indeed, no question was ever raised by any sect. But neither does any man hate his own body. For the apostle says truly, "No man ever yet hated his own flesh."(3) And when some people say that they would rather be without a body altogether, they entirely deceive themselves. For it is not their body, but its corruptions and its heaviness, that they hate. And so it is not no body, but an uncorrupted and very light body, that they want. But they think a body of that kind would be no body at all, because they think such a thing as that must be a spirit. And as to the fact that they seem in some sort to scourge their bodies by abstinence and toil, those who do this in the right spirit do it not that they may get rid of their body, but that they may have it in subjection and ready for every needful work. For they strive by a kind of toilsome exercise of the body itself to root out those lusts that are hurtful to the body, that is, those habits and affections of the soul that lead to the enjoyment of unworthy objects. They are not destroying themselves; they are taking care of their health.

In chapter 31 Augustine asks this question: does God love us as objects of use or objects of enjoyment? And I would say, how then does our understanding of this answer affect our own answer in how we regard God and the universe that God has created?

If we look to Calvin we can read that "Scripture, moreover, has a third rule for modifying the use of earthly blessings. We have already adverted to it when considering the offices of charity. For it declares that they have all been given us by the kindness of God, and appointed for our use under the condition of being regarded as trusts, of which we must one day give account. We must, therefore, administer them as if we constantly heard the words sounding in our ears, “Give an account of your stewardship.” At the same time, let us remember by whom the account is to be taken—viz. by him who, while he so highly commends abstinence, sobriety, frugality, and moderation, abominates luxury, pride, ostentation, and vanity; who approves of no administration but that which is combined with charity, who with his own lips has already condemned all those pleasures which withdraw the heart from chastity and purity, or darken the intellect."

Our enjoyment of things is not in question. There is joy in the life that God has for us. Though the meaning here is simply just because you could build that "McMansion" does, by no means, give you the OK to do it. Morally there have to be other things at work -- yet we seem to lack these checks and balances and revere those who also ignore them. We laughably call ourselves Christians and build bigger and bigger houses and have 2 and 3 cars per family and still find a way to make it all sound not so bad.

Capitalism lacks a moral core. It wants only money. If Christians live in a capitalist state and participate in the capitalist government then we are obligated at every moment to inject morality into that capitalist system. There never will be a time or place when the system polices itself. Instead we placate ourselves with toys and allow our minds to be enticed by the rampant greed that does not, that cannot, serve God.

"You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act," wrote C.S. Lewis, "that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theater by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was some equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?"

Yet, this analogy is exactly what we have done with our food! Take a quick glance at any commercial and the telling story unfold: food is sex. "I'm at the age where food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact, I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." --Rodney Dangerfeild.

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