Buffets and Stomachaches (Philippians 3:17-21)
Reflections on Philippians 3:17-21
All-you-can-eat buffets are a strange blend of monastic asceticism and American indulgence. The dedicated diner will observe a daytime fast in preparation for the evening meal. Anticipating an endless feast, the fasting man or woman will deny themselves lesser snacks and beverages. When dinnertime is at hand, the famished pilgrim will approach the buffet with religious reverence.
A disciplined fast, however, hastily yields to indulgence. As the glow of the buffet’s lights casts an incandescent halo over the hallowed repast, plates begin to fill with overflowing bounty. While an empty belly promises limitless culinary capacity, its confines are soon discovered to be quite finite. The resulting post-dinner stomachache makes the diner question the wisdom of that day’s decision.
Our lives, especially those lived in an American context, are a buffet of choices. From websites to universities, an endless string of options stretches before us. We can have almost anything we want for food, drink, transportation, or education.
Desiring these things is quite natural. Hunger reminds us that we need food, and thirst propels us to drink water. The yawning swath of options, however, stokes the hearth of our wants to an unhealthy burn. When the flames rise too high, the house will eventually be consumed; our lives will become the tinder for our desires.
Paul writes that those who pursue their desires to an unhealthy degree have made a god out of their stomachs. They worship the objects of the yearnings, and they revel in their shameful pursuit of indulgence. God, however, wants to be the center of our longings. Food, drink, prestige, and other natural desires are meant to be used in loving him. Indulging in anything else will leave us with painful stomachaches. Christ alone is the one with a limitless capacity for our longings. When we wait in the buffet line, let us fill our plates with God’s love.
Footsteps—putting feet on our faith
1. What are things we all desire?
2. At what point do those desires become bad?
3. How can desiring God reorient other desires?
Dear God, this life is a buffet of desires. Multiple choices surround me. While these things are good on their own, the indulgent pursuit of them pushes you out of my heart. May you stay as my truest and best longing. Let all other things be used to the sole end of loving you more and desiring you better. By Christ I pray, amen.