Last Friday, someone sent me an evil text message. A photograph that led instantly to questionable thoughts on my part, it was… a box of donuts. But not just any donuts, they were from the local specialty shop and they had… chocolate frosting. The reason this photograph created questionable thoughts is that I’ve been struggling to keep my weight under control, and chocolate frosted donuts are a significant part of the problem.
Why? Because donuts are more than food. They’re portable happiness. And there’s an infinite variety of happiness wrapped up in a donut. Chocolate frosting? No problem. You want sprinkles? Yep, sprinkles. Have you heard about our new maple bacon frosting? Well, I have now, and now I want that, too.
And the pleasurable experience of having a donut goes straight to my brain. At the first inkling of donuts for breakfast, or lunch, or whenever… my brain produces chemicals that enhance the desire for a donut. And then, when I eat one, my brain unloads happy chemicals. And so, here, in one portable, sprinkle covered package is brain chemical happiness. Who doesn’t love that?
But here’s the problem. “They say” that donuts are unhealthy. How can so much happiness be bad? Well, it turns out that donuts are chock full of calories and when my brain dumps happy chemicals, I don’t seem to care about my health. I just want more donuts. And this becomes a vicious circle. Donuts make my brain dump happy chemicals, and then I want more donuts to make more chemicals.
I’m not alone in my problem. And donuts are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to pleasurable temptations. We all have natural, normal desires for food and other pleasurable experiences. And each of these desires must be controlled, so that we don’t end up leading a disordered life.
The Apostle Paul talks about an ordered life in Ephesians 4:17-24 and he tells Christians to “to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires” (Eph. 4:22 NIV) This “putting off” exhorts Christians to get rid of whatever is causing them to fall into sin and is the first step towards ordering one’s life.
Christians have been forgiven of their sins, and yet we still struggle to avoid sin in our everyday lives. Paul encourages the Ephesian Christians to put off impurity, sensuality, and greed and this is our challenge as well. Each of these words relates to good desires that become disordered when we let them get out of hand. We put off these unrestrained desires in order to live an ordered Christian life, which promotes unity in the church and an ability to focus on our mission.
What does God want you to put off? Is there something impure in your life that cries out for change?
Unrestrained conduct leads to the kind of sins that affect other people and disrupt unity. A community full of greed is characterized by some having plenty while others are hungry. It’s a place where people desperate for something more steal from others. This is not what Christianity looks like.
Where there is no sexual restraint, there is no trust in marriage. Where there is no trust, families experience brokenness and pain. Christianity must be different; a place of mutual trust and healthy relationships.
Donuts make a lighthearted point about a serious subject. Our desires have to be restrained.
I can’t keep donuts in the house. I’ll eat ‘em. I’ve seen myself do it. And it’s not wrong to want them, nor is it wrong to eat them. But, when I can’t stop eating them, I need a plan in place to avoid them. And what’s true for donuts is even more true for sins that characterize the “old self.”
As Christians, we are transformed and we must live as a changed community. This starts by thinking differently, and developing a strong character that puts off the old self, no matter what!