For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. – 1 John 2:16 NLT
Self-indulgence: indulging one’s own desires, passions, whims, etc., especially without restraint. The second description John gives us to let us know if we are having a love affair with the world is a craving for everything we see or, as the ESV puts it, “the desires of the eyes.” But as I stated in my last post, this is really all about love of self. While it appears to be a reciprocal in nature, it is really one-directional. The world, under the control of its Satan, is only more than happy to oblige our obsession with self and give us what we think we want, need or deserve. It gladly feeds our insatiable appetite for more, like a drug dealer supplies the fix for a junkie. No love is involved. And in the end, a love of self becomes self-destructive. Which is why Jesus warned us that the world would hate us. It seeks our destruction, not our delight. So when we turn to the world to help us fulfill our craving for all we see, it is more than willing to play its part. In fact, it feeds the monster inside us through a steady diet of images and messages designed to tease us and tempt us to have what we don’t really need. Having spent 29 years in the advertising business, I am quite familiar with an old adage that says, “advertising is designed to get people to buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like.” Sadly, there is a lot of truth to that claim. Ads for products and services are designed to get us to become dissatisfied with what we DO have and desire something we DON’T have. A newer car. A bigger home in a better neighborhood. A different perfume that will make us more attractive or a new outfit that will make us more popular. In longing for these things, we make them little gods, expecting them to deliver to us and for us the contentment, joy, satisfaction and sense of self-worth we long for. And it is not that these things are bad. In fact, this symptom of worldly love is quite different than the desire of the flesh we talked about yesterday. That is when we desire or crave something God has forbidden. We say yes to what God has no to. But the desire of the eyes is when we say yes to what God has NOT said yes to. In other words, we indulge our desires without including God in the decision. And for most of us, we do it quite often. Just think about all the purchases you make without giving God’s input a second thought. Would He want you to have that new car? What would He think about your purchase of a new outfit or a new set of golf clubs. It is not that these things are evil or wrong. It is a question of whether they are truly needed. They are typically wants and desires, not necessities.
Over in the gospel of Matthew, we have the words of Jesus warning us to avoid the love of money, because as believers, it is impossible for us to serve two masters. We will end up loving one and hating the other. Then Jesus says, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 NLT). Then He uses the birds and the flowers as examples of God’s ability to feed and care for His creation. It is all a matter of faith. Do we trust God to provide what we really need or are we going to give in to our natural desire to purchase our satisfaction and contentment from the temporary things this world offers. Jesus would tell us, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:31-33 NLT). There is nothing wrong with buying a new dress, a new flat screen TV, a more reliable car, a more comfortable home or new carpet for the living room. It is a matter of motivation. So often, we are driven by our sin nature and we don’t even know it. We are struggling with discontentment and dissatisfaction with life, so we become easy targets for the advertising messages designed to feed our ego, stroke our pride, and make us the center of our world. The danger is that we are to keep God at the center of our world. We are to seek His Kingdom, not our own. We are to fulfill His desires, not our own. Self-indulgence is self-love without restraint, without oversight. It would be like a child let free in a candy store without their parents and with free access to all the treats on the shelves. The outlook, from the child’s perspective would be bright, but the outcome would be less than happy. God longs to be involved in every area of our lives. He wants to be included in our decisions. He wants to be consulted in what we do and how we spend our money. Because He cares. He knows our hearts. He can see the inward motivation and help us steer clear of self-indulgent behavior that is ultimately self-destructive.