Meditation 9: A Tale of Two Appetites

"All man's efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied." (Ecclesiastes 6:7).

In this passage of Scripture, Solomon personifies our flesh -- our carnal nature -- by describing it as a "mouth," and observing that Man spends all of his days and expends all of his energy seeking to fill his "mouth." The problem, however, is that our "mouth" (that is, our flesh) will never be satisfied. It is like a bottomless pit, an open grave that cannot be filled.

Solomon had personal experience with this unfortunate truth. In the second chapter of Ecclesiastes, he says that he tested himself with pleasure to see what was good, but found that this endeavor "proved to be meaningless." (Ecclesiastes 2:1). He writes that:

I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. . . . I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. . . .

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:3-5, 8, 10-11).

Solomon spent his life seeking to satiate his carnal appetites, denying himself nothing. But in the end, he found it was a wasted and meaningless pursuit! He possessed great wisdom, but the appetite of his "mouth" controlled him and caused him to live as a fool. The many addictions with which people struggle in the West reflect a brokenness like Solomon's. Our addictions to money, power, gambling, drugs, pornography, physical beauty, and food all reflect our own futile (and foolish) attempts to satiate an appetite that will never be satisfied. Our existential angst -- the overwhelming sense that "everything [is] meaningless, a chasing after the wind" (Ecclesiastes 2:11) -- is the inevitable fruit of our efforts to fill a void that will always remain empty. And that is why, for example, "[w]hoever loves money never has enough" and "whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income." (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

Like Solomon, I struggle with my own fleshly cravings, chief among them is a desire to be accepted, respected, and powerful. Fortunately, Paul's Epistle to the Romans explains a simple and effective way for me to overcome those carnal cravings:

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6).

In other words, the most effective way to combat the appetite of my "mouth" is not to fill it, but rather to starve it. And I do that by feeding my spiritual hunger for the Lord, rather than my fleshly appetite for sin. The more I feed my flesh, the greater its cravings become. The less I feed it, however, the less I am controlled by its ravenous appetite and the more I am directed by my hunger for the things of God. And in those things I find unparalleled fulfillment, joy, and peace!

Jesus promises us that if we pursue our spiritual hunger and thirst for Him, if we are driven by our appetite for Him, we will be filled to overflowing and we will live "rich and satisfying" lives:

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. ... My purpose is to give [you] a rich and satisfying life." (John 6:35;10:10) (NLT).

Purpose, peace, and fulfillment in our lives is just one meal away. It simply depends on which appetite, which "mouth," we choose to feed!

No comments: