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“Everything is permissible for me”– but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”– but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
I’ve been thinking about the above verse the past couple of weeks. In this passage, Paul quotes a well-known saying in Corinth, and uses it to make the point that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. In fact, just because something is not necessarily a bad thing does not mean that it’s the best thing for you, or that it won’t master you.
Three weekends ago, as most red-blooded American men know, the NFL season kicked off. As a big football fan (go Bears!), I enjoyed both the games and the week of overreactions that followed in the sports media – “the Packers defense can’t stop anyone!” “Peyton Manning looks as good as ever!” “RGIII is a Hall-of-Famer!!!” And then week 2 came, and predictably, the Packers defense was great, Peyton Manning was terrible, and RGIII couldn’t lead his team to victory. And on Monday morning, I found myself thinking about what a waste of my life it was to listen to all the talking heads in the sports media spouting off about what, in the end, is just a meaningless game played by grown men who make way too much money. I resolved to fast the rest of the week from all sports media (until the weekend, of course), and found myself enjoying my newfound productiveness so much that I decided to do it again this week.
And then there’s ice cream. I love me some ice cream! Chocolate Moose Tracks, with Reeses’ Pieces and chocolate syrup on top… oh, it always tastes so heavenly going down. And then afterwards, I predictably find myself feeling sick to my stomach for an hour from all the sweetness I just inhaled. And so, going into this week, I resolved to swear off ice cream for the week and stick to fruit and yogurt and healthy desserts instead.
My point is that football and ice cream are not bad things. I’m obviously a big fan of both. But that does not mean that they are always beneficial for me, or that I do not allow them to master me at times, choosing them over more important things. And that is part of the benefit of the Biblical discipline of fasting. More than simply abstaining from food, fasting is a way of setting aside something good so that we can focus on something better, typically God and His will for us. Think of the possibilities:
The discipline of fasting reminds us that good things can easily become the enemies of the best thing. Do not let yourself be mastered by anything, but practice saying “no” to it on occasion and saying “yes” to something that may just be more important, and more beneficial, for you.
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