Monday, December 3, 2007

No Provision

The Epistle for Advent 1 is Romans 13:11-14, which ends with the words, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts" (Romans 13:14 NKJV).

The Greek uses the word pronoia, which is literally forethought, planning ahead. Thus the English "provision," that is, to provide for. So the Apostle is urging us to not provide to fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

But I fear we often get hung up on the word "lust," thinking only of sexual matters. The lusts of the flesh certainly include those desires, but also much much more. The desire to have a full belly, to eat are favorite foods, to drink our favorite drinks, to have enough sleep, to be warm and toasty in the winter and cool in the summer, to have soft clothes and good shoes and otherwise coddle the body, giving it everything imaginable. The lusts of the flesh include entertainment and busyness, and each to the fullest amount, so that when we are not busy doing many things we are entertaining ourselves with juicy dramas and comedies and sports and talk shows, with the music we like and everything else.

The sinner in us throws our hands up and says, "What's wrong with comfortable shoes and being warm in the winter time?" It's a good question. By themselves, there is nothing wrong with good shoes and warm coats, with sports or those other matters. St. Paul is not commanding us to live a life of body-destroying asceticism, as if all creaturely comforts are of the devil. What he is telling us is to be watchful of ourselves, and not to be too quick in giving ourselves over to whatever our bodies are demanding at any given time. For our bodies are harsh tyrants, constantly complaining to us: "Too hungry! Too full! Too tired! Too lazy! Too warm! Too cold! Too fast! Too slow!" If we constantly heed the demands our flesh makes of us, we are slaves to it. And being slaves, we submit to it and sin.

Fasting and abstaining from foods at set periods is a Christian antidote to this (or at least the beginning of one), fulfilling this admonition to "make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." Fasting allows us to be masters of our belly, to learn to say "no" to gluttony and to our flesh, thus preparing us for greater self-denial of destructive temptations and lusts, of the other passions, of greed and anger, of pride and covetousness, of lying and dishonor.

We are engaged in battle, after all. St. Paul writes, "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish" (Gal 5:17 NKJV). And, "Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified" (1 Cor. 9:26-27 NKJV).


  1. Doorman-Priest said...

    Thank you Christopher. Most helpful.

  2. Mike Baker said...

    Very nice, Pastor Hall.

    My first multi-day fast taught me a great deal about what you are talking about here. You learn alot about how to tell your body no in the area of 'wants' when you master being able to resist when it comes to biological 'needs'.

    Fasting is truly fine outward training.

  3. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    I preached a funeral sermon, and the Gospel text was from John - who ever hates his life. . . and that causes confusion. You mean what I want isn't the most important?