A couple of days ago I wrote a post entitled “Necrophilia and Narcissism”, and got a good response from someone who read that post. I am always thankful when someone takes the time to leave a comment, and especially when they challenge me to think more deeply about what and why I believe. I would like to take a minute and personally thank you, Daniel, for taking the time to comment and to challenge my position and assumptions.
I purposefully included a broad spectrum of vices and devices in that group. Few would argue against death as the ultimate end of anger and violence, although some may not see the evident end of it in things like pornography and adultery. To my mind, pornography and adultery are the same. Jesus makes that clear in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28). But we don’t necessarily even have to look at someone lustfully with our eyes; it might be concealed in the dark thoughts of our mind where no one else can see but God. And concerning the ends of adultery, the Proverbs are very clear that the end of adultery is death.
We know the same is true for alcohol and drugs, and that the word which is commonly translated as sorcery from the Greek in Galatians 5 in Paul’s list of “bad fruit” is from the Greek “pharmikea” from which we get “pharmacy” and “pharmaceuticals”. The death sentence was also proclaimed on diviners and necromancers (i.e., those who communed with the dead for knowledge). And I’m sure we all know someone who has been effected by death produced by drugs and or alcohol, whether by a drunk driver, overdose, or some other tragic consequence of their influence. Surely, most of us have seen someone we know become someone we no longer knew at all as a result of drug or alcohol addiction. I can speak from painful and personal experience to these things. (And God has delivered me from many addictions, as well – cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, pornography, so again I have some experience with these things.) The door to addiction is called pleasure, and that is what draws people into alcohol, drug, and sexual addictions. But the Proverb is true that says: “One who wanders from the way of good sense will rest in the assembly of the dead. Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” (Proverbs 21:16-17)
Many will also admit that cigarettes cause cancer and that there is no life-giving benefit to smoking cigarettes. Yet, I know many people–both friends and family–who despite knowing that there is no medical benefit and much evidence of the harm that smoking does to the body, still smoke. Many of them have kids. I would assume that they are at least somewhat aware that 20 or so times a day smoking *this* cigarette right here right now might cost them several years of life down the road with their kids and/or their grandchildren, but they do not feel compelled to stop.
So those may be obvious. But television? Junk food and soda pop? Coffee? Too much sugar? Pharmaceutical drugs? These are things that our culture says are okay, right? Even Jesus drank in moderation didn’t he? There is a Proverb that reads, “Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.” (Proverbs 23:30-33) And another that says, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.” (Proverbs 31:4-5) These do not reflect the character of Christ at all, but they certainly reflect the character of many who love their alcohol today.
Now, in moderation, some things are fine. I have children. And I have appetites of my own. I happen to like coffee a lot. But if I drink too much of it and not enough water, it is bad for my body. My body lets me know if I’m drinking too much coffee and not enough water. And if I do it for a long period of time, it gets worse and worse. I don’t have a problem with a bowl of ice cream or a couple cookies after dinner. But if one of my kids wants to drink soda and snack on candy, cookies, and crackers before a meal, and then claim they are not hungry when it’s time to eat their vegetables, I know they are not getting the nutrition that they need. And if this persists for days and weeks and months and years. . . well, there may be one more member of my family who dies at an early age because of obesity and diabetes. If they never learn to develop healthy appetites and feed their bodies the nutrition that they need–and they never develop that necessary sense of moderation–well, the end of such is death. That is just the simple truth. The Apostle Paul writes in his epistle to the Philippians: “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18-19)
And the big problem with our American society today is it does not teach any sort of understanding of moderation or “delayed gratification” (or a true sense of self-sacrifice for that matter). But rather it encourages a spirit of “I want it here, I want it now, I want it hot, and I shouldn’t have to wait for it or work for it.” The family meal has almost vanished, and a real appreciation of food and nutrition is lacking in our society like never before. But our heart-attitude toward food is really not specific to just food, but to almost everything in our society. Speaking in admittedly sweeping and general terms, I think it is obvious that we are a people who have very little appreciation for anything, and who live with a sense of expectation. Indeed, the basic marketing principle that underlies our whole consumer society is that “we deserve” all these things being sold to us. The focus is entirely all on self and self-gratification. Narcissism; the love of self. But the Apostle writes to the church: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
And what of television? Well, I guess we’ve agreed that pornography and violence produce death, but isn’t that 90 percent of what television sits on? Most of the shows on TV (even most professional sports) package up some form of sex and violence, encouraging anger, dissension, and adultery all the while selling and reinforcing those primary principles of entitlement and instant (self) gratification. Television like nothing else in the last 50 years has taught us to devalue everything around us, promoting sex and violence, and a continual discontentment with what we have–always telling us that to want more, to not be satisfied with what we have, whatever it may be–whether our home, our car, our job, our material possessions, our spouse, our children, our very lives. . . which ultimately means dissatisfaction and discontentment with God, our great provider of ALL things. This is the basic message that television promotes and it is at enmity with God.
Now, please understand — I have not gone off the deep end. I am not advocating the destruction of television sets and soda vending machines all across the land. But I think it is good and necessary to point out that even those thinks that we accept as harmless to determine what sort of fruit they ultimately produce. It is also good to examine our own hearts and our appetites to see if they are balanced. And if they are not, to take steps to correct them. As I said in the article, sometimes it is our appetite that is not healthy moreso than the thing we crave itself…. that “our voracious consumption of it only works to bring about death.” “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food. Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:1-5)
Now the other important point of the post, and what I was really shooting for (but probably missed) was not just the Necrophilia, but perhaps more importantly, the Narcissism. I think it is true that the vast majority of us are drawn to (or “consume”) perhaps one or more things that unchecked and unmoderated could contribute or bring about our demise, but it is usually pretty easy to see the effects of these things and to recognize when we are no longer in control of our appetites, but they in control of us. The greater danger it seems to me is not the Necrophilia, but the Narcissism. Even when it comes to own our Necrophiliac tendencies, our usual habit (at least mine anyway) is not to lament over our own Necrophiliac tendencies and to cry to the Lord for help, but to see them in others and wag our heads and make mouths at them (Psalm 22). Isn’t this typically the beam in our own eye. I’m sure it is in mine.
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
And even when we do we lament and cry out, how much more often is it for our Necrophilia than our Narcissism? How often is the condition of our heart truly more like the Pharisee than the Publican, whether we state it so or not? That was the point that I really wanted to emphasize.
My motivation in the post was not to condemn everyone who has an addiction–be it to coffee, soda, sugar, and/or fast food. . . or anger, adultery, alcohol, and/or drugs. I think there is actually a positive aspect in that addictions (and their consequences), when they become strongholds, can sometimes drive us to our knees so that we cry out to our Sovereign Lord for mercy. Often the corruption of our lusts and desires and our complete helplessness to break free of them reveal our great need for a Savior, which is the place we really all need to come to if we are to be born again (John 3:1-15).
But when it comes to Narcissistic self-love and pride, I think it must be exceedingly rare that we are driven to God in despair for that. It is the Narcissistic tendency rather than the Necrophiliac one that poses far greater danger because it masks the inner decay and the decomposition of the soul. The Narcissistic tendency wants to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil not so much because we really want to be like God, but because like the serpent, we desire to sit in His throne. And the Necrophiliac tendency wants to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, in spite of the fact that God has told us that to do so will bring death.
It is not that one tendency is “better” than the other, and both are dangerous to the life of the soul. But I do think that the one is a bit more honest and obvious in both its effect and its assessment, and if for no other reason than that, it may serve to bring one to the Cross, recognizing the significance and the need for a Savior. And yet, for those of us bound up by either one, the only hope of escape that we have is Christ, and that the God of all grace would mercifully open our eyes to the depths of our own depravity and reveal to us this great need for deliverance, for redemption. . . for Christ.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:1-15)