When More is Less

The humble will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise Him.
May your hearts live forever!

Psalm 22:26

I have a theory about food, about what it means to be “satisfied”, and about the way we consume things here in America that is very much tied in to who we are as spiritual beings. It’s a subject that I am constantly wrestling with as someone who is committed to being healthy – in all aspects of my life – and who at the same time has a tendency to lean toward epicureanism.

However, I do not believe the two inclinations – toward health and toward pleasure – are incompatible. In fact, I think the opposite is true. What tends to trip us up and what leads toward un-health is a profound error that runs to the heart of our Western culture, and that in large part fuels our economy. So my argument here is economic too.

The difficulty is that what is wrong is also so compelling. Simply put, the equation goes like this: “If one is good, and two is great, then five would be amazing!” or, “More is always better.”

However – and this is what can really mess us up – we often apply this theory to things that are not intrinsically satisfying and never will be.

Food for Thought:

I have thought and written about this in various ways before, but it is back in my consciousness this week because of July 4th and all the fun food I served to my family. Plus, it’s “Food-blogger Thursday” so today is the perfect time to have this conversation.

You can see from the photos that I served mushroom cheeseburgers, hot dogs, french fries, corn on the cob, country-style bake beans, squash, zucchini, and tomatoes. Not pictured is dessert, comprising thickly crusted apple pie, ice-cream (HäagenDazs no less), and various drippy chocolates and syrups.

This is not exactly what I would call health food! It’s fun, it’s flavorful, and it’s very much appropriate to the day. July 4 picnic food is a great place to visit, but it’s not where I should live. It’s all good food in the context but then the day to day must meet other criteria.

The following are examples of what can happen if we follow the foundational “more is always better” values of our consumer culture:

With food it works like this: 1) We eat junk food because it is pleasurable and convenient. 2) We feel vaguely unsatisfied. 3) We apply the “more is better” principle in the belief that more will lead to satisfaction. 4) We repeat the cycle, never truly satisfied. 5) We become addicted to something without the power to satisfy. 6) We become nutritionally starved, yet obese.

With money – or cars, or houses, or consumer goods – it works the same: We feel that if enough to meet our needs is good, then more must be better. We begin to hang our “satisfaction” hat on “more” rather than “enough”. The situation can escalate until we become spiritually obese, starved in terms of real satisfaction yet bloated with stuff.

Instead of “more is better” we need to find another value. It turns out that healthy is better; it turns out that generosity is better; it turns out that serving others is better; it turns out that following Jesus is more satisfying than following the dictates of a culture hurtling, fast, down the road to consuming itself.

– NC author Derek Maul

Ergo, when one more super-sized bacon double cheeseburger – with french fries and a “Big-Gulp” sugary soda – fails to satisfy and leads to more, one five-once fillet served with roasted asparagus and half a baked sweet-potato manages to do the job while offering nutritional value.

In other words, eating healthy food is intrinsically more satisfying. And a life invested in following Jesus – loving mercy, doing justice, and walking humbly – is not only more satisfying it is more pleasurable too.

This is why leaning toward both health and pleasure is not incompatible at all; not once we understand where real satisfaction can be found.

When we cut through the faulty/deceptive messaging it is obvious that a truly satisfying life has very little to do with “more” – and everything to do with our spiritual health.

Bon appétit” – DEREK

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