Proverbs 25:16 gives us this caution:
“If you find honey, eat just enough—
too much of it and you will vomit.”
The principle behind Solomon’s advice in this verse is that over-indulgence, even of good things, will surely make us “sick.”
It has become a respectable sin to over-indulge in things that bring us pleasure. With so much emphasis from our culture on personal satisfaction (whether that be via food or entertainment or materialism), it seems to me that many Christians have become numb to—or worse, content with—the consequence of such a lifestyle, which is ultimately spiritual illness.
It seems that an unsuspecting fascination with earthly enjoyment is stealing many Christians’ focus (even, desire) away from implementing God-given spiritual disciplines such as prayer, evangelism, discipleship, Scripture reading/meditation/memory, etc. Christians who should be on a steady trajectory of spiritual growth (1 Pt 2:2) are instead becoming spiritually “sick,” anemic in Truth and fellowship with God, because they are embracing trends such as regularly binge-watching shows, checking social media for notifications an innumerable amount of times daily, spending a disproportionate amount of paycheck money on acquiring “more”, and other culturally-normative tendencies.
Essentially, we are exchanging depth of spirituality and intimacy with God for transient pleasure, and all under the seemingly harmless guise of “eating God-given honey.”
How wonderful it is that Scripture assures us “every good gift is from” God (Jms 1:17). God is not glorified by asceticism; on the contrary, He is glorified in part by the enjoyment and enrichment that His vast and various blessings provide to us. Our lives our filled with these very gifts: entertainment (including television, video games, social media, and so on), rest, relationships, yummy food, acquiring pretty clothes or home décor, etc.
None of these things are sinful per se, but may become instruments of sin if they are elevated from being vessels of enjoyment to being vessels of idolatry.
So how can one know if “too much honey” has made her sick? I have found in my own life that my reaction to the trials God lovingly gives me is a helpful indicator of what has been saturating my heart lately…
In Jeremiah 17:5-8, we are given a picturesque description of a withering bush compared to a flourishing tree. These plants are intended to represent the spiritual health of “one who trusts in man” versus “one who trusts in the LORD”, so I find it appropriate to survey them when considering my own spiritual vitality.
Verses 5 and 6 describe the unhealthy bush:
“This is what the LORD says:
Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the LORD.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in the salt land where no one lives.”
Verses 7 and 8 describe the healthy tree:
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
Our response to trials can gauge what our hearts are trusting in, and it is either one or the other—God or “mere flesh.” Scripture tells us that trusting in the latter is akin to having a “heart [turned] away from” Him (v. 5a). As a result, this person is perpetually doubtful of God’s goodness (v. 6a), trial after trial; rather than being refined by struggle, she dwells in it with the perspective that God has forsaken her (verse 6b).
A heart that truly trusts in God, however, does not typically fear or worry during even long-lasting trials (v. 8). Not only does she have internal “confidence,” she bears external fruit that blesses others even amid suffering (Gal 5:22).
So how do you react to trials?
If your response often parallels the withering bush, perhaps “too much honey” is distracting you from loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).
After all, one cannot casually attain a heart that truly “trusts in the LORD”; cultivating this requires intention and attention. In fact, Satan and his armies have a devoted existence to preventing this from happening (1 Pt 5:8), which is why we must be on guard that things, even good things, do not distract us from primarily seeking the things above (Col 3:2).
While the practical answer for “How much is too much?” is one that will be defined differently from person-to-person and pleasure-to-pleasure, here are just a few general steps for progressing towards spiritual recovery from too much honey:
Ask for God to reveal to you through His Word and discernment what is unpleasing to Him in your life (Ps 139:23-24; 25:4). This could result in temporarily or indefinitely surrendering an enjoyment. I personally get that this can be hard, especially at first. This response is natural; it even reminds me of my two-year-old’s reaction when I ask him to share: At this point, he does not trust me enough to give up his favorite toy eagerly, so my request is usually met with resistance. Soon enough, though, (I hope!) he will see the goodness in him parting with something he would rather keep at necessary times and do so more readily. To help “cope,” pray also that God will help you to not find fulfillment in “vanity,” but that He would instead “revive [you] in [His] ways” (Ps 119:37).
A.K.A. eliminate/remove/amputate the pleasures that God may be impressing upon your heart to take some time away from. Earlier this year, when my husband and I begin to perceive that God wanted us to drastically limit our TV time, we actually took our television in and out of storage about 5 times during the first month or so, trying to discern just what our family’s limits for TV watching should be! Despite being unsure of God’s specific will for us, we sought to obey Him with the best intentions nonetheless. I can now testify that God blessed that feeble attempt, giving us wisdom and strength in those quieter-than-we-were-used-to days and evenings.
Colossians 3 describes the concept of “put off, put on” in regards to replacing sinful attitudes and patterns with Christlike ones. If you choose to eliminate a pleasure from your life to any degree, choose then to fill that “void” with something that contributes to your spiritual growth—prayer, Scripture reading, engaging in accountability relationships, etc. To only “put off” might not yield the full spiritual affect that both steps would.
By God’s grace and enabling, let us be obedient and spiritually-disciplined women who, for the sake of all knowing and loving Jesus more, seek Him above all things—including His scrumptious honey!