Last night, I spent most of the evening looking forward to a bag of Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups I had waiting for me. They stared at me from the corner of the kitchen: My reward for getting everything done that needed to be accomplished. They were a delightful indulgence for the end of my day!
Unfortunately, I find myself sometimes thinking I “deserve” this kind of indulgence every day. Maybe it’s not chocolate; maybe it’s a drive through coffee. Maybe it’s buying that cute shirt at the thrift store. Or maybe my indulgence is an attitude – the idea I deserve to be right; or I deserve to be treated better by my loved ones. Self indulgence isn’t always about chocolate and Netflix. It can quickly become so much more.
Enjoying our food, a cute top, or a coffee isn’t inherently wrong. As always, our view of indulgence should be rooted in the truth. When it is, we can address the heart motives behind our choices. God is, after all, looking at the spirit of our decisions, not just the outward actions.
So if self indulgence isn’t inherently wrong, and it’s not sinful to indulge on occasion, when does it become an issue?
Self indulgence becomes sinful when it controls us. When we go from allowing ourselves the occasional Starbucks to needing coffee in order to show love and respect to our peers, we’ve crossed over to idolatry. When we go from buying a $3.00 shirt for fun to refusing to give because we want to spend money on ourselves, we’ve crossed over to greed. God’s not looking at us, angry because of a coffee and a shirt. He’s grieved when our heart motives don’t align with His.
Self indulgence can easily go too far in our human natures, so we need to keep it in check. Thankfully, Scripture teaches us how to do so.
Look to the Interests of Others
Philippians 2:4 says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” We are to look out for the people nearest to us, taking into consideration what they like, love, and need – not just what we want. Selflessness and honor defeat self indulgence.
Lay Down Your Life
Jesus was the perfect example of self sacrifice. Jesus did not place self indulgence on his list of priorities – He had a ministry to complete, and that ministry saved our lives. So while we are indeed free to “indulge” in the blessings God gives, Jesus is still our example. As He said in John 14:12-14, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” It’s easy to talk about giving our “all” for others, but you know what is a lot harder? Laying down the little things we feel entitled to hold. Jesus asks us to lay ourselves down the way He did for us.
Ask God for a Selfless Heart
I love what the psalmist said: “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” (Psalm 119:36). If you want to be less self indulgent, ask God to change your heart! Then walk out His standards of selflessness in obedience – even before you feel like it.