I am thankful for the recent emphasis on Christ-centered interpretation of Scripture. It is a welcome balance to the tendency to turn Bible stories into mere moral lessons. However, while all Scripture points to Christ it does not follow that every Scripture has to be an allegory of the Cross.
I am especially bothered by what some do with the book of Proverbs. Solomon gave his sons practical wisdom to guide them in choosing God’s path over the world’s folly. Lady Wisdom isn’t a type of Christ but one of two options – two women – that he sets before his sons. Choose one, boys! Walk with Lady Wisdom and your life will be blessed. Be seduced by the woman Folly and you will pay the price.
There are three lessons that sum up the book of Proverbs.
- Life is choices.
- Choices have consequences.
- Learn to make wise choices.
Only through Christ’s redemptive work and the indwelling Spirit can we walk in God’s wisdom, but Proverbs is about choices and consequences. We must not miss the purpose for which God inspired the book. All Scripture is a journey to the Cross but along the way there is a harmony formed by history, prophecy, poetry, and the practical books of wisdom. God does not sing in a monotone. We need not allegorize Proverbs or force meanings on the text when the clear meaning is so powerful. It is about life here on earth: about sex, friendships, speech, money, and myriad other moral choices we make as we follow Christ. The overall thrust of Scripture guides us to the Cross, but the Spirit inspired Solomon to teach his sons lessons we need to live well as we follow Christ.
The chief lesson among those is simple:
You reap what you sow.
I Reaped and I Sowed
All of that is to make a simple point. In the last week I realized that I reaped a harvest from seed I have sowed over the last 35 years.
In 1981, I was a 23-year-old distance runner, about to get my M.Div. at SWBTS. I had my best 4 mile run ever on an April Saturday, then on Monday I went for an 11-mile run and hit the RAC to play some basketball. I went up for a rebound and came down on another guy’s foot. I graduated a few weeks later on crutches and my days of semi-competitive distance running were over.
The problem was that even though I stopped running marathons I continued to eat like a marathon runner. I was 6′ 4″ and around 175 pounds. I had to eat 8000 or more calories a day just to keep up. Over the next 30 years I topped 200, then 250, and by about age 55, I was closing in on 375 pounds, morbid obesity, and an early death.
I joked about it a lot. I continued to exercise, even doing a couple of Bataan Memorial Death Marches 10 years ago – a desert marathon – at 330 pounds. I used to call myself the “best-conditioned morbidly obese man in America.” I was in great shape for a guy who was slowly committing suicide by food.
About 5 years ago I started making changes. It has been a hard slog, but I am down nearly 100 pounds. I resorted to what I had resisted – counting calories and eating less. At first, I was restricted to 3200 calories a day. That was when I realized how much I’d been eating – almost double that.
There’s a word for that – gluttony.
Frankly, I was shocked at how much I was eating. I didn’t have bad metabolism or bad genes. I ate too much. So, with my doctor’s help I have been slowly attacking the problem. It is hard. It was easier when I was 35. I could lose 10 pounds just by talking about a diet back then. Now, every pound is WWIII. I still have 75 pounds to go and I don’t know if I will get there, but I am fighting the fight.
In February, I got sued for divorce. No, not my wife – she has stuck by me for 40 years. My gallbladder and spleen left me claiming years of abuse. The divorce was finalized by my surgeon on May 3. They had been criminally abused for 60 years. Overeating. Yo Yo dieting. Enough sugar to start a confectionary. High fat, low fiber! They didn’t stand a chance. Then I had my cancer surgery in June.
Last Monday I went in for what I thought was the repair of a hernia. Turns out I didn’t have a hernia. I had a FAMILY of hernias. They opened me up from rib cage to naval, then opened me side to side. I now have about 200 stitches and staples in me. Why? Because the stress of weight on my stomach through years tore that thing apart. When I had the two surgeries it was the final straw.
I have been making BAD diet and health choices for 35 years and those choices have consequences. Last Monday, I reaped what I have sown.
Harvest is coming!
Yes, you get to choose the seed you sow. You can choose good seed – making wise choices that honor God. Or you can choose bad seed and make foolish choices. But you cannot change the fact that the seed you sow will produce a crop. That crop will take time to grow. Eventually, the harvest comes.
Sometimes you think you’ve beaten the system. I was a HEALTHY morbidly obese guy. Not diabetic. Able to walk 5 miles or more. No high blood pressure. “I may be fat but I am okay.” But the debt came due. I sowed and I had to pay.
The harvest his me hard. They gutted me like a fish. I want to get healthy, but right now, simple things like standing up and walking and breathing are a challenge. I have no one to blame but myself. I sowed bad seed.
You may be sowing bad seed in your home, ignoring your wife and kids as you devote yourself to ministry success. Maybe you are sowing the seeds of pollution in your mind. Eventually you will reap a bad harvest there. You may be sowing debt to finance your desires. You sow debt you will reap servitude. You may be like the majority of Baptist preachers – sedentary, corpulent, and growing less healthy all the time. Harvest is coming!
Some Post-Harvest Advice
Here is the advice of someone who reaped an ugly harvest last week.
1. Young guys, sow good seed. You don’t have to be CrossFit athletes, but eat reasonably and exercise. Don’t be another fat preacher! Does God love fat preachers? Yes. Can he use a fat preacher? Sure. Does that mean it is okay to be a fat preacher? Only if you want to reap an ugly harvest! Sow seeds of financial responsibility and familial love. Sow the good seed.
2. If you need to make changes, make them. I made a lot of excuses but I needed to make changes. Things began to turn around in 2012 when a high school friend, a missionary to Taiwan, took me out for a Mango Bing (best dessert ever) on our Taiwan trip and gently but firmly told me that I needed to stop joking about my weight and change it. “The wounds of a friend…”
Here’s the thing: you are NOT special! You are NOT an exception. If you sow bad seed you will reap a bad harvest. Stop pretending your seeds won’t produce a harvest.
3. Get a doctor’s help. There is medical assistance for people who need and want to change. Make use of it.
4. Recognize it as a spiritual battle. I am fat because I lacked self-control and because I made bad choices. That is a spiritual battle that I can seek God’s power to overcome.
A Final Word
This isn’t about judgment but a realization of my own folly. Maybe someone can learn from it without having to reap the violent crop of pain I did this week. Maybe some of you young whippersnappers will choose good seed. Maybe some of you less young guys will steer a different course before it is too late. Choose the good seed!
When the crop comes in, you will be glad you did.