We are dual-natured beings, temporal and eternal. As Plato and the early Christians taught, our spirits, which some people refer to as our souls, existed before we were born. Just as placing our hand inside a glove animates it, our spirit brings life to our physical body. Take out our spirit, and our body becomes a lifeless form, just as the glove without the hand is an inanimate object. We are eternal children of God.
Developing more unity and harmony between our spirit and body enables us to become more in tune with nature, the universe, and God himself. As we draw closer to God through this process, we bring Him more glory, and we enjoy a fuller and richer life with a greater sense of fulfillment.
However, if the balance and harmony between our spiritual and physical natures is distorted, then our whole life gets thrown out of kilter. Because this is a temporal world with limits and new stimuli, we all have challenges learning how to achieve this unity and harmony.
Naturally, our physical appetites have great power over our whole dual-natured being. But if we let our physical cravings control our behavior, we devolve into beasts. Left unchecked, our appetites will dominate our spirits and stunt our growth and development. As our physical appetites occupy more of our thoughts and actions, they displace other aspects of a whole person and distract us from realizing our full potential.
Many years ago, I worked in the insurance industry. One phrase that caught my interest was the term friendly fire, which is used to distinguish between fires that are covered by insurance and those that are not. Fires that remain contained within the boundaries we intend, such as fireplaces, stoves, and barbecues, provide comfort and benefit to man. In fact, controlling fire is regarded as the most important and useful advancement in human development. Hence, these fires are referred to as friendly fires.
However, fires that exceed the borders set for them become destructive and cause devastation and misery. Consequently, these are hostile fires. The damage may be minor, such as to wallpaper in a kitchen, but any unfriendly fire left unrestrained will cause more extensive damage, not just to the property where the fire originated but often to adjoining properties as well.
California is frequently devastated by wildfires. One summer, my sister and her family had to evacuate their home along with almost one million other residents in order to avoid the terrifying threat of personal harm caused by fires that were out of control. Even though her home was fortunately spared, their lives were still thrown into upheaval as a result of this tragedy.
Likewise, passions and emotions are integral to and enhance a healthy, well-balanced life. However, lust for power, sex, fame, or fortune harms the individual and may destroy their life. Unrestrained passion invariably impacts the lives of those closest to us with more far-reaching effects than we realize, even for generations to come.
Lust for power is invariably associated with a hot temper. Unkind words spoken in anger have likely caused more heartache and sorrow than all the wars the world has ever known. Lust for power and control is actually evidence of an individual’s lack of self-control and unresolved personal emotional issues. God wants us to become independent and have power to act and make decisions. The closer we get to God, the more self-control we obtain, along with the corresponding independence. Consequently, a desire for independence is God inspired. But if not contained, it becomes counterproductive and can lead to a loss of self-control and destroy personal relationships. Anger in all its forms, including passive-aggressive behavior, is a sure sign that our God-inspired quest for power over our life has exceeded the healthy limits He has set and has become a hostile fire.
There is probably nothing more physically and emotionally fulfilling than intimate sexual relations with one’s spouse. The harmony between our physical and spiritual nature that is realized through the unity achieved in the mutual giving and receiving of marital relations is beautiful and inspiring, and it simulates the ecstasy we will receive when we achieve complete harmony between our spirit and body with God. But there is nothing with greater potential to cause explosive lasting harm than sexual passions expressed outside the bonds of matrimony. Because sex is so powerful, its destructive effect is enormous when we engage in behavior beyond the bounds the Lord has set. Unfortunately, casual sex is flaunted throughout society today, but its effect will be more damaging for generations to come than the wildfires of California. We should be alarmed and flee from this devastating threat with as much exigency as families evacuating their homes when threatened by wildfires.
Selfishness is the curse of our affluent modern world. It is true that we all need sufficient material resources to satisfy our physical needs, and our choices are limited if our income is restricted. But it seems impossible to hide from greed anywhere in today’s society. From the boardroom to the church to the poorest neighborhood, greed’s ugly face tarnishes the landscape. I am convinced that material possessions are the idols and false gods of our day. Modern society worships at the altar of materialism. We even offer sacrifices of unborn children to the god of personal convenience and call it abortion on demand. We want to gratify our immediate desires without having any consequences for our actions.
God wants us to be free to act so we can learn and grow, and through this process, become more unified with Him. But many of us do not live within our means because of our insatiable appetite for pleasure and possessions. We become slaves to debt and limit our growth and ability to become closer to God. No wonder God instituted tithing as a means to help us avoid worshipping the god of wealth and help us recognize that everything we have comes from Him.
Obesity and eating disorders are becoming a major problem in our culture. Again, when we take something good to excess, even something as necessary as eating food, we invariably have problems. Consequently, in our anything-goes society, individual health is destroyed and lives are shortened because people gratify their physical appetites without restraint and in complete disregard of the consequences of their actions. Gluttony used to be considered one of the seven deadly sins, but today it is so pervasive that it is considered a disability, protected by government mandates. It is interesting to me that so many ancient religions embraced fasting as a means to get closer to God. It makes sense to me that if we learn to control our craving for food, then we are better able to keep all our physical appetites within healthy limits and in balance with our spiritual nature. If an individual has any addiction problem, whether it be overeating, drugs, or pornography, I recommend that they include fasting as a regular component of their recovery.
I am amazed by the number of individuals, especially young people, who are engulfed in an insatiable quest for fame. Social media has become a wasteland for millions seeking validation from others. As divine social creatures, we all want to belong, but universal loneliness is a curse of our disconnected modern society. God wants us to have self-respect and a healthy sense of self-confidence. However, once again, when our passions exceed the healthy limits that God has established, we suffer. How many young people get caught up in drugs and other destructive behaviors because they want to be part of the crowd? How many people fail to excel because they are seeking validation from others to overcome their insecurities? Unfortunately, none of these things will satisfy our need to feel that we are of value. The only source to overcome our inadequacies is inside us. We need to tap into that spark of divinity that God placed inside each of us. No outside source or recognition can fully satisfy the emptiness we feel that drives the quest for fame and fortune. Fame and accolades are fleeting. As the preacher says in the Book of Ecclesiastes, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.”
Some individuals and religions teach that our spirits are prisoners trapped inside our physical bodies, and we will never achieve unity with God until our spirit completely dominates our physical being and eliminates all natural desires. This is false doctrine. God intends for us to enjoy life and our physical bodies. In fact, we show our gratitude to God for the gift of life by living it to the fullest. However, this is not possible unless we achieve harmony and balance between our spiritual and physical natures. We realize greater joy and fulfillment in life as our spiritual and physical natures learn to dance in unison, and we become a more complete, unified, whole person.