Proverbs 24:13; 25:27; 25:16
January 30, 2010
Should people aiming for wholeness eat honey? There are probably as many valid answers in front of me as there are people sitting here. These answers might include talk about vitamins, minerals, amino acids, royal jelly, propolis, pollen, allergies, diabetes, sugar substitutes, and wild, raw, cooked, or with the comb. To eat honey or not to eat honey, that is the question.
Let’s see what the Bible has to say about it.
Proverbs 24:13 “My child, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to our taste.” Eat honey; it is good.
Proverbs 25:27 “It is not good to eat much honey.” Ah, beam in on the word “much.” That’s the qualifier. Who is there who can tell me what exact amount that word “much” means?
Is honey good or not good? From these two maxims one could divine that sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad. That answer begs the question to follow, How do you know which it is at any given time?
Well, Solomon gives his solution.
Proverbs 25:16 “If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, or else, having too much, you will vomit it.” Common sense, you say. Well, perhaps not so common as we might hope.
Did you ever hear, “Many hands make light work”? But then there’s “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” “It’s the little things that make the difference.” “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Maybe you remember Solomon’s repeated assertion that “In a multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). But Moses said, “Don’t follow a multitude---to do evil” (Exodus 23:2).
Did you ever experience someone urging upon you a maxim to answer your situation, while you somehow had the inside knowledge that that particular maxim didn’t fit your situation?
I call them pat answers. They’ve been patented, produced, and marketed. I have my own pat answers. I’ve developed them through tough experience, and when someone says something that triggers them, I surely do want to blurt them right out to fix that person’s problem or misunderstanding.
Solomon, again, had instruction for me about giving those quick, pat answers.
Ecclesiastes 5:2 “Never be rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be quick to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few.”
Let your words be few. Pastor Geoff, this doesn’t fit for you because we all want to hear lots of your words. However, I try to claim this maxim for myself, “Let your words be few.”
We’re beginning a year of finding wholeness. We’re still in the introduction. Next Sabbath Pastor Emily will begin the main subtopics under the heading “Wholeness.”
Today I get to finish introducing the big concept of wholeness. My job today is to illuminate the complexity of the whole issue and learn what we can from that complexity. I can only illustrate the complexity, for time and word limit will not allow me to take you into all the complexity I see. So by experiencing together today a mere three illustrations of the complexity of each of our journeys to wholeness, you can gain handles by which to open the conundrums you face on your journey toward wholeness.
Please pray with me.
B.1. Flipped Axes
So we’re sitting in the office planning this series, and recognizing together that it has about four parts: physical wholeness, mental wholeness, emotional wholeness, and spiritual wholeness. I assumed this would be our timeline.
We would look at Physical health and all its contributors and settings such as Pastor Geoff listed last Sabbath: “eating smart, exercising, getting rest, and not going on outings with Ron Becker!”
We would consider Mental health: “clarity of mind, ability to reason, willingness to learn and be taught, possessor of sound knowledge and theology.”
We would think about Emotional health: “positive modes of thinking and doing, ability to establish and maintain appropriate relationships with both genders, the capacity to commit yourself and keep your commitments.”
And we would study Spiritual health: “a living, vital, daily relationship with Jesus.”
Pastor Geoff showed how those four items, often grouped as three, are part of Adventist logos and seals throughout our history.
They go way back to Jesus in the Gospels “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all your heart and soul and understanding and strength” not always in the same order, of course (Matthew 12:30; Mark 12:33; Luke 10:27). For ease in our illustration I’m going to list them simply as Body, Mind, Emotions, and Spirit.
Then I realized my assumptions were all wrong about how we were going to pursue this concept of wholeness. I discovered the timeline looked something like this instead. We would look at each in order: wholeness for the individual, the family, the church, and the work or school setting. Merely by flipping the axes on my internal chart, I now saw the whole topic in a new way. So I asked myself what if there are actually three axes on my inner chart?
Please try to envision depth as you view this chart, the size of the bubbles representing depth perspective. Indeed there is a third axis, a geographical axis, where a series on wholeness in Georgia would probably be quite different from such a series in China. Anthropologists might be interested in this approach.
What if we looked at this wholeness topic developmentally, studying it from the angle of the tasks required for wholeness in children, youth, adults, and seniors? This could be rather enlightening. Topics like this can fill college textbooks, and I have to remember my time and words are limited.
Let’s follow that path a little ways, today though. You see, children learn and decide primarily by maxim. When friends want to play and it’s time to practice the piano, Mom says, “Work before play.” But when you’re working hard on your IT science project Mom might cite dire consequences of “All work and no play.” We continue throughout life to carve out maxims from our experience. Maxims are like habits; they give quick guidance. Maxims fall down when pressed to their extensions. They need common sense.
Youth can illustrate for us the need for common sense. They exhibit frustration with old maxims, needing to feed their deciding factor pool with personal experience and a good dose of personal intuition. “Just let me date, or stay out to midnight, or drive the car, or manage the corporation, to see what it’s like.” “I know what to do by what feels right to me.” Experience and intuition are like morning coffee; they can get you going and keep you going. Experience and intuition fall down when pressed into service for everything. They can trap you or push you.
So adults love to argue. Some of us more than others. We like deduction, logic, and orderly premises. Then we practice in the board meeting where parliamentary procedure prevails. We argue for or against-- sleeping on Sabbath afternoon, women wearing long skirts, contemporary music in church, or cheese and eggs at potluck, and we seem to think the one who can present the best argument proves the right for all the rest. Deductive argument is like a propeller; it can move you forward, but it goes round and round. Deductive argument falls down when facing the big unknowables. To try to argue God’s existence is necessarily a circular argument, thus every argument based on the premise of God’s existence must necessarily manifest circularity.
It’s not only seniors who come to the place of knowing and deciding primarily by connection. These mature Christians connect maxims to experience and intuition. They connect with people and their premises. They connect the idea of eating out on Sabbath for worryless fellowship with the idea of keeping the Sabbath commerce free, and they know there are no easy answers for everyone. They connect the blessings of fasting for clarity of mind with the need for eating to keep the mind nutrient rich, and they think before urging one or the other. They connect the financial decisions of an unbelieving husband with the wife’s need to tithe, and they find a way to honor both, while connecting the evidence that God deals harshly with some people to get them to correct their tithing shortfall. These mature Christians connect the invitation to opportunity with the likelihood that an unprincipled opportunist might step in, and they frame an American Constitution to try to protect from that. They connect chosen arguments with experience and intuition. They connect maxims that don’t fit together and they laugh.
Now let us go back to the simple chart for this series, and remember that there are multiple ways of approaching our topic. If I really have surrender toward God, which admits I don’t even know everything even about my own journey, then I will also manifest humility toward others on their journeys toward wholeness. For instance, there is call for my testimony in I-language about what reading the Bible and writing in the Life Journal every morning means to me; there is no call for urging that those who don’t get up early to do that are “lazy.” I am to work on myself, not others.
Our second illustration of complexity comes to me from thinking about a word that seems to surface whenever people talk about the complexity of issues. Should I dress funny for health or modesty principles, or should I dress so I don’t close the door to witness before I even open my mouth? Should I accuse the church as lukewarm and sleeping, or should I modify my accusatory tone so as to come close to people to share my testimony about waking up? Should I stay in the country for spiritual safety, or should I be a presence for Christ in the cities? This is not just about moving to the country. Honest Christians who live in the country still have the question whether to go to the city today to witness or stay home today to cultivate the garden.
The word that comes up often is the word “Balance.” “They are so unbalanced.” “You have to find the balance.” “There’s always a balance between the two extremes.”
Balance. In my experience, when someone tells another they must find a balance, they mean the person should find balance with the fulcrum in the same place they do. Anyone with the fulcrum in a different place than the way I have mine is “unbalanced.” But don’t you see that even the concept of “balance” will play out differently for different people.
So here’s the insight I got one time that made a big difference for me. I was thinking about the eight natural remedies and recognized the idea of “moderation” as perhaps related to this idea of “balance.” So I followed on to the nineteenth century word, “temperance,” and figured it was related to the tempering of steel. Okay, that’s a lot of big intuitive jumps, I agree. Please remember these are only illustrations. Let’s look at how a blacksmith tempers steel.
He gets the iron white hot, beats it on the anvil into the shape he wants, and then he sinks it into the tub of cold water, the iron so hot it boils the water instantly. I understand that in order to get a good temper for a very sharp knife, the hot and cold temperatures need to be quite precise. What I want to notice today is that, in order for the knife to be strong and sharp, it must have both the hot and the cold. The steel must be tempered by experiencing both extremes.
Similarly, wholeness will come only when we can hold in one house and heart the competing needs of the child and the grandparent, the men and the women, the second-grader and the seventh-grader. Wholeness will be possible only when we can hold in one spirit the belief that God is both all-powerful and all-good in the face of a multitude-destroying earthquake. Wholeness will come only when we can live unwilling to stumble another while at the same time live in reference, not to all others, but to God. Wholeness will come to the church only when it can take time to listen and understand the gifts and needs of everyone in its midst. We must be tempered in order to be strong. The strongest decisions consider both extremes and then step where God leads. If I really have surrender toward God in the moment of decision, after I considered carefully all viewpoints I can think of, then I believe I can trust God in that decision. Consider other viewpoints.
B.3. Mound of Good Things
Our third illustration of complexity has grown out of my efforts to explain these things in Bible studies throughout my ministry. Picture a mound of good things. You can see the grand pyramid if you wish and a person standing at its base. Or you can see a pile of candy bars in their wrappers here in front of you with a toddler at its base. The mound of good things represents all the benefits that you believe, or will come to believe, will accrue to you from certain steps you might take on the Christian journey to wholeness.
For instance, there’s Sabbath observance, and I know that when you get that package, you will find such sweetness it will nourish your soul for a week. Then there’s tithing, and oh, maybe there’s getting out of debt. There’s keeping the feet warm, and keeping good posture, and being caffeine free, and drinking enough water. There’s modesty in dress, and being a fan of olive oil. There’s going to church on Sabbath, and there’s taking your jewelry off in God’s presence. When you get the package of talking should-free, you will see a mighty difference in your family. When you get the package of self-talk that’s free of “why” and “what-if” you will notice your depression disappearing and much less irritability churning you up.
This mound of good things is huge and has way over-the-top benefits in each package. Every package you get and make a part of your life grows you taller so you can reach more packages, higher on your mound.
Are you reaching for Bible reading and reflection every day? Ah, you will grow so maybe you’ll be tall enough someday to dedicate a whole day to Bible reading and reflection.
Are you reaching for prayer in every spare moment, even as you breathe? This will cause you to grow to be tall enough someday to teach others how to pray without ceasing.
Alright, let me tell you some things about this mound of good things.
Number one: This mound has enough good things in it so we’ll be reaching throughout eternity. You need never fear that you will stand on the pinnacle of Christian experience with nowhere to go but down. “Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children” (Ed 18).
Number two: My mound is arranged differently than your mound is. Uh, oh, this is where we Christians like to argue. The maxim people make each package a slogan for themselves and others. The personal experience and intuition people want to taste and test anything they can reach regardless of slogans, maxims, or arguments. The argument people want to analyze each package and preach and persuade and maybe market and sell the need to search for and reach for that very package on everyone’s mound. The connection people go around showing their new growth and listening to the joy of others in their own new growth, different but shared.
Number three: Any church or other organization has the right to define on any number of specific lifestyle issues the level of growth it expects in its members. It has the right and mandate to do this for identity purposes and clear witness in its secular community. Whatever a church defines is not necessarily God’s definition of who is saved or lost. God may be calling you to reach much higher than the minimum required for church membership. For instance, He may be asking you to delight in a raw food diet when the church only requires avoidance of unclean meat; so don’t stop growing the day you’re baptized! I do need to warn you that geography influences which specific lifestyle issues a local church will find important. In some countries a woman preaching would not acceptable, so I don’t try to preach in those countries. That’s common sense!
So the mound of good things illustration would teach us that it’s wise to expect that God has a first next thing for us to take from the pile that will free and enable us to take the following next thing He has in mind. All kinds of wholeness are intertwined, so if I get a package that enhances my mental abilities, say, I may find it easier to puzzle out physical cause and effect. Or if I get a package that heals some emotional ill, I might be better able to reach up in trust to God. There are multiple benefits spreading through the whole person from each package from the mound of good things. In the same manner that God freed Israel from slavery in Egypt in order that they could worship Him better, so God wants to free you on one next physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual issue that will enhance your connection with Him. That first package might not be at the location where you’re digging in your mound right now. If I really have surrender toward God, even to giving up reaching or digging for one attractive package I might hear God’s invitation to reach for a different package first. Look around and accept first things first.
C. Summary and Conclusion
We’ve flipped the axes. We’ve balanced on a teeter-totter. We’ve looked up at our mound of good things.
We’ve reviewed proverbs about honey.
If I really have surrender toward God, which admits I don’t even know everything even about my own journey, then I will also manifest humility toward others on their journeys toward wholeness. I will work on myself, not others.
If I really have surrender toward God in the moment of decision, then after I considered carefully all other viewpoints I can think of, I believe I can trust God in that decision. I will consider other viewpoints.
If I really have surrender toward God, even to giving up reaching or digging for one attractive package I might hear God’s invitation to reach for a different package first. I will accept first things first.
Some people assume I just always lived healthfully so never was very sick, so what do I know about a journey to wholeness?
Well, if you heard the story of how I tried to find wholeness in my young adult life, perhaps you can understand that I came out of that experience at age 25, a very broken person, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I continue to find new healings happening in myself from that event. Besides being suicidal and without human connection, I had all the things that debilitate the mind and body. I had bad migraines, chronic fatigue, lyme, hypoglycemia, anorexia, irritable bowel syndrome, candidiasis, depression. Some people would smile at the grouping of those ailments and say those are all just fads. Well I fit them all, fad or not, but refused to be labeled because I was determined to overcome. So I think I can tell you I have learned a lot about wholeness through my own personal journey. Yet I know my experience is different from yours, so whatever I share is for you to take what you like and leave the rest.
I recovered in fits and starts. I’m still recovering. Every minute of joy and every muscle that works today is a miracle for which I praise God. Sometimes at first, I would work too hard on one part of recovery and end up with pain in another part until I started working there, too. I asked God for help to find the muscles that needed strengthening in order to support recovery in this or that issue. And God helped me listen to Him speak to me through by body, my mind, my emotions, and my spirit. God is speaking to you, too, through your body, mind, emotions, and spirit.
by Pam Darrow
Insight, January 20, 1990
You pushed me in a room
of black and white
and told me to point out
what’s wrong and right
and wondered why
I just stood there
it was so easy
you ripped off your glasses
and saw rainbows.