Everytime my father would visit me at college, he had this strange habit of peering into my mini-fridge and surveying my bookshelves. After college, I discovered that what I thought was a fatherly oddity was actually an astute assessment. This was his process of intentionally assessing my efforts while in school: were there books on the shelves and was the fridge devoid of beer?
Little did he know that this assessment tool is actually one that Jesus challenges his followers with. “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).”
The things we consume and store up in our hearts will overflow into our lives. If in college I had stored up an excessive amount of beer instead of investing into the books on the shelves, my output (and grades) would have reflected that prioritization.
However, by cultivating the good things in our lives, then the outflow will be beneficial and positive. What we consume will dictate how we live. Eugene Peterson captures what overflows from our all-consuming selfishness when he paraphrases Galatians 5:19-21:
“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.”
So what are you consuming? Is your fridge stocked full of cheap beer for the kegger this weekend? Is there a stack of gossip magazines on your nightstand (or pornography hidden on your browser)? Or is there the Living Water of Christ’s love in your fridge, and the promise of the Living Word on your bookshelf?
Because, as Peterson continues, “What happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely (Gal 5:22-23).”