Why is it when I want something to eat I never want to reach for broccoli or carrots? Why is it that I’d rather run thru a drive-thru and eat a lousy McDonald’s cheeseburger or a taco from Taco Bell? Don’t get too defensive of McDonald’s or Taco Bell, I love both of them too! The reality is I’m drawn to junk food. I can read all the nutritional facts of a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese but they just don’t quite scare me into eating my vegetables instead. Funny thing about junk food, it’s addictive and nearly irresistible. I’ve probably never once in my life described any vegetable that way. I do like a good cucumber…slathered in ranch. Never mind, the ranch alone rendered any positive comments I had for a vegetable worthless.
You didn’t click this to read about my feelings for fast food, but I do think there is a significant correlation between our desires for junk food versus vegetables and our desire for entertainment versus the reading and studying of God’s Word. There are some days where I can binge watch a show for hours on Netflix but I struggle to focus to read the Bible for any length of time. The Bible references in multiple spots the illustration of God’s word being spiritual nourishment for us.
John 6:35 – “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
Matthew 4:4 - “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
1 Peter 2:2 – “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.”
There are other verses you can find in Scripture that elude to our relationship with Christ being fulfilling and God’s word as our spiritual nourishment. The point is, why is something that is so nourishing…like vegetables…sometimes less appealing? Why is something that has almost no nutritional value, like a cheeseburger, more appealing? Even further, why are entertainment options, like my late night Netflix binge sessions where I’m watching an old season of a show I’ve seen before, more appealing than time in the Word of God?
It’s interesting the world that we live in and how much science is now involved in marketing. It’s not on accident that we are more likely to choose junk food and entertainment options over simply sitting and reading God’s word. I don’t claim to be a scientist by any stretch but I do know from plenty of experience the appeal of junk food and entertainment. Ultimately, there are similar aspects that drive us towards those things instead of that which is actually nourishing. In the junk food/fast food industry, 3 things are king…salt, fat, and sugars. If you’ve ever looked at the nutritional information on your favorite food from your favorite fast food joint or that favorite Little Debbie cake or chips you like to eat; you and I know they’re high in 1, if not 2 or 3 of those things. Funny thing about salt, fat, and sugars is they are addictive to an extent. Maybe it’s just me, but when I find something I like from the fast food restaurant or a snack item, I’ll go back to the same thing over and over again. Why? It’s really good. While that’s true, it’s also because I’ve rewired my brain to be stimulated or to release chemicals that make me feel good. That cheeseburger, as lousy as it may be nutritionally, tells my brain that it is yummy and tasty because of the greasy fat and salt content, and thus when I see that ad again, I want another cheeseburger because I remember how good it made me feel. The same can be said for our entertainment choices. People like to point at things like pornography and its addictive nature but in very similar ways we can binge watch TV shows, movies, play video games and in the process release chemicals in our brains that make us feel good. That’s why pornography is addictive, but it’s also why other forms of entertainment are addictive. That’s why back in the days before Netflix, you could watch 1 show a week when it came on television and now that we have unlimited access to multiple seasons of shows, we can’t stop watching.
The point isn’t as much to get everyone to eat their vegetables and stop watching TV as much as it is that you and I become more aware that we are constantly reprogramming our brains…for better or worse. Once you reprogram your brain or wear a new path in your brain to pleasure or fulfillment, it’s hard not to go back to that place over and over again. That’s why when you begin to understand how the brain functions you can begin to understand Romans 12:2 in a whole new light. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Most of us have heard this common verse but when we talk about being transformed by the renewal of our minds, we by default just think if I read the Bible more, if I memorize Scripture more, my mind will be renewed. While that is definitely a valid point, many of us come up against the frustration that you just don’t have the desire to do so. You know why? It’s because you wore a different path in your brain to enjoyment, pleasure, fulfillment, and nourishment. This is exactly why so many people struggle with dieting that leads to real lifestyle change. They have a path they’ve wore in their brain that cheeseburgers are amazing. For a time, you can diet and get healthier but eventually most of us fall off the wagon because our brains tell us cheeseburgers are amazing.
If you really want to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, you have to face up to the fact that it’s a battle against your brain. Until you realize that your brain doesn’t always think rationally, that it doesn’t always give you the correct information, that it doesn’t always have the right motives…you are fighting a losing battle. That means that sometimes when you want to renew your mind, you’re not going to feel like it. You’re not going to have the desire. That just means you have to blaze a new path in your brain to pleasure. That means that it may feel like work. It’ll remind you of that last diet and exercise program you participated in. Over time, if you stay the course, keeping in mind you have to reprogram your own brain, you too can find that Jesus is the bread of life and as He said “whoever comes to me shall not hunger.” You too can choose the vegetables, spiritually speaking, and as crazy as it sounds, over time you’ll learn to love them!