Do You Recognize the Meaning of What You See?
EATING and drinking are among life’s normal pursuits. Essential? Yes. Enjoyable? Certainly. And yet at times both can cause us problems, generally resulting from either too much or too little.
All of us have seen pictures from some famine-stricken nations of the bloated and emaciated bodies of little children slowly starving to death. But we have also seen evidences of what Dr. Kurt Franke at Germany’s University of Göttingen calls one of today’s most common ailments in the affluent world: obesity. In the Federal Republic of Germany, for example, every second person and every fourth child is said to be overweight.
Being overweight is more than just a matter of looks; it is a major health hazard. The publication Tages-Anzeiger recently warned that “pestilence, war, hunger and death are being followed closely by a fifth apocalyptic rider—superabundance!” It added: “Never before in history have so many eaten so much.” But are people taking note?
Along with the enjoyment of food goes the enjoyment of drink. When used in moderation, this can properly include alcoholic beverages. In many countries the consumption of such alcoholic beverages is on the rise. Note the percentage of increase in consumption of them between the late 1950’s and the early 1970’s in the following countries: New Zealand 13, Canada 17, United Kingdom 20, Sweden 26, United States 32, Ireland 41, Denmark 54, Federal Republic of Germany 61, Netherlands 83.
It is common knowledge that too much alcohol can cause any number of problems for both the drinker and those around him. Excessive drinking damages the liver and the brain and can lead to premature death. New Scientist magazine of February 26, 1981, after restating the well-known fact that alcohol kills brain cells, reports on the holes left by those dead cells and states that the brains of chronic alcoholics are less dense than those of nonalcoholics. An increasing number of individuals and groups, including government agencies, are sounding a warning more loudly and clearly than ever before. But are people taking note?
Not according to Mikolai Tolkan, a Polish scientist. Addressing an international congress on alcoholism, he said alcohol consumption in Poland has increased by 35 percent in five years and warned that this worldwide trend, unless halted, might pose a greater threat to mankind than the atomic bomb. The alcohol “bomb is already ticking away and few people notice it,” he concluded.
The Dangers of Too Much or Too Little
There is no doubt about it. Everywhere we look we see people very much preoccupied with “eating and drinking,” some by choice, others of necessity. What is the chief danger in this? Not in the damage done to physical health—of which people all too often fail to take note, or that they simply ignore—but in the damage done to spiritual health. What do we mean by this?
An abundance of food and drink can make a person smug and overly self-confident. With so much attention directed toward the satisfying of physical cravings, he can become self-centered. Losing sight of spiritual needs, he may even go so far as to deny God, if not in words, at least in actions. The Israelites, before entering the Promised Land, were warned of this danger: “When Jehovah your God will bring you into the land . . . and you shall have eaten and become satisfied, watch out for yourself that you may not forget Jehovah.”—Deut. 6:10-12.
On the other hand, people with too little to eat and drink may be forced to spend most of their time simply struggling to exist. Food, necessary for survival, becomes their main concern, crowding out everything else, including spiritual needs.
This is well illustrated by an experiment conducted in the United States in 1945. A group of men were placed on a “starvation diet” for six months. Afterward it was found that the diet had caused them to become indecisive and pessimistic in spirit, had robbed them of initiative, and had left them almost completely devoid of any interest in spiritual matters.
So as regards food and drink, both overindulgence and undue concern about an insufficiency can damage a person’s relationship with God. Understandable and still appropriate, then, is the prayer of a man who wanted to please God some 25 centuries ago: “Give me neither poverty nor riches. Let me devour the food prescribed for me, that I may not become satisfied and I actually deny you and say: ‘Who is Jehovah?’ and that I may not come to poverty and I actually steal and assail the name of my God.”—Prov. 30:8, 9.
Additional Reason for Taking Note
Happiness requires that we take note of the physical dangers involved in either too much or too little food and drink. But another requirement for happiness was mentioned when Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matt. 5:3) So an undue preoccupation with food and drink that causes us to neglect spiritual needs will never make for lasting happiness.
Consider the unhappiness experienced by the people not “conscious of their spiritual need,” those who lived before the flood of Noah’s day. They were so busy “eating and drinking” that “they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away.”—Matt. 24:38, 39.
Jesus referred to that calamity when his disciples asked him: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” In answer, he said: “Just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” (Matt. 24:3, 37) The people in Noah’s day were so preoccupied with “eating and drinking” and other everyday pursuits that they took no note of Noah’s warning about an impending flood. So it would be, Jesus said, in the “last days” at the time of his return.—2 Tim. 3:1.
Everywhere you turn you can see evidence that people today are indeed preoccupied with “eating and drinking,” oftentimes to the neglect of their spirituality. A warning message is being delivered, but are people taking note?
More important, are YOU?
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Preoccupation with eating and drinking—Is there a danger in this?