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June 12, 1997

Be Careful What You Crave

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All man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied. What advantage has a wise man over a fool? What does a poor man gain by knowing how to conduct himself before others? Better what the eye sees than the roving of the appetite. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. ECCLESIASTES 6:7-9
Appetites can save us and kill us. When our stomachs signal hunger, we eat.
Then, when the hunger goes away, we stop eating. Health is the result. But other kinds of appetites have less healthy results.
There is much in life to envy and desire. It is inevitable that we will see things that aren’t ours and that we can’t have: a job, a house, a car, a travel opportunity, a position of power, or a person. Those things parade before us on an everyday basis, and it is very normal for us, every once in a while, to say, “I really wish I had that” or, “Maybe someday I will have that.”
But there is a dangerous progression that we should avoid at all costs: from eye to appetite. As Solomon says, “[b]etter what the eye sees than the roving of the appetite” (Ecclesiastes 6:9).
When presented with an opportunity to envy, we can look the other way, or we can dwell on it. The problem with an appetite—which we develop by dwelling on what we see—is that it continues to grow even after the object is out of our line of sight.
Appetites are not quenched by meditating on them. Hunger does not go away until we eat food. Appetites are a call to action. They are satisfied only by moving toward the object of desire. We want what we crave.
But even if we get we want, our appetites are not satisfied. We want more. The cycle goes on—and Solomon calls that meaningless.
The solution is obvious. When we see something that we can’t have or should not observe, we need to call a quick time-out. We can’t let what we have just seen turn into a full-fledged desire that takes over our behavior.

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