Protect Your Body and Soul

Pastor Jones decided that a visual demonstration would enhance his Sunday sermon. He placed four worms in four separate jars. The first worm was put into a container of alcohol. The second worm was put into a container of cigarette smoke. The third worm was put into a container of chocolate syrup. The fourth worm was put into a container of good, clean, soil. At the conclusion of the sermon, Pastor Jones reported the following results: “The first worm, in alcohol–dead! The second worm, in cigarette smoke–dead! The third worm in chocolate syrup–dead! The fourth worm in good clean soil–alive!”

He then asked the congregation, “What can we learn from the demonstration?” Maxine, an older lady who was sitting in the back quickly raised her hand and said, “As long you drink, smoke, and eat chocolate, you won’t have worms!”

Friends, Maxine certainly missed the point of Pastor Jones’ illustration. The things he was seeking to communicate are important for all of us to keep in mind. The abuse of alcohol is a very serious problem in our culture. Not only is drinking too much bad for one’s health, but it also plays a huge role in many social problems. Alcohol abuse is often a significant factor in divorce, child abuse, juvenile crime, mental illness, financial difficulty, automobile accidents, and poor work performance. The negative health effects of smoking cigarettes are well established. Smoking is also banned from indoor public places because of the danger posed by second-hand cigarette smoke. Though many of us tend to view chocolate as much less of a vice than alcohol or tobacco, consuming too much of it can surely cause health problems. The epidemic of obesity which plagues our nation would almost certainly be less serious if Americans ate fewer candy bars. Too much alcohol, tobacco, or chocolate will not only kill worms, but will destroy many good things in our life.

Yet I fear that the pastor in our little story may also be missing the point of what the Bible teaches. Though alcohol, tobacco, and chocolate are all problems to some degree, I suspect they are not nearly as destructive as things like pride, greed, lust, envy, and selfishness. Jesus warns us, “It is not what goes into a man’s mouth that defiles him, but rather what comes out of his mouth that makes him unclean.” (Matthew 15:11) Pastors (especially Baptist) have sometimes spent much more time and energy warning folks about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and chocolate (at least the first two) than they have calling people to repent of the sins like pride and envy which tend to do far greater damage to both ourselves and others. Yes, it is a good idea to avoid sins that poison our bodies, but we should be far more diligent in avoiding those sins that poison our souls.

The good news, however, is that no matter what type of sins we commit, the Lord promises free and full forgiveness to all who turn to Jesus Christ and place their faith in Him. One of the most wonderful promises in the Bible is found in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
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Dan Erickson