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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “The Secret of My Excess”

I hope that none of us can have such a “slippery slope” decline as Spike did in this episode, but for a 22 minute children’s cartoon it did illustrate a good point.

Spike first learned that he could get presents for his birthday from someone besides Twilight Sparkle. After that, he found out he could use that as an excuse to “extort” more gifts from others. Before long he was simply just taking whatever he saw, and caring less and less about the effect he was having on others in the process; only about getting more things and sating his own greed. After that, his very body and personality began to change until he literally turned into a gigantic, greedy monster.

Well, it’s safe to say that in real life we won’t see anything like that happen. Yet while one may argue that “Dragon Greed” is something that’s more specific to a fictional show, it serves as a decent metaphor for more real life situations. In particular in regards to thought life.

I find “thought life” to be somewhat of a controversial subject in Christianity. There seems to be a touch of dispute on whether or not a sinful thought indicates a sin in and of itself, or, if so, what even indicates a “sinful” thought. Such ties into the nature of temptation, and whether or not we can consider temptation in and of itself sinful, what constitutes a sinful temptation, or if it’s only at the point where we would act on the temptation if we got an opportunity that there’s a sin. Some think it’s not a crime to think about things if we don’t act on them; others seem to think even considering something different in terms of doctrine is an act against God.

I’m not sure what the “right amount” of control is or what is going-too-far specifically. I think that may be a question an individual needs to answer for themselves as a result of a closer relationship with God; confronting them with the truth about the matter. But regardless of “when the sin occurs” in regards to thought life, it’s still important to maintain a healthy thought life along with a moral, spiritual, and physically healthy life.

In Phillipians 4:8, Paul states: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Furthermore, in Colossians 3:1-2, he also says: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” To help put both of these quotes into better perspective, I add a more contemporary one from Napoleon Hill:

“Whatever your mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.”

On the surface, this quote merely seems to be something encouraging and motivating. The fact is, however, that it can also be seen as a dire warning. Spike, like most people, didn’t just suddenly turn around and “be evil” one day. It all started off in the mind.

Walking around, seeing things every day, you spot something that sticks with you. Maybe it’s an opportunity to be dishonest. Maybe it’s a chance to “get a little extra”, such as Spike did. Maybe it’s something that makes you feel a little angry or hateful toward another.

What happens after that, however, depends on whether or not we keep it in mind. If we go back to it several times that day. If we think about it in a bit more detail, how easy or hard it would be, how we might avoid being caught, and so on and so forth. As the thought continues to linger, it becomes a desire. And as desire continues to be mulled over, it becomes a temptation. And if the temptation is indulged, it becomes a passion. And if we keep thinking about it after that, eventually will act on it…

Then it most certainly becomes a sin, but the battle was already won or lost within the mind.

This episode isn’t a perfect analogy, but by the time Spike’s mind was set on accumulating more for himself, nothing else mattered. Not external discipline. Not help from his friends. Only what his thoughts were dead-set on. Again, this was a case of “Dragon Greed”, but the same can apply here in a sense.

Cain didn’t immediately kill Abel right after his own offering was rejected. It stewed on his mind for a while. He nursed the grudge more and more until he could indulge it, even after God himself warned him to get control of his thoughts. Saul continued to think again and again of David taking over his kingdom until, in spite of David being a faithful subject, he waged a relentless campaign to have him killed…ironically eventually leading to fulfill the very thing he feared by setting him up to become his successor. David himself ruined his family and almost his kingdom because he kept indulging himself thinking about Bathsheba, eventually leading to him committing adultery and causing the death (really murder-by-proxy) of one of his own most faithful followers.

For something more applicable to us, it’s the process of how we acquire a “dead conscience”, as said in the fourth chapter of 1 Timothy. Starting off entertaining an idea, thinking about it, changing it to a desire, rationalizing it more and more, and finally acting on it.

It doesn’t have to simply be “outward sin” either. The need for a healthy thought life appears on our outlook on the world too. Consider the fact the Bible tells us, quite simply, to love one another. It says it all the time throughout the New Testament, and all of us like hearing it and endorse it wholeheartedly in Church. But then…we hear a story about some tragic crime or killing, and the culprit was a member of “that group” or “that religion”. And we get the thought in our head that “this group = that crime”. We see people in anguish or pain or crying and we think more about that and start wanting blame…or vengeance. Then we start watching the news or other reports, looking for other examples of it happening as a result of “that group”. We see it, and immediately it reinforces those thoughts even if there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary. Makes us think even more about it. Finally we start drawing conclusions on “that group” as a whole and we start distrusting them. We continue to distrust, and eventually we dislike. Then we hate. Finally we reach the point where we don’t care what happens to them, because our minds immediately tell us “they had it coming”, “they’re all bad”, “we’re better off without them”, “they should burn in Hell”, etc….and all while at the same time continuing to say “Amen! Amen!” to sermons about loving one another.

There’s a dead conscience for you. And it can do with racism, stereotypes, political ideology, or anything that basically makes us feel comfortable to “sit there hating those people” all the time.

Furthermore, an unhealthy thought life also extends to what we think about ourselves. If I see myself as a chronic failure, a miserable, worthless individual, and no good to God or anyone else, that’s all I’ll ever try to become. And the more I think about it, the more I’ll conform to that image. What the mind dwells on, the person becomes.

Of course, the opposite is true as well. If we constantly think about caring for other people, seeing how we can minister to them, considering them as all valuable in the Eyes of God, and visualizing ourselves rising above this world and aspiring to Jesus, then our actions will begin to reflect that as well. If we fantasize about what we can do to share the Gospel or being living witnesses to others, if we think about how we could do it, change it from a pleasant thought to a desire, and then finally act on it…we can do good in that regard as well. Just as “vision” can gradually lead to sin, it can also be used to bring about the Kingdom of God.

To me, that’s what Paul is really trying to say in his message. The more you think about something, the more likely you are to act on it. Therefore, he encourages us to think about what is “above” rather than what’s in the world. To think about things “worthy of praise” so that we’ll seek about making those things a reality.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for everything in my life you have placed there that is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable. I pray that I develop an ‘obsession’ for these things so I will be eager to put them into practice in my life. And if my own thought life is focusing on things that are not of you or are evil, then please help me to banish them from my mind before I reach the point that I try and act upon them. Please create in me a clean heart and a clean mind. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”