Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, lest you have it in excess and vomit it.
A big win is both exciting and dangerous—exciting because suddenly we have our own treasure and dangerous because with it comes instant power.
Whenever we get a big windfall, that's when we desperately need to limit consumption, lest our big win makes us sick.
In previous generations honey was rare and precious. Sugar was unknown. Finding a store of honey was great. Sometimes in life we get lucky. Imagine coming across a big stash or winning the lottery. Why not indulge, especially when it’s unexpected and free. We might be at a party where many hors d’oeuvres are being served or at a potluck abounding with home-made delicacies. We want to pig-out! Alas, self-indulgence is easy but self-control is nearly impossible. The need for restraint may come suddenly and unexpectedly.
OK to Enjoy
The text does not forbid the eating of honey in a stoic lifestyle as if having fun is wrong. It means, “Enjoy, but don’t overdo it and hurt yourself in the process.” We need to be careful. We can have too much of a good thing. The stomach is not the only way to experience pleasure. The human being is not just the stomach. Excess consumption brings trouble, regret, and waste. It can cause more harm than good.
Eat or Store?
Honey is sweet, delicious, and healthy (when properly consumed), but rare and hard to find. Thus, in a land flowing with milk and honey, over-consuming is easy but honey doesn't spoil. It can be kept without refrigeration for many years. People don't have expandable cheeks like a hamster’s mouth. Humans can’t eat and save food at the same time! As the saying goes, “You can’t have your cake and eat it at the same time.” Let’s consider the text broadly.
Just before Vomiting—How much is “Excess”
In discussing the text with my 19-year-old son, he said it advises us to gorge ourselves, but just to the point of vomiting. Of course he’d see it that way; young men inhale food. But no! That’s not the message. Eat to hit the target. Each of us has a zone of tolerance like a safety margin between the ideal amount and the vomit threshold. The text advises us not to push tolerance to the limit. When the text says vomit, it doesn’t refer merely to vomitting but to all excess consumption causing discomfort, lethargy, or indigestion. Excess consumption is really a form of gluttony leading to self-induced poverty.
Optimum not Maximum Consumption
We need to consume the optimum amount. It’s not natural; it’s learned. For us in the developed world, it usually means less, rather than more, erring on the side of too little rather than too much. Our consumer society encourages gorging to the point that consumables not only pollute the environment but also interfere with real living. It’s not a question of how much should I overeat and stop just before I vomit, it’s how much is just enough?
From Rags to Riches
Winning the lottery is often the first thing people think of when they think about “winning big.” It’s exciting and tempting to splurge it because there is a lot of it. However, giving into this temptation is a big mistake and many lottery winners can attest to the “curse” of winning a lot of money. Spending their riches quickly often leaves them with less than they started out with, and can be harmful in many aspects of life. A break-down in a marriage, tumultuous family relationships, and unwanted media attention are just a few ways a big win can prove to be harmful excess.
Here is an excerpt from the National Post: “Big win ‘lottery curse’ begets another riches-to-rags tale,” by Joseph Brean (August 10, 2016).
Money also changes people’s outlook on those close to them, according to H. Roy Kaplan, a sociologist at the University of South Florida, who has surveyed hundreds of winners. He found that people who are already introverted tend to become more anxious and suspicious after they win.
He found Americans tended to move house immediately to areas of established privilege, whereas Canadians tended to renovate. Nearly 80 per cent of winners from both countries quit their jobs, often to their regret, and many who kept working were alienated from co-workers, as if they no longer needed or deserved to be working.
Edward Ugel, author of Money for Nothing: One Man’s Journey Through The Dark Side of Lottery Millions, has said that, of the thousands of winners he interviewed, a few were happy, “but you would be blown away to see how many winners wish they’d never won.”
The story of Jack Whittaker is one of the best examples of a lottery winner turned loser.
Upon winning $314 million in a 2002 lottery, a happy business owner (Mr. Jack Whittaker) expressed noble desire. He wanted to start a charitable foundation, put laid-off workers back on the job, and do nice things for his family. Already wealthy, he told reporter the big win wouldn't change him. A few years later, a follow-up article described a different outcome. Since winning the biggest of all lotteries, the man had run into legal problems, lost his personal reputation, and gambled away all of his money.1
Look up the Key Word “Lottery” to read more about this topic.
Enjoy it NOW
The lure to immediate gratification and excess consumption is amplified when one or more of the following conditions prevail:
- The unexpected abundance comes during a time of scarcity.
- The consumer has no clear long-term goals, or if he has goals they lack strong conviction, making the consumer vulnerable to any sort of passion.
- Easy credit with low interest rates—they make debt very alluring.
The Savings Alternative
When stored in clean and dry containers honey keeps well even without refrigeration. Honey found in the Egyptian pyramids in the 19th century was still edible. The point is this: If you find honey, get a windfall, strike it rich, win the big one, hit the jackpot, find gold, or some other surplus, don’t go on a wild spending spree. This means you must re-channel the surplus to another positive goal, even if it’s delayed. It means setting some pre-determined limits. The text advises you not to over-consume. It does not tell you to ignore the extra honey. You can and likely should collect all the honey you found. Just don’t eat too much too quickly. Proverbs 21:20 praises those who show self-control and store excess rather than consume excess.
Need or Greed
The expression “only take what you need” is easier said than done. Usually need soon becomes greed—especially when something is found rather than earned. People usually don’t find deposits of honey as if they were just lying around, but every now and then they come across a big sum of money (e.g. lottery winnings). Free, non-taxable money is a big win indeed, and it easily awakens the grizzly giant, greed. Greed is like a black hole—never resolved or satisfied. Need, on the other hand, is finite with a specific end-point.
Where does the power come from to stop when we have such a strong magnetic pull to consume immediately? It’s even worse when we do the wrong thing, all the while knowing it is wrong. It is an external power. It is not in-born, at least not from the first birth. Read on to find out about a second birth.
Our Maker, Saviour, and Friend
Jesus warned us about all types of greed (Luke 12:15) and one type of greed is self-indulgence. Greed does not stimulate business, greed poisons it. Greed is not life giving, but life taking.
In contrast to greed Jesus promised to reward wise consumption. “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?” (Emphasis added, Luke 12:42). Their “rations” speaks of proper quantity and “the proper time” speaks of the importance of good timing. Hence Jesus looks for controlled consumption and that implies some planning/budgeting. A good manager maintains a disciplined organization and does not abuse his power for self-indulgence.
It takes supernatural power in order to exercise control and such power comes from a transformed life—a new life not a new leaf. It’s described in John 3:3-17. This birth from above, from the spirit of God, produces many benefits including self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
- Memorize the text in your favourite Bible translation and think about it often.
- Have fun but don’t overdo it and hurt yourself in the process. Enjoy a freebie but don’t get greedy.
- Make a plan to handle windfall profits or any anticipated large cash inflows such as an inheritance. Financial planning usually includes a budget.
- Discover the secret to self-control at The World’s Secret Desire—an excellent article by Ed Welch, author of “Addictions – Banquet in the Grave.” Here’s an excerpt:
Every generation discovers that life without boundaries is quickly followed by slavery to our passions, and slavery is followed by misery. If you want to peddle the perfect elixir, offer one that gives self-control. We all want it and need it.
Which of these steps, if any, does Jesus want you to take now? Ask Him.