You are what you eat.
You’ve heard the phrase before just as I have, probably in an elementary school health class. I remember hearing it when we were learning about the food pyramid and the importance of having a balanced diet. Then there’s another phrase with a similar meaning:
Garbage in, garbage out.
I first heard this one in the very first computing class I took long about 8th or 9th grade. The idea here was that as the computer would only do what it was coded to do. That if the end program was experiencing a problem, it wasn’t the computer’s fault; it was an issue with the input. The output was just a reflection of what was put in. And here’s another similar phrase with a similar meaning, though a different context:
What you consume will consume you.
This is a helpful little truism that reminds us that the things we take in, whether physically, intellectually, or emotionally, are not innocuous. It’s incredibly naive to think that we can consume whatever we want without any effect to our bodies, minds, and souls. We cannot take in endless amounts of social media, or on screen violence, or sexually explicit content without it changing us. Just as we can’t consume sugar all day and expect our teeth not to tall out, so also should we not expect anything different when it comes to our minds and hearts. What we consume stays inside of us. It grows. Metastasizes even. And eventually it will consume us.
Now we typically think of this principle in negative terms – that we should be very careful with what we consume. We should take this very seriously, especially since we are a consumption driven culture. In many ways, our entire lives are built around consumption. We consume food, media, relationships – you name it. We are living in a gluttonous world, and because we are, we must be very, very aware.
But the principle works both ways, and that’s good news, because there are some things that we want to be consumed by. God’s Word? Passion for Christ? The call to reach the world with the gospel? These are the things that should consume us. The good news, in that respect, is the same as the bad – that what we consume will eventually start to consume us. Consider how Jesus put it:
“Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19-21).
It’s a pretty familiar passage, and we usually think of it in negative terms. That if we spend all our time chasing after temporal things – things that moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, then our hearts are going to follow that investment. That’s certainly one way to understand the passage, but here is another one.
Jesus is giving direction to His followers. He’s saying “don’t store up” and then instead “store up.” These are active commands, things for us to do regardless of how we feel. We can certainly identify with that because we do things we don’t necessarily feel like doing all the time. We get up and exercise not because we are excited to do it, but because we know it’s good for us and we will be glad we did.
Now trace that line out a little further. When Jesus tells us that where your treasure is our heart will also be, it can be read as an action point. That is, you can actually play an active role in where your heart is, and the way you do that is through your investment. Or, as the principle stated earlier, what we consume will eventually consume us.
Flesh it out even more – if you want to be consumed by a love of God’s Word, then consume God’s Word. If you want to be consumed by a passion for Jesus, then consume Jesus. If you want to give yourself away for the spread of the gospel, then make it your practice to feast on gospel opportunities.
If you actually want to be consumed by something, then be very intentional about what you consume. Let’s make sure we are, then, consuming that which we desire to consume us.