“Just a little more” is a longtime friend of mine.
He takes a seat next to me after dinner. My stomach may be full to the point of protest, but no matter. He points at my empty plate and asks, “How about just a little more?”
He rests on the edge of my bed in the morning as my alarm clock beeps. I may need to be at work in an hour, but he tucks the sheets under my chin and assures me, “Just a little more.”
He follows behind me as I walk my fiancée home. Sure, we’ve established physical boundaries, and we may have already reached the edge of them. But he promises me, “Just a little more won’t hurt.”
Kind, Foolish Friend
Every day, we find some pleasure, enjoy it to the full, and then itch for just a little more: a little more chocolate, a little more wine, a little more sleep, a little more shower time, a little more YouTube, a little more Netflix. We take in some delight that gives our senses a standing ovation, and they won’t sit back down again until they get an encore.
In the moment of gratification, “just a little more” sounds like the voice of a kind friend — so pleasing, so innocent, so reasonable.
And often so foolish. The voice of this pleasant companion frequently keeps us from hearing the words of the wise man: “If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it” (Proverbs 25:16).
Land of Nausea
“Every time I break through God’s fences, and think I’m headed toward ecstasy, I am entering the Land of Nausea.”
Solomon’s proverb reminds us that God has put fences around our bodies — boundaries to keep us from crossing the line between innocent pleasure and excess, between enjoying God’s gifts and abusing them.
Although the fence line between enough and too much might not always be obvious, we often know when we’ve begun to wander outside the bounds. Sometimes, our bodies themselves revolt: if not with literal vomit, then perhaps with a sickly lethargy, as if someone just added two pounds to each limb.
Other times, our bodies may be begging for more, but our Spirit-trained conscience tells us that we have just exchanged self-control for self-indulgence. We have gratified our flesh’s yearning for comfort and silenced the voice of reason. We have found honey, and then we’ve eaten enough for two.
In the moment, of course, the promise of immediate pleasure can make self-control seem silly, stiff, and against all reason. I have often brushed up against the fence line, fully aware that “just a little more” is about to lead me outside God’s yard, and I have kept on walking anyway. I gazed over God’s fences and saw an amusement park. Only afterward did I notice all the sick people lying beside the roller coaster.
“Since Eden,” Derek Kidner writes, “man has wanted the last ounce out of life, as though beyond God’s ‘enough’ lay ecstasy, not nausea” (Proverbs, 159). Every time I break through God’s fences, and think I’m headed toward ecstasy, I am entering the Land of Nausea.
But nausea — whether physical or spiritual — is just the short-term consequence of breaking God’s boundaries. If we make a habit of heeding “just a little more”; if we regularly follow our bodies’ urges, not because we have carefully chosen to do so, but because we have fallen under their sway; if we constantly find ourselves flirting with the fence line, and crossing over anyway, Proverbs paints a picture of our future self: the sluggard.
“Satan robs God’s children one indulgence at a time.”
The sluggard’s course begins quite harmlessly. “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,” he says (Proverbs 6:10). But over time, he finds himself increasingly shackled to his own cravings: increasingly unable to rise from bed (Proverbs 6:9), increasingly dissatisfied (Proverbs 13:4), increasingly numb to the pleasures he once enjoyed (Proverbs 19:24; 26:15), and increasingly reluctant to tame his bodily impulses with hard work (Proverbs 21:25).
When we habitually give in to “just a little more,” we feed the sluggard within: We dull our senses. We refine our selfishness. We wring and squeeze God’s gifts until they break. And we train our bodies to find self-denial offensive.
Ironically, giving in to “just a little more” leaves us with a whole lot less: less pleasure, less dignity, less self-control. Satan robs God’s children one indulgence at a time.
How, then, do we silence the smooth suggestion of “just a little more”? We begin where wisdom always begins: the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7).
And how does the fear of the Lord fill us with self-control? It inclines us to listen to our Father’s voice (Proverbs 1:8). The fear of the Lord inclines us to hear our Father’s “just enough” as stronger, sounder, and altogether sweeter than “just a little more.”
We hear our Father remind us that the boundaries around our senses are not obstacles to ecstasy, but his infinitely wise engineering applied on a bodily scale (Psalm 139:13–14).
“Our Father’s ‘just enough’ is stronger, sounder, and altogether sweeter than ‘just a little more.’”
We hear our Father warn us that our bodies are not our own but have been bought with the blood of Jesus and indwelt by the Spirit of God, who yearns for our holiness (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).
We hear our Father promise us that he keeps his best pleasures in his own backyard, and that he will withhold no good thing from those who prize self-control over self-indulgence (Psalm 84:11).
If we would stop at the fence line long enough to hear our Father’s voice instead of rushing heedlessly forward, we would find ourselves turning around more often. We would put down the glass, rise from bed, clean the dishes, shut down the computer, and gladly refuse even a little more.
Where Good Things Run Wild
G.K. Chesterton writes, “The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild” (Orthodoxy, 9).
Our Father’s backyard is not stiff and solemn, filled with pursed-lipped saints who have scraped up enough self-control to stay within God’s fences. Our Father’s backyard is where good things run wild. Here, our Father delights us with a feast of rich food (Isaiah 55:1–2). Here, the Spirit trains God’s people to walk in self-control and godliness — to enjoy God’s gifts instead of abuse them (Titus 2:11–12).
And here, Jesus walks. Here walks the man who always heard his Father’s voice, who walked in flawless self-control, and who never indulged a sluggish moment. And this same Jesus promises that, if we will abide with him within his Father’s fences, he will fill us with more joy than “just a little more” can ever give (John 15:11).