Pastor’s viewpoint: April 23, 2106
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University asked themselves why the 45 million people on diets, and the 21 million people struggling with alcohol and/or drug addictions, have such a low rate of success? The folks at Johns Hopkins reported in the journal “Current Biology” that it’s all about rewards. Junk foods, alcohol, drugs, sex, and gambling all push our pleasure buttons; they trigger a flood of dopamine, making us “feel good.”
Susan M. Courtney and her colleagues recruited 20 people to play a simple computer game looking for red objects; they were paid $1.25 for each red object they found and $.25 for each green object. The next day they played another game looking for objects with a particular shape, regardless of color, and there were no cash rewards. But their brains, programmed on the previous day, continued to look for the red objects and they struggled to find the shapes.
“The children of Israel failed time and time again on their way to the promised land, and Paul wrote, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-13 NIV)
If the folks at Johns Hopkins are right, maybe the “pleasures of sin” trigger a flood of dopamine, making us “feel good?” That would explain the failures of God’s people who left the “pleasures of Egypt” for the wilderness and those of us who continue to struggle with the “pleasures of sin” in our own wilderness. The game is over, but we’re still looking for the red objects!
So the Christian life is a process of constantly and continually re-focusing on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Charles ‘Buddy’ Whatley is a retired United Methodist pastor serving Woodland and Bold Springs United Methodist churches, a marketplace chaplain, and with Mary Ella, a missionary to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.