Location: Zion National Park, Utah
(1Ti 4:4 NKJ) " 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving;"
I confess... I came to chocolate late in life which, I suppose, validates the charge that I was always somewhat screwed up.
Most kids I know love sweets from day one. Give a 2 year old a choice between turnip greens and a box of chocolates and see how long he or she hesitates. However when I was young I was basically indifferent to candy in any form though I loved pies, especially mother's lemon meringue.
But somewhere all that changed. Now I absolutely love chocolate... especially those that the Swiss put out. I will never forget walking the streets of Zurich and seeing huge buildings with 10 ft tall windows that were filled with chocolates of all types. Man that was good.
But there is a down side to chocolate. Too great an indulgence would be sinful. Soooo... that got me thinking about other stuff... like whiskey, .... or.... cigars.... or .... marijuana.... or .... (fill in the blank).
When are we to judge indulgence in something that appeals to us... that tastes really good... or produces very pleasant effects in us... to be morally wrong, sinful, in and of itself rather than just when it crosses some threshold such that it is only sinful in excess.
Interestingly the Scriptures are not very precise here. With reference to "strong drink" (spirits as opposed to wine) the Proverbs says that "whoever is lead astray by it, is not wise" but it also says that it should be given to someone who "is perishing" (31:6), presumably to ease their pain. John the Baptist, as a New Testament era "Nazarite" was to abstain from both "wine and strong drink." But that is in the category of Paul refraining from marriage so that he could devote himself to ministry without distraction, not a condemnation of it as such.
Certainly, since our bodies are to be regarded as "holy to the Lord" and as a temple of the Holy Spirit, we are to refrain from degrading it in any manner analogous to "joining" it with a prostitute, as Paul teaches. But Paul does not mean that sexual acts, in and of themselves, are degrading. So... does that mean anything and everything that might appeal to us is only constrained by the limitations of "excess" or "used in the proper manner"?
That does go a long way but I don't think it ends with that.
I don't think that masochistic or sadistic experiences can be classified as a "good thing" under any circumstances. I believe that the whole idea of the body being a temple is degraded by those types of activities "in and of themselves" and to any measure. So that leads me to think about such things as marijuana or heroin or cocaine. If we consider those drugs we recognize immediately that even just those three examples represent a spectrum of power and danger. Immediately we can say that the criteria of "in excess" would certainly vary with each even if we (which I am not doing) were to grant that they may not be sinful in and of themselves.
But if we consider them with reference to the masochistic/sadistic idea then we might ask: are any or all of these essentially degrading to the human body/soul in such a manner as to diminish or strip it of its nobility. I think, on the heroin & cocaine end of the spectrum, such a case could be made and may perhaps be self-evidently true. Use of those things does not produce a "good" effect in human beings. Though "wine" and "strong spirits" appropritely used may do so. Jesus partook of wine and was "glad" in heart with his disciples and others. This was obviously "good" and contributes to the idea of the wedding feast which we shall celebrate with Him some day. In Godly company and Godly celebration we can say wine (and by extension, strong drink) can be called "good." I cannot see any such "good" results from heroin and cocaine.
I simply do not know enough about marijuana to comment. The jury seems to be still out on its effect on the human soul/psyche but there seems to be some positive effects on the physical body when appropriately used. I have never touched the stuff (as I have never smoked a cigarette) so I cannot speak of it first hand.
Bottom line: I think that there are activities and substances of which it can be said that the very act of partaking of them is morally wrong. There are others, by far the greatest number, which will be sinful in a subjective context but not in and of themselves.
The criterion for distinguishing between them might be usefully understood in terms of "degrading" effects or which immediately detract from the nobility of human beings as image bearers of God. Suicide is morally wrong for just this reason (though there is no such thing as an excessive amount of suicide).
So, in Christian freedom, we have the to judge how and when that which is not inherently sinful is appropriate to the circumstance and when it is not. We must recognize that those things which become sinful "in excess" are determined to be so based on the same criterion, that it is the point where degradation is the result. And we must realize that some things are in fact inherently sinful in and of themselves because, by definition, the partaking of them is counter to the holiness of God.
That might be a bit fuzzy... but I think it fits. Now... when I get home today... what will I have to go along with the chocolates?