Once on an assignment to China, our team had a surprise invitation from one of our host affiliate’s staff. It was his wedding banquet and we were invited to his home which was two and a half hours’ car ride from the city. It was a working week day and we arrived at this very imposing three storey home on a farm, not expecting to see so many people in the celebration. There were business friends of the bride and groom, relatives from afar and their large extended family comprising more than 100 people. When lunch was called, we were seated around 40 tables of 10 persons per table. Lunch was from around noon to six in the evening for we had a 20 course lunch including roast suckling pig, a must- have at celebrations of such significance. Chinese wine was flowing with lots of “bottoms up” all round (signalling a fresh round of glass refills with wine) and everybody was in a celebratory mood.
At the end of the lunch there was so much food left- we had a surfeit of food. In the Meriam Webster dictionary the definition of surfeit is
1. an excessive or immoderate amount
2. overindulgence, esp in eating or drinking
3. disgust, nausea, etc., caused by such overindulgence
Do you know that Jesus warned us against surfeiting ? ”And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” – Luke 21:34 KJV
In this passage about surfeiting, Jesus warns us that our focus must be on the spiritual and not on the natural. If we find ourselves over indulging and living a life of excess, then when it’s time to meet our Maker we will surely not be prepared and that day will over take us unaware.
Music, dancing and merriment usually attended all such festivities. Certainly the ancient Hebrews, like other peoples of the ancient East, were very fond of social feasting, and in Christ’s day had acquired, from contact with Greeks and Romans, luxurious and bibulous habits, that often carried them to excess in their social feasts.
(1) In view of existing customs and abuses, Christ taught His followers when they gave a banquet to invite the poor, etc. (Luke 14:13), rather than, as the fashion of the day called for, to bid the rich and influential
(2) “Banquets” were usually given in the house of the host to specially invited guests (Luke 14:15; John 2:2), but much more freedom was accorded to the uninvited than the Westerners are accustomed to, as one finds to be true everywhere in the East until a few years ago. In traditional families, it used to be if parents were invited, it was as if the whole extended family were invited and so was one reason for the excess food provided.
(3) “Banquets” were considered normal parts of weddings as they are now throughout the East. Jesus and His disciples were bidden to one at Cana in Galilee, and he accepted the invitation (John 2:2), and wine-drinking was a part of the feast. The “banquet” Levi gave was in Christ’s honor (Luke 5:29). There were numbers present and marked gradations in the places at table (Matthew 23:6; Mark 12:39; Luke 14:7; 20:46). Guests were invited in advance, and then, as time-pieces were scarce, they specially notified when the feast was ready, which helps to explain Christ’s words (Matthew 22:4), “All things are ready: come to the marriage” (compare Luke 14:17; Esther 5:8; 6:14).
(4) Matthew tells us (Matthew 23:6) that the Pharisees “love the chief place at feasts.”
In a country with one of highest rates in increase of millionaires (no I am not included here nor covetous to be included, for He has been true to His Word, in supplying all that I have needed) in the last few years, one of the hobbies of the newly -rich Singaporeans, is to chase every new dish, every new restaurant and relishing the new offerings of old foodie establishments. We are in the race to be a major international centre for culinary excellence. What’s next? Being a small nation with limited space, the occupation with “good, expensive” food is one of a few indulgences available. I fear we may be surfeiting and falling into the trap which Jesus warned us to avoid. I pray we will be wise to practice restraint not only for our physical good but also for our spiritual good, that we will be ready for the soon return of our Lord.
On second thoughts, it is not only excess with food that could stumble us in our efforts to be ready for the Lord’s return. Any excessive interest in the cares of this life, in anyone, activity, indulgence and subject could be a stumblingblock. So beware and take stock – do you have an “idol” which will stop you from being ready for the Lord’s return?
It may be morn, it may be night or noon. We know He’s coming soon.