Sunday, January 5, 2014

Take Heed Lest Your Hearts Be Overcharged

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)
This bit comes during Christ’s explanation of the signs of the second coming.

The part that puzzles me is that word “overcharged.”  If it were in a retail context, it would mean “paying too much.”  If it were in an electronics context, it would mean “ too much electricity put in.”  With the list of surfeiting, drunkenness, and cares of this life, it sounds like it is saying some surfeiting, drunkenness, and worldly care is alright, but not too much.  But that rubs us wrong because from what we know of Jesus’ holiness, we can’t imagine He would look upon those things with any degree of allowance, especially among the Saints who are supposed to know better.  (I don’t know if we can totally get rid of worldly care though.. If so, I would love someone to tell me how!)

The word “surfeiting” is kind of tricky too. There is a footnote for it that says “debauchery” and a reference to the Topical Guide to “rioting and reveling.” That seems really odd.  Are the Saints really going to be inclined to debauchery, rioting, and reveling?  That is really out of character for Saints. 

This may be a case where we have to leave the KJV and look at other translations.  I want to call your attention to, which gives parallel verses among a whole mess of translations.  They help us with this particular verse because they give alternate phrasing. 

Overcharged – weighed down/ dulled/ loaded down/ grow cold/ laden

Surfeited – carousing/ dissipation/ self-indulgence/ gluttony/ drunk/ excess

These words above give an overarching sense of excess.  When you add to that drunkenness and the cares of this life, you start to get the feeling that the verse is a warning against excess, even in activities that are lawful in and of themselves.  (Yes, drunkenness is unlawful among the Saints, but there are more things one can be drunk on besides drink or drugs.  Self-indulgence in anything to excess can dull our spiritual sensitivities, even if there is no earthly law against it.)

The Saints know better than to go after the sins of the heathen.  But we get under stress and we have to find ways to relax and recreate our strength.  It is also an article of faith to us to seek after everything that is virtuous, of good report, and praiseworthy.. but we also have a tendency to want to own everything that is virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy.  We like our pleasures a lot, along with our phones, our social media, our TV and Netflix, and so on.  I think Jesus’ warning really is for our day, telling us the excess is dangerous because it keeps us unaware of what’s really happening and lulls us into passivity, just as if we were drunk.

It is amazing to me that this warning was given so long ago for our day.  The warning against excess shows us Jesus knew a time would come when so much would be available that even the Saints could be mesmerized by it.