Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. – Romans 13:14
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.
17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.
Making provision, being prepared for potential future realities can have good or bad results. The coronavirus of 2020 demonstrated that neither the United States nor the rest of the world was prepared. No one seems to have made appropriate provision for a pandemic. Pandemics are infrequent occurrences. However, planning and preparing for potential pandemics are necessary to ensure an effective response.
“The coronavirus is not unlike the Y2K bug – a real but invisible risk. When a hurricane or an earthquake hits, the danger is evident, the risk self-explanatory, and the aftermath visible. It is obvious when to take shelter, and when it’s safe to come out. But viruses lie below the threshold of the senses. Neither peril nor safety is clear. Prevention may be better than cure, but it is also less visceral.”
“And the desire to name an antagonist, be it the Chinese Communist Party or Donald Trump, disregards the many aspects of 21st-century life that made the pandemic possible: humanity’s relentless expansion into wild spaces; soaring levels of air travel; chronic underfunding of public health; a just-in-time economy that runs on fragile supply chains; health-care systems that yoke medical care to employment; social networks that rapidly spread misinformation; the devaluation of expertise; the marginalization of the elderly . . .”
“It may be easier to believe that the coronavirus was deliberately unleashed than to accept the harsher truth that we built a world that was prone to it, but not ready for it.”
“In the classic hero’s journey – the archetypal plot structure of myths and movies – the protagonist reluctantly departs from normal life, enters the unknown, endures successive trials, and eventually returns home, having been transformed.”
“If such a character exists in the coronavirus story, it is not an individual, but the entire modern world. The end of its journey and the nature of its final transformation will arise from our collective imagination and action. And they, like so much else about this moment, are still uncertain” (Ed Yong, The Atlantic, April 29, 2020).
Making provision for the flesh is an utterly different matter. It involves preparation and planning to do something which can only have negative consequences. In the first century, the Romans were infamous for wild parties and gross orgies. They included excessive consumption of intoxicating beverages and illicit moral behavior. That is probably what Paul had in view.
But for those of us in the 21st century, it is often far more tame and “acceptable.” Overeating, overindulging ourselves, is an example that readily comes to mind. Before the eating, comes a visit to the local grocery store marked by the purchase of an overabundance of food. We wind up putting on a few extra pounds and get used to living self-indulgent lifestyles. This is a perfect example of making provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.
Paul’s answer is simple, do not do it.
Today we might employ techniques such as selective shopping and portion control. The underlying desire of our human flesh is always present. “The flesh here is the old, corrupt nature. It incessantly cries to be pampered with comfort, luxury, illicit sexual indulgence, empty amusements, worldly pleasures, dissipation, materialism, etc. We make provision for the flesh when we buy things that are associated with temptation, when we make it easy for ourselves to sin, when we give a higher priority to the physical than to the spiritual. We should not indulge the flesh even a little. Rather, we should ‘give no chances to the flesh to have its fling’” (JBP).
But we are advised and exhorted to take active control over our preparation not to carry out the desires of our flesh.
REFLECT & PRAY
“We know we should avoid a certain place, but we go there anyway. We recognize a personal weakness for a particular activity, but we tempt ourselves anyway. How often do we fall into sin because we plan for it” (Stanley)?
Father encourage me to exercise discipline and self-control and make no provision for the flesh.
The Greek noun translated provision is pronoia, from Greek verb pronoeo. It means to take thought for, to know ahead, be concerned about, plan a way to provide for, thoughtful planning to meet a need. The noun pronoia is simply translated to make provision, make preparation. In modern English, we would say “be ready” or “be prepared.”
We are not merely exhorted to avoid making provision to indulge our flesh. We are advised to do something very positive in its place. This has to do with lifestyle and personal discipline, patterns of behavior, habits, even addictions.
Rather than focusing on and thinking about how to indulge ourselves, we are instead to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Putting on Christ is taken from the metaphor of putting on clothes. Each day we choose what we are going to wear. Some of us do meticulous planning and coordination of our outfits for any given occasion.
To “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ means to become more like Him, to receive by faith all that He is for our daily living. We grow on the basis of the food we eat. This is why God warns us not to make provisions for the flesh. If we feed the flesh, we will fail; but if we feed the inner man the nourishing things of the Spirit, we will succeed (Wiersbe).
We have the choice and freedom to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. We can adopt His lifestyle. We can choose to live as He lived, we can allow Him to be our Guide and Example.
When Augustine (354-430 A.D.) read Romans 13:14, he was convicted by the Holy Spirit, and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. Augustine was brilliant but exceedingly craven, self-indulgent, and fleshly. “He surrendered to the Lord. He has been known in history ever since as ‘Saint’ Augustine” (MacDonald).
Romans 13:14 Clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And do not let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.