Our consumption habits have all been rocked by a seismic earthquake called Covid-19.

Simple things like a haircut or a quick run to the grocery store are not what they were a few months ago. How we consume has been disrupted.

But what we consume can be deceptive. We think of the actual physical aspects, but rarely consider how it conforms our inner thoughts and shifts our heart’s affections. Have you ever considered the fact that what we consume displays our true loves?

Besides the typical expectation of the word consume representing things we use as a customer, Merriam-Webster dictionary has a few varying definitions. Two of them are especially important to Christ-followers: “to devour” — when you might enjoy something avidly; and “to engross” — when you might be fully engaged in activity.

To devour or to engross oneself in an activity typically reflects great interest and desire. James K. A. Smith asks a revealing question in his book You Are What You Love: “What if you are defined . . . by what you desire?” This is an interesting question, as the things you desire are indicative of your heart’s longings — your loves.

During this time of quarantine, many have tackled some major spring cleaning. However, this could be a great time to do some major spiritual spring cleaning as well.

When we think of consumption, we typically attribute it to physical products. But what about the philosophies, values and worldviews we consume on a daily basis in the entertainment we choose to watch, music we listen to and advertising that bombards us? Let’s pull back the covers on both physical products and these more subtle consumptions that are vying for our hearts and minds.

The Physical Things We Consume

First, let’s talk about products.

An article in Psychology Today observed that “In a culture so intertwined with consumption, it’s inevitable that the things we own come to represent us as people. This practice can be innocuous, but it can also represent unhappiness and dissatisfaction with our identities.”

As children of God, if we seek to identify ourselves in anything other than who we are in Him, we are deceiving ourselves and placing our foundation on shifting sand.

Paul reminds us of our true identity in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 (ESV): “Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that an idol has no real existence, and that there is no God but one. For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth — as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ — yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

Can you truly believe, as C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory, that “He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only”?

The Subtle Things We Consume

Next, what about the subtle things we consume? Often, without even thinking, these more subtle creatures create habits of thought and leave an impact on our hearts and minds.

1 John 5:21 warns the readers to “keep yourselves from idols.” The word keep here has the meaning of guard against. But “wait a minute,” you say, “How did we get on the topic of idols? I thought we were talking about the word consume.”

That’s the thing — if we don’t guard against and are not intentional about the things we ingest (or consume), they can creep into areas of our heart and develop pockets of compromise.

We are often more concerned about consuming comfort than faithfulness.

What we consume shows patterns of thought and can be an indicator of misplaced love. I say misplaced because shouldn’t our first and unadulterated love be to God alone?

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 4:10 (ESV), “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.” Who you worship is who you serve. It can also be said that what you worship is what you serve. Paul described the believers in Thessalonica as those who “turned to God from idols to serve the true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9, ESV).

If someone only knew you by what you consume, how would they describe you?

Christ-followers live with a fresh, hopeful perspective of God’s purpose and work in their lives. We should grow closer daily to our God, and our lives should reflect more of His Son Jesus. What we consume has a direct correlation to how we grow and what we reflect.

When was the last time you took inventory of your consumption habits? Perhaps it’s time for some intentional disruption.

Take time to reflect on your heart’s condition:

  • What are you consuming that is healthy for your soul?
  • What are you consuming that could be poisoning the soil of your heart (and planting seeds of compromise)?
  • Are you placing any of your identity in brands, experiences, etc., to signal worth to others?
  • What thinking have you let linger that is destructive to living fully for God?

Originally published in Grit and Virtue, July 2020. Photo by Claudio Schwarz, used by permission.

Laureen Mgrdichian has been an associate professor at Biola since 2012, and teaches in the area of marketing, consumer behavior, leadership and entrepreneurship. To learn more about the programs at Crowell School of Business, visit the school’s website.