(Saint Paul Preaching in Athens by Raphael, Public Domain, U.S.A.)
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14)
I am looking at this verse from Romans which instructs us to “make no provision for the flesh.” A modern translation of this verse goes like this:“Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires” (Romans 13:14; New Living Translation). The question I’m asking myself is what value does this verse have for me right here, right now?
The verse clearly says, Make no provision for the flesh. Am I – are you – making provision for the flesh? By “flesh” I believe Saint Paul is talking about our “corrupt inclinations.” In other words Paul is exhorting us not to make accommodations for our fallen nature. There is a “hidden war being waged in the heart of every Christian” between the impulses of the flesh and the guidance of the Spirit. We want to make provision for the Spirit, not the flesh. We need to enable the Spirit to work powerfully in our souls, and to disable the flesh (i.e., our fallen human nature which has a tendency towards evil; see CCC 2515). Paul says elsewhere in Romans 8 that to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is LIFE (8:5).
OK. So how do I – or you – make provision for the flesh, even though we are trying to follow Christ and be faithful to our baptismal promises (where we put on the Lord Jesus Christ)?
– do we listen to music which is sensually provocative when we could have listened to praise and worship music?
– do we watch television programs or movies that tend to excite sexual desire or are otherwise vulgar and base?
– do we peruse internet sites of little value but much danger?
– do we buy a case of beer when we know we already drink too much?
My friend: the verse is clear: do not make provision for the flesh. This is a powerful verse. This is a helpful verse. This can be a life-changing verse! Memorize it and repeat it often. My friend: remember the great value of scripture:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
By not making provision for the flesh you will most certainly grow in holiness.
Tom Mulcahy. M.A.
Ref. By “flesh” Paul does not mean the body per se, but the evil inclination to sin in our hearts which is often transacted through the actions of the body. For this note I am relying exclusively on the commentary in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible for Romans 13:14 and related verses at Romans 7:5 and Galatians 5: 16-24. My note is carved out of those commentaries, especially the second paragraph.
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