Works of the Flesh
The term “flesh” is a very interesting word. In our world, it can refer to a simple handshake. That social encounter has its roots in medieval times when one warrior would extend a hand to the other. Their hands would be wide open signifying that they had no secret weapons and no intention to do each other harm. They were just “pressing the flesh.”
In the scripture, the term “flesh” has a number of positive connotations. It can refer to normal, healthy sexual relations (“...and the two shall become one flesh.” Eph. 5:31). The apostle John used that same Greek word to refer to Christ’s sinless body in John 1:14 (“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us...”). And in Galatians 2:20, that word refers to the natural body of a believer.
But “flesh” (“sarx”) is also a very negative term in the New Testament. It refers to things that are carnal. It reflects those parts of our lives that are untouched or unchanged by the power of God. The works of the flesh are those parts of me that are not submitted to the Lord.
It is interesting to note though, that in our Bible, there is not a single long list of things that should be avoided because they are “of the flesh.” Paul has lists in I Corinthians, Ephesians, Romans, Colossians and I Thessalonians but they are all different. The works of the flesh range from bitterness, unwholesome talk, anger, and greed to all manner of sexual immorality.
I think the Lord had such a variety of examples listed for us to make a point. The works of the flesh are not restricted to just one kind of sin. They range from attitudes to evil actions. They involve our mind and our body. Truth is, when we choose to allow sin (any kind of sin) to creep in, the works of the flesh are at hand.
So how do we avoid succumbing to the flesh? Well, not too long ago I read a Native American parable about two wolves. It sheds some light on this discussion:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
If we “feed “our flesh, the flesh wins, and ultimately, it will destroy our lives. But if we feed our souls a steady diet of God’s Word and obey what it says, the Spirit wins! And so do we!
Sherry Worel is a Bible teacher at heart and lives a life of ministry. She’s been involved at Coast Hills teaching Women’s LIFE, Bible studies, online courses, devotionals, participating in Upstream conversations, and much more. Having a love for education, Sherry has over 50 years of teaching experience with schools, churches, and mission agencies. As well as earning her Master’s at Talbot Seminary, she rounded out her education with 35 years as Head of School at Stoneybrooke Christian School. Sherry is happiest with a book or fishing pole in hand.