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Gluttony


Q:

Dear Pastor,

Gluttony is a sin but most Christians avoid the issue. Why don’t we address it in the Church?

A:

We don’t address it because we believe it’s a “legal” sin, like white-lies, cuss-words and horoscopes. But God tells us there is no acceptable sin; no half-truths, vulgar speech or dabbling in darkness. Why? Because Jesus gave his life to save us from those things, that’s why.


You’ve put your finger on one of my pet-peeves about the Body of Christ. Some of the worst cases of rampant gluttony I know are visible in people who are in church every week or leading one. Congregations love to brag about their pot-lucks, pitch-ins and carry-in dinners. Indeed they are legendary. But no one wants to talk about the calorie counts attached to them.


Gluttony is a sin and it’s one of the worst. It kills us, frankly, like many other vices. We’ve all seen the gasping, sweating TV evangelist working up to a heart attack as he strips off his size fifty-two suitcoat to muscle in on a particular point of scripture. Some of us have prayed silently while a corpulent but renowned church-cook engulfed a creaking, folding chair at the ladies social. We see the results of this unmentionable sin in every church in the land. Why do we diminish the problem? Some church cultures even encourage it.


One of my best clergy friends came for lunch. (Leafy salad plates with grilled chicken.) I decided to do a little research by asking her your question. “Well,” she said, “I gave up alcohol, drugs, sex and tobacco when I came to serve the Lord. Food is the only thing I’ve got left!” My friend, a twenty-year clergy veteran, has been on a hundred-pound, weight-loss journey for years. I sympathize with her, but we are without excuse.


Some Christians have indeed recovered from the abuses of other, more taboo vices. They’ve finally arrived at the place of victory, yet now must face the most difficult challenge yet: self-control over a substance their bodies need to live. In my Weight Watcher meetings of years ago, I heard a great testimony: “Problem is,” he said, “with booze, drugs and women, I could put the habit down and never pick it up again. With food, I have to take that tiger out of the cage every day…wrestle it…then lock it back up without getting scratched.” Exactly. Food requires greater self-control because it’s not a black and white issue. And I don’t need to tell you how over-eating and poor diet have infected the general public—food demons invade our households by the truckload via television ads and enticing, coupon mailers.


Alas, the scriptures thankfully align us with the truth through King Solomon in Proverbs 23:2:“Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.”(NIV) No, he isn’t suggesting a suicidal act of violence over a two-pound steak. He’s addressing the seriousness of the idea that if you are lacking in self-control...and tend to over-indulge...you’ll need to hold your urges and appetites at knifepoint if you want to live well. When we consider the biblical details of King Solomon’s failures, his advice is noteworthy. Self-control now comes to us through the Holy Spirit; it is an important mark of Christian maturity and vital to our lives.


King Solomon leaves us with fatherly advice: “Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” (Proverbs 23:19-21) He knew a thing or two about self-indulgence and where it could lead.


The bottom line is easy and I’m sure we all know it: our bodies are beautiful creations; works of the Lord. Let us each steward our temple of the Holy Spirit like it actually is one.

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