|This photo, taken in Budapest, Hungary some years ago,|
shows the problem of gluttony and overeating is universal.
Several weeks ago I I heard a sermon on the sin of gluttony for the first time. Over the years I’ve heard preachers speak on a multitude of transgressions, ranging from drunkenness to dishonesty to various forms of sexual misconduct. But I’d never heard anyone address the topic of gluttony, which is defined as “overindulgence and over-consumption of food and drink.”
It wasn’t served up as an entire sermon, mind you. But the pastor devoted a sizable portion of his message to this huge subject. He provided a lot of food for thought, a real smorgasbord of insight on the weighty issue of overeating. No question it was a hefty topic to handle, but he presented it in a very palatable manner. For some of us, the discussion left us hungering for more.
I’m sure that for others, however, gluttony wasn’t the most appetizing item on the sermon menu. “Hey, pastor, you done stopped preachin’ and started meddlin’!”
Why, I wondered, is gluttony so rarely discussed in a setting where other sins are so deftly lambasted? Maybe it’s because gluttony is such a pervasive, seemingly universal problem. In the United States, one in every three persons is obese – at least 35 pounds over a healthy weight – and the vast majority of people weigh significantly more than they should.
And it’s always easier to criticize sins we can’t identify with, such as abuse of alcohol if we’re non-drinkers, or greed among the rich if we’re among the many that can barely pay their bills from one month to the next. But overeating and unhealthy eating? Hey, doesn’t everyone do that? Even many among the poor in our nation wrestle with weight problems.
I’ve often chuckled when traveling evangelists would come into town. On average I’d guess they weight upwards of 300 pounds. There might be power in the blood of Jesus Christ, but apparently not enough to push away from the dinner table – or to find somewhere to exercise regularly.
Perhaps it’s a misunderstanding of Jesus’ statement in the Sermon on the Mount when He declared, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6, King James Version.) Because it seems right after Sunday services almost everybody’s racing to the nearest restaurant to chow down.
Or maybe 1 Corinthians 9:27 is to blame, where the apostle Paul stated, “I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage." (Unfortunately, his word “buffet” is pronounced “buff-it,” not “buff-ay.”)
One other “biblical” justification for gluttony might be 1 Corinthians 6:19, where Paul told believers in ancient Corinth, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?” Yes, the apostle said that, but he wasn’t giving a directive to build bigger temples.
As someone has said, “If sin wasn’t any fun, we wouldn’t want to do it.” I can honestly say I’m never tempted to overindulge on liver, or Brussels sprouts, or turnip greens. Because I don’t like them, and they’re no fun for me to eat. But potato salad, coconut cream pie, grilled sausage or French fries, that’s different.
So, since virtually all of us struggle with this overwhelming sin of gluttony – and too often we lose the battle – let’s just ignore it and focus on more manageable sins, especially those we don’t practice, right?
Only one problem: In the latter portion of 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul makes a troubling observation stripping away our excuse. He wrote, “your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God…. You are not your own….”
There we have it. We are not our own. We’re only stewards of what we have, including our bodies, so we don’t have authority to use and abuse our bodies as we choose. And since, as followers of Jesus, we do have the Spirit of God living in us, we do have the power to overcome this fascination with food.