Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chewing on the Word

Image from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

We're coming down to the end of our Seven Deadly Sins series.  Sloth, Pride, Envy, Anger, Lust, Greed--and finally, this week, Gluttony.  I'll be presenting on this topic tonight using the following scriptures: Proverbs 23:19-21, Luke 16:19-31; Romans 15:15-20; Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 5:6; John 4:34; Romans 15:15. You can read them all by clicking here.

We've been using "dirty rags" to symbolize each of the sins.  The "dirty rag" for gluttony is orange, the color of harvest.  My dictionary says "Gluttony" is "the act or habit of eating too much." Drinking too much fits along with this too.*

As we've said before, there is no list of "Seven Deadly Sins" in the Bible. No sin is better then others.  The wages of sin is ______ [death] (Romans 6:23).  James 2:10 says: "Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking ______ [all of it]."  But this old list of deadly sins, put together by the Catholic church more than a thousand years ago--it does hit on many of the ways we honestly do offend God.  And, with gluttony on it, along with anger and greed and lust, we can see how seemingly "innocent" sin can be.  It also shows us how we need to be guided, not by our natural human nature, but by God's Word.

The truth is that gluttony, along with so many of these other so-called "deadly sins"... The truth is that gluttony seems to be programmed into our DNA.  We are born to eat!  We are genetically programmed for scarcity.  Naturally, by our own human nature, when we see food, we eat.  But just because we are born a certain way that doesn't determine what is right.  Proverbs 30:15 speaks of things that never say "enough" -- I would add appetite to that list.

We have HUGE appetites.  We citizens of the United States consume about twice as much as we really need.  And that hurts us!  50% of Americans are either overweight or obese and this takes years off our lives.  Our national weight problem is a huge public and private health issue.  It adds costs to health care and all of us pay more in insurance because of this problem.

This morning we pastors were up at Daniel's restaurant.  After meditating on the menu... pancakes, eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, french toast, hash browns or American fries... one of the pastors presented a devotion based on Proverbs 13:3a and 22:1a.  He said "half a proverb can be enough to meditate on for the whole day." The fact is, one of those breakfasts, for many people in our world--one of those breakfasts could be enough for the whole day.

God's wisdom and human scientific wisdom are in agreement on this.  Minnesota Public Radio is doing a series on this topic this week.  On television, this Friday on channel 5 you can watch "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" (click colored words for links).

The Lord says this in another proverb:
"Hear, my child, and be wise, and direct your mind in the way. Do not spend your time with heavy drinkers, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe them with rags." (Proverbs 23:20-21)
Gluttony and drunkenness go together in the Bible.  Gluttony is putting too much down our "gullets."  That's where the word "gluttony" comes from.  Our "gullets" are our throats.  Gluttony is lust and greed for food and drink--and whatever else we put in our bodies.*

It's interesting that the first temptation offered to human beings--in the Bible book of Genesis--and the first temptation offered to Jesus--they both involve food.  In Genesis, fruit from "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" and, in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus is tempted to turn stones into bread.

The monks who put together the list of deadly sins understood why.  Monks and nuns and prayer warriors of many kinds know that when we keep from satisfying our every desire we can become more hungry for God.  That is one reason Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights.  It's one reason we have this 40 day season of Lent.

In his Luke 6 sermon, Jesus says:
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
And he continues:
Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.
Satisfying our appetites all the time--that often gets in the way of loving God and loving our neighbors.  You might remember this scripture that we read in connection with the "deadly sin" of LUST two weeks ago from Philippians 3:18-19.  Paul writes:
"...Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things."
The truth is, unless we really focus on God's Word, we can love our food and our drink more than we love God.  That's why we look at "gluttony" and the other deadly sins, to examine ourselves and see what we might love more than the Lord.

But is gluttony really a "sin"?  Does eating too much really offend God?  It may not be wise, but how can this be a deadly sin?  After all, there is no commandment saying "You Shall Not Overeat."  And, besides that, we need to eat and drink.  First Timothy 4:4-5 says:
"For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer."
Obviously, it's not "eating" or "drinking" itself that is bad.  In fact, it's just as harmful to eat too little.  Whatever hurts our bodies, the "temple of the Holy Spirit" as it says in First Corinthians 6:19... Whatever hurts our bodies is an offense against God who made them (see Psalm 139). 

In fact, when we keep mistreating our bodies we can even disobey God's command against murder!  Gluttony--and other harmful things we do--no matter how addictive they are--these things can be a way of gradually killing ourselves.

I have always understood that eating too much is a problem, but until I started studying for tonight's presentation, I hadn't thought of it as a deadly sin. At least not to the level of other sins.  After all--I know a lot of very nice people who overeat!  Pastors, for example, are not very good examples of self-control when it comes to food.  I heard a presentation once saying that if pastors were "average" in health instead of being less healthy than usual churches could save a lot on health insurance expenses.

And I can't set myself up as any kind of example.  Honestly, one big reason I'm not overweight is because I'm selfish.  I need to feel good if I'm going to do my work.  Some people can, but I can't seem to do it.  If I don't feel good it's hard for me to do anything--so, because I want to feel good, I exercise and watch what I eat.  It's not because I'm better in any way... It is really self-centered to the core.

So, gluttony is sinful because:
  1. It gets in the way of a deeper relationship with God.
  2. It damages the bodies God created for good.
    and, finally
  3. It hurts other people and God's good creation as a whole.
Gluttony is not only is it waist-filling it is wasteful--and what it wastes is the lives of people all over the world--people who simply can't afford to eat what they grow in their own countries because, as we demand more and better food, it changes the way food is available and affordable.

Here's another way my self-centeredness comes in.  I like meat.  In fact, I've been on a high protein - low carb diet for 10 years.  Animal protein makes up a high proportion of my diet.  And, the truth is this: most meat in our country is fed on grain--and this is one reason why almost a billion people in our world cannot get enough to eat.

We use our land to grow grain to feed animals--it is very inefficient and very unhealthy for us.  And our taste for meat, especially beef, our taste for meat is one reason almost 1 billion--really it's about 800 million--our gluttony for meat is one reason people in our world go hungry today.

About 30 percent of our calories come from animals in comparison with 15 percent for the rest of the world.  All the feed we grow and import makes prices go up, and this makes it hard for people in other parts of the world to afford food. 

If we're going to obey God and love our neighbors, we need to pay attention to this.

In Proverbs 30:8-9, the Lord says:
...Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with only the food I need, for if I am full, and deny you, and say, “Who is the Lord?” or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.  (Proverbs 30:8-9)
Let's go to the cross and confess our gluttony.  Jesus died for the sins of the whole world.  He is ready to take this sin too, and to give us a new heart for him, for ourselves, and for the world.

*I would put drugs in this category too.

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