Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

No Sympathy for the Fat Guy

burritoSince when has my diet and weight been a matter of sin and judgment?

Or, Can I enjoy watching Man Vs. Food without feeling shame?

Every Christmas the secular media bombards us with guilt inducing special reports gravely warning us to lay off the turkey, ham, and prime rib dinners, along with all that other awesome, high calorie food that makes us happy, or we will die early, pathetic deaths. It was no different this past Christmas.

Usually the reports are 2 minute “health” segments on channels like CNN narrated by a gorgeous reporterette who could easily have a second job as a Victoria’s Secret lingerie model. She earnestly cites health stats on obesity accompanied by video images of the torsos of large bottomed men and women walking down the street. If we don’t watch what we eat, and start eating healthy foods, like Brussels sprouts, we risk eating ourselves into a heart-attack or death by diabetes; or worse, living a shortened life of crippling scorn and ridicule as an unpopular fat person who sweats a lot and has to wear ill fitting clothes with elastic waste bands like they sell at Wal-Mart.

I guess I expect our worldly society to obsess over our diets. Progressive ideology has permeated our Western culture the last century or so, and has made health and fitness an idol that must be obeyed in order to have a meaningful life.

It’s annoying, however, to see Christians latch onto this health and fitness thinking and assign it some weird, spiritual value. Generally, there are two groups. First are the modern food pharisees, who insist that eating kosher food as outlined in the Bible is the true, spiritual Christianly thing to do. If we would only eat “God’s ordained food” and not those things “processed by man,” all the cancer in the world would dry up and we would live to like 170 or more.

The second group equate the sin of gluttony with eating too much and being overweight. Thus, if you happen to enjoy eating the 2600 calorie “Mega Onion” appetizer from Claim Jumpers or where ever, you’re calling down the wrath of God upon your head.

Two articles I encountered this past Christmas take this second approach regarding the Christian and his food. First is an article by a Baptist missions director, It’s the Most Wonderful Sin of the Year, in which he comes close to likening overeating (a picture of a fat guy scarfing down a bowl of potato chips illustrates the article) to being an unforgivable sin. He also berates preachers for not preaching against overeating enough from the pulpit.

Think about that article’s title a moment. “Sin” implies a violation of God’s law. Is this writer seriously telling me that if I have a hankering to have a piece of pumpkin pie AND a piece of chocolate pie at the same time after my rich, starchy holiday meal, I am sinning against God? Really?

The second article I read is entitled, Jesus Died for Your Food Coma, and the author of this article, like the author of the first article, erroneously equates gluttony with overeating. In fact, a definition of “gluttony” is provided which is defined as “habitual greed or excess in eating.” To really nail it home, Jerry Bridges “Respectable Sins” is cited. Man. mentioning Jerry Bridges makes the bumps stand up on your arm, doesn’t it?

The problem with both these articles, and the recent wave of bloggers who errantly equate gluttony with overeating, is that the Bible doesn’t define gluttony as “overeating;” certainly not “overeating” as in eating heaps of Buca Di Beppo’s “Mama Mia’s Spaghetti and Meatball Family Dinner Platter.”

I left some comments at that second article challenging the definition of gluttony that is provided. One fellow responded by asking me “how then does the Bible define gluttony?”

beastCertainly, the concept of “gluttony” is not directly defined in Scripture. In fact, as the author of that first article notes, it is rarely mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, around 6 or so times to be exact. In order to get an understanding of “gluttony,” the surrounding context has to be considered where the word is found.

The first mention of “gluttony” is in Deuteronomy 21:20 And they shall say to the elders of his city,`This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.”

There are a few observations to be made from this text. 1). First, note the overall context is parents bringing a son to the city elders in order for them to pass judgment upon him. Their judgment against him could lead to his execution by stoning. 2). Next, gluttony is tied to being a drunkard. He not only is eating a lot, but drinking himself drunk. 3). Third, the parents’ testimony of the son is that he is “stubborn and rebellious,” meaning that he refuses to receive instruction, is obstinate against both parental and civil authority, and it is implied that he is living a life flaunting God’s law and not fearing the Lord at all. Eli’s two good-for-nothing sons, Hophni and Phinehas fit this description (1 Sam. 2:12-17).

There a couple of Proverbs that mention “gluttons.” Proverbs 28:7 is the most relevant for our discussion and it reads, Whoever keeps the law is a discerning son, But a companion of gluttons shames his father. Notice that a discerning son is said to be one who “keeps the law.” Simply put, he loves and fears the Lord. However, the son who is “a companion of gluttons” is the son who shames his father. It’s implied he doesn’t keep the law, nor does he fear God. The verses following contrast a good son with the ones who extort from the poor, who despises God’s law, and intentionally leads righteous people astray.

In the NT, Jesus is accused of being a “winebibber and a glutton” and eating with sinners (Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34). Sinners in this case being defined as tax collectors (those who extort money), and other assortment of sinners. When Paul wrote Titus, he mentions how Cretans are “liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons.” liars are in the same category as gluttons, who are described by the adjective, “lazy.” These describe people who are morally unscrupulous and basically ungodly with their behavior and lifestyle.

Now, when we pull together all the scant discussions of gluttony mentioned in the Bible, do we seriously think it is Bubba the deacon who is in mind? A guy who is an outstanding Christian who teaches Sunday school (and is a Calvinist!), but who happens to be 50 pounds overweight and enjoys eating a big breakfast at Bob Evans every Saturday morning with his family?

Gluttony is certainly a sin, but overeating on Thanksgiving is not gluttony. If it is, how exactly are pastors to confront this sin? What is the “standard” for overeating? Wouldn’t it be different from one person to the next? I had a friend in college who was in tremendous physical shape but ate like a horse. He had a high metabolism. He could easily consume 3 or 4 big macs and they wouldn’t do a thing to his health. The author of the second article above suggests that a person’s high metabolism is not an excuse for “overeating.” But why? One person’s “overeating” may be normal eating for another person as long as there are no dire health consequences.

If overeating is gluttony, and pastors should take up the call to condemn the sin of overeating from the pulpit, are these folks prepared to exercise church discipline against obese people who eat too much? Seriously. If overeating is “sin” that means these people are violating God’s Word. They need to be called to repentance and if they don’t repent, then the elders move to the steps of Matthew 18.

Again, this means we need to have in place a standard of measurement for obesity and overeating. The Bible is absolutely silent regarding such standards, and knowing that the standards put out by the government are for the most part absurd, how exactly can a pastor honestly condemn overeating from the pulpit?

Look. Is overeating and obesity a serious health problem in our day and age? Yes. But it isn’t the sin of gluttony. We may need to confront overeating and obesity in the local church, but let’s be exegetically precise as to what we are confronting. The overeating these young writers are concerned with falls more in the category of personal discipline, like quitting smoking, or exercising more, or being a workaholic. Those areas can be bad habits, but they are not “sinful.”

I am reminded of Deuteronomy 14:26 which reads, And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. Ironically, this is the verse the YRR use to justify their theological kegger parties and they are typically the ones equating gluttony with overeating. Rather than condemning “overeating” per se, I see God telling me to rejoice in the good things He has provided and lots of it, like coconut fried shrimp from Outback Steakhouse.



Blogger Mike Westfall said...

Thanks Fred. This is a god article on the subject.

CS Lewis gave a picture of gluttony in The Screwtape Letters as exemplified by an elderly women:

"All she wants is a cup of tea properly made, or an egg properly boiled, or a slice of bread properly toasted. But she never finds any servant or any friend who can do these simple things 'properly'..."

In short, it's how she treats others regarding what she eats that Lewis considers gluttony, not the food itself, or the amount thereof.

7:51 AM, January 10, 2012  
Blogger TJ Meers said...

I sauntered over to the “Jesus Died for your Food Coma” post and was preparing to post a comment when I realized the comments had been suspended…interesting.

Anyway, the post I was going to make follows:

Isn’t gluttony gluttony when I place food above God? By that I mean food has become an idol that takes the place of God in my life. In essence, I am worshiping food. If I take Mr. Archer to be correct, I should feel guilty and repent every time I pull into a Micky D’s for a sundae between meals or when I scarf down my Christmas dinner to get to my mom’s wonderful coconut cake. Lastly, was my dearly departed grandmother in violation of Romans 14:21 when she would insist I eat something before I left her home, even if I had just finished eating? Just sayin…

9:25 AM, January 10, 2012  
Blogger RightWingNut said...

I would also add that a lot of pagan worship was binging food orgies. They would eat, purge, eat, purge. Rather than enjoying a fine steak from Claim Jumpers and relishing each bite, they were insulting God's bounty by wasting it in pagan excess. In the same way, drunkenness is alcohol ("wine or similar drink") being wastefully consumed to extremes. Maybe a good working definition of gluttony is "food drunkenness."

11:59 AM, January 10, 2012  
Blogger Peter said...

From own experience, I can say that staying fit takes enormous self-control and the keeping of every thought captive. To keep from eating for the passing pleasures of the moment takes focus on the long-term.

I have overdone it in the past. I used to eat very little, including cheap Ramen noodles. I biked everyday, rain or shine, thirty miles to work at a racing pace. I was in perfect shape. Then I started having panic attacks from eating too little protein and from the MSG in the Ramen seasoning.

Later on, my doctor, a real treasure here at Grace, placed me on a high protein and dairy diet. Right away, my neck and chest size grew while my waist went down. I run mountains; 3000 ft up 3000 down.

It takes discipline, and the right kind of discipline.


On the other hand, I watched my mother's heavy weight carry its toll on her, causing diabetes, sleep apnea, and heart arrhythmia. The sleep apnea meant that for long stretches while in bed asleep, she could not expel her breath. Her c-pap machine did little for that. The condition led to oxygen deprivation in her brain and heart, so that at times her personality changed into somebody else (she had no Alzheimer's) and at other times, atrial fibrilation left her out of breath, bed-ridden, and hospital bound. I watched as she faded in and out in the hospital with the damaged heart. Me alone. I later watched as the once svelt actress died an early death. Me alone.

Fred, with all compassion, I hope this is not your future. Many people love and depend on you.

8:20 PM, January 10, 2012  
Blogger Vinod Anand S said...

Good post, Fred. This cleared some of the doubts i had. I always loved food and enjoy eating a variety of foods. You have also mentioned YRRs equating over eating with gluttony. I believed it as a lame excuse for their indulgence in drinking.

5:43 AM, January 11, 2012  
Blogger Edward said...

I stopped reading this article when I got to the word freakin. If that word is not used as a substitute for the four letter word f--k then what does it mean. I can't understand why Bible believing Christians watch TV and you must from the article. It causes a person to loose discernment and become more worldly. We don't use words like that at my house of allow others too either.

1:55 PM, January 11, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

You are over reacting. If you automatically think that the word "freakin" is a substitute for the f-word, it makes me wonder about your own personal discernment in these matters. Why do you assume that is what I meant when it certainly wasn't, seeing that "freakin" can also have the idea of "super amazing awesome" or whatever.

You seriously may want to reevaluate your thinking about how you confront people about their use of words, because you are impugning motives and so-called "worldliness" to me when none certainly don't exist.

5:06 PM, January 11, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Edward, I read your last post that you asked me to not post, but seeing that you have conveniently made it so I couldn't respond, I'm gonna post snippets of your post.

I know the word has multiple meanings but it is most associated with this .... euphemism for fxxking

Okay. I'll grant your point. That's not the meaning I am assigning to the word when I wrote that. I could have used the word "Bloomin'" to describe the onion, what Outback Steakhouse calls the appetizer, but "bloomin" has basically the same meaning, or can.

As a Christian which do you think the Holy Spirit would rather see you do. Take the high road or the low road.

Honestly, the Holy Spirit has no word on this, especially if my meaning is not yours.

Is this a word you would use at church or at GTY. How about in front of your children.

It depends on the context, as does a lot of words and their meaning. We don't let our children freely throw about a lot of words, even if they aren't "swear words." I wouldn't let them use it, but of course, my blog is not being written for children, and I would expect adults to make that distinction.

I knew before I made that post I would get the response I got.

Oh really, what made you think that?

I think you are wrong and is the one who need the reevaluation but this is all I am going to say about the matter. You do as the Holy Spirit leads you.

I'll take your admonishment for what it's worth. Honestly, you do need to give people the benefit of the doubt. You seriously read that and your immediate reaction is "Oh man, Fred is wordly, I can't read the rest of his post because he put in what I believe is a hardcore swear word to describe an onion. I must register a blogger account immediate and do a drive-by rebuking of this guy." What would have been the better response? To behave self-righteously like you did?

Or perhaps to think that maybe Fred is ignorant of the urban use of "freakin" and I could shoot him a private email, which is easily found under my public profile, explain who I am and my concerns, and see what he says? Wow what an idea.

10:03 PM, January 11, 2012  
Blogger DJP said...

Edward - I stopped reading your comment when you wrote "loose discernment." If you can't spell well enough and write correctly enough to have learned the difference between "lose" and "loose," you have nothing to say that's worth my time.

Fair, right?

As fair as your dismissal of Fred over a different word?

6:22 AM, January 12, 2012  
Blogger Robert said...

It sounds like Edward's discernment is a bit loose.

11:11 AM, January 12, 2012  
Blogger Peter said...

Overeating is gluttony and it is a sin. It is idolatry.

A Christian who is seriously overweight and defends it needs serious Biblical counseling.

Moreover, anyone who is seriously overweight will cause serious legitimate anguish to those who love him.

No excuses.

10:18 PM, January 12, 2012  
Blogger Joe Blackmon said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! I actually was called down by an elder at a church in Brentwood, Tennessee over my "sin" of lacking self control and being overweight. While I agree that being as big as I am is unwise and I'm working to deal with that, it's refreshing to hear someone articulate that people are not in a perpetual state of sin until their BMI is healthy. You have no idea how much of an encouragement this was to me, Fred. Thank you.

9:01 AM, January 14, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Hopefully folks understand (I tried to make this clear in the main post) that I am not advocating obesity and eat anything you want and your okay if you maintain a 300 pound weight.

Certainly, overeating and our health is a problem in America. I think it is a bit of a hyperbole to call it an "epidemic" equivalent to the "black plague" like that Baptist missions director wrote in his article.

My challenge is for Christians to think through their terms biblically and this issue biblically.

Gluttony, as outlined in the Bible is not the same as overeating during the holidays or occasionally during a family get together. Nor is being overweight a "sin" in the same way as, say, adultery or lying.

I'm like Joe. By worldly standards, I would be considered "morbidly obese" because I am probably 40 to 50 pounds over my nationally determined average weight form my height and age.

But I am not an "overeater" by any stretch of the imagination. For example, I just finished a typical Saturday morning breakfast with my family which consists of a pancake, a couple of pieces of bacon, milk and coffee. I generally don't each lunch, or if I do, its a piece of fruit or something lite. Last night, we went out and ate at one of our favorite pizza places and I maybe had two slices of pizza and that was it. Yet, due to my metabolism, I retain weight. I practically have to starve myself in order to lose weight.

I also exercise regularly by biking to work and walking and swimming, when the weather's favorable.

My concern is that Christians, like Joe's elder, are acting "worldly" by making what we eat, and how much of it, and our persona physiology a matter of spirituality and being godly. A person is going beyond the testimony of scripture if they do.

10:51 AM, January 14, 2012  
Blogger Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

After reading the six verses mentioning gluttony and your comments about them, this is what I think.

The common thread of all those references seems to be, gluttony is indicative of a person that is unproductive, and destructive to themselves and others. The vehicle to this destination is a profligate indulgence in food, often accompanied by an at least equal profligacy in alcoholic drink.

The bottom line seem to be, a glutton is one that dishonors his parents and God by abandoning responsible behavior in order to immerse themselves in the fleshly pleasures of overindulgence.

Thanks for the post, Fred.

5:24 PM, January 14, 2012  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home