Gluttony and the American Church: How would Jesus eat?

Historically, the season of Lent has been a time of reflection. That’s just what I was prompted to do after reading and discussing an article posted by a favorite social networking site.

In his Dallas Observer article How would Jesus Eat?, Dallas Theological Seminary graduate student Jared Binder calls out one of the American church’s pet sins: gluttony.

There’s this thing in the Bible called gluttony. The Bible says it’s a sin. But we don’t like to talk about that particular sin. We prefer to point a pudgy finger at others and decry the evils of drugs and alcohol, pornography, abortion and homosexuality. Compared to those, gluttony is just a little sin. … This “little” sin of gluttony is killing people by the hundreds of thousands every year. Obesity has now surpassed smoking as the No. 1 health threat in America. It can be directly linked to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Type II Diabetes, acid reflux, sleep apnea, heart disease and many forms of cancer.

The whole of Binder’s article is quite bold, and by the looks of the article’s comments, he got himself into some very hot water. But then, that’s typically what happens when you tell the truth.

And the truth is, the church has failed to image Christ. Binder writes:

Jesus called us to be salt and light in the world. That means we are supposed to be the standard of what is right and good. This is one area where we as a church are failing miserably. We need to get serious about the obesity epidemic and stop waiting on science to develop a miracle cure. We need to take action before it is too late.

I think part of the reason we have become so detached from proper stewardship of our bodies is that we in Western culture have been so inundated with dualistic Platonic ideas about the body and soul. Paul confronted this problem with the Corinthian church, where some had rejected a bodily resurrection. We, like the Corinthians, don’t realize that scripture teaches that our wholes selves – including our bodies – are eternal: “And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 6:14-15a ESV) I like the way the ESV Study Bible commentary puts it:

Jesus’ resurrection was only the first step in the general resurrection of God’s people that will occur on the last day. Jesus’ body and the believer’s body, therefore, are eternal, for God will also raise us up; the eternal nature of the believer’s body should affect his or her present behavior.

Because the Corinthians were as confused as we are today, Paul was very clear about the importance of the body:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV)

We, as Christians, are called to be image-bearers of Christ on earth in our whole persons. We do not glorify God with our bodies when we treat them poorly.

J. Paul Sampley’s commentary 1 Corinthians puts it this way:

How is God glorified in the body? The rest of the letter is an elaboration on that notion and a demonstration of it. As will become evident, glorifying God ‘in your body’ will at once mean (1) that individuals exercise stewardship of their own bodies, their very selves, and (2) that collectively the believers live lovingly and in an edifying fashion with each other as members of one body that is Christ’s.

To be clear, I’m not saying everyone who is fat is a glutton. There are some hormone conditions that cause obesity (several of which run in my family). However, I do think that everyone who is overweight needs to take seriously their responsibility before God as stewards of the life He has given them. They need to consider not only the damage they are doing to their bodies, but also the example they are setting to others.

I can say all this because I know first-hand how hard it is to keep weight off for some women. I have a terrible metabolism. I have to eat like a bird and exercise like crazy to stay in shape. But by the grace of God, I have learned how to discipline myself in this area.

Also, we need to take seriously our health, regardless of how we end up looking. Thin people are damaged by junk food, even if they don’t get fat. People with hormone issues may have to discipline themselves without the reward of weight-loss. After all, having a nice body isn’t the goal. Developing a godly character is. As Binder said:

The Bible teaches us another way of fighting overindulgence. It’s called temperance or self-control. The Bible calls temperance a fruit of the spirit. When is the last time you heard a sermon about being self-controlled in your eating and disciplining your body through exercise?

The goal of such stewardship over our bodies is to glorify Christ, who bought us with His blood. We therefore live for the glory of God:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17 ESV)

If we are to do everything to the glory of God and in the Name of the Lord Jesus, then I think we should take our lives very seriously. It was this sort of contemplation that inspired the now cliché mantra: What would Jesus do? But in all honesty, how else should we live? How else should we do everything in Jesus name?

So, with Binder, perhaps we ought to ask ourselves, “How would Jesus eat?”

1 thought on “Gluttony and the American Church: How would Jesus eat?”

  1. Very well written and true. I have also just begun to take steps into glorifying God in my eating habits. I wasn't even sure if gluttony was a sin and this article has clarified everything for me. May we glorify our Father in all that we do. Much love sis in Christ.

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