Always included as one of the seven deadly sins, but never taken as seriously, gluttony is a vice we better pay attention to, before we are overtaken by it, literally.
Health surveys indicate that almost one-third of Americans can be categorized as obese, which means having an abnormally high percentage of body fat. I haven’t seen a poll taken just among Christians, but my guess is that the results would be comparable to national averages. Even though its effects are so far-reaching, it seems that gluttony is one of the vices that most of us would rather ignore.
Statistically speaking, Americans are getting fatter and fatter. A study done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that poor diet and inactivity are poised to become the leading preventable cause of death among Americans. We should attempt to think biblically about obesity before tossing it into a file labeled "disease," and simply handing the afflicted over to secular professionals for treatment. In reality, this is a problem that Scripture addresses. It is not out of the Christian’s realm of expertise, and we can offer hope to those who struggle with it.
Before I continue, a working definition of gluttony is in order. Thomas Aquinas defined it succinctly in his Summa Theological Vol. 2: “Gluttony consists properly in an immoderate pleasure in eating and drinking.” Obesity is the outward manifestation of gluttony. This is not to say that everyone who is overweight is a glutton. We must take into consideration thyroid problems, medications such as steroids that cause weight gain and a handful of other uncontrollable disorders or circumstances. Likewise, not all those who overindulge are overweight; in fact, I think almost all of us would admit that we do so occasionally.
Call me an identifier of the obvious, but one reason that gluttony is such an ensnaring sin is because food is so unavoidable. Ecclesiastes 6:7 states: “All the toil of a man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied.” A person who struggles with drunkenness may be able to stay away from alcohol, but all of our bodies need food. So, if you’re reading this expecting a Christian version of the Atkins Diet or Jesus’ Ultimate Weight Loss Solution, you are out of luck. The real answer is found in Scripture, such as when Paul talks about self-control in Galatians.
In order to deal decisively with gluttony, we have to address the real issue and not just the symptoms or outward effects. Here is one way this plays out in day-to-day living: My good friend was preparing for her wedding and wanted to lose a few pounds. As motivation, she taped a picture of Jennifer Aniston on the wall. This type of motivation isn’t really helpful. Why? Because gluttony is a heart issue and will not be remedied by choosing a sleek or muscle-clad body to emulate. The most likely outcome in this situation is discouragement and discontentment because the "ideal" probably won’t come to fruition.
So what can we do when we overeat or when we finally desire to take better care of our bodies?
· Realize that the "ideal" isn’t the ideal. God made our bodies all different shapes and sizes and it pleases Him! Starving ourselves isn’t any better than gorging it. The goal should be maintaining a healthy, fit body.
· Pray especially for self-control in this area of eating and drinking. You can pray with confidence because God desires to give you self-control.
· When you overindulge, confess it as you would any other sin—with humbleness, repentance and with the knowledge that God will forgive.
· Exercise for 30 minutes at least four times per week. (Experts advise seeing a doctor before starting any diet or exercise program.) Find a friend who is willing to workout with you and keep you accountable. Try a mixture of walking, jogging, swimming, aerobics and weight lifting to prevent boredom.
· Eat a balanced diet: Stick to fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, grilled or baked meat and low-fat dairy products. Visit a dietician or ask a health conscious friend for advice if you need help getting started. (One easy rule is: Make sure that everything on your plate isn’t the same color).
· "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
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