The Untouchable Topic

Something I have been pondering for a while, and seems pertinent in these morbid times, is the unaddressed problem of obesity among Christian brethren. It seems to me that while gluttony is not on the same level of sin against the body as sexual immorality, it comes in a close second. Both sins result in the destruction and desecration of our bodies which are temples of the Holy Spirit. And yet, I have never heard a sermon preached against this particular vice or church discipline being administered to those who clearly engage in it. Both reveal a lack of self discipline and an abandonment of self control in the pursuit of dopamine. Are the porn addict and the food addict really that different?

Of course there are exceptions. People have hormonal imbalances, and metabolic syndromes, etc., and some people’s metabolisms are such that they can get away with gluttonous behavior without anyone being the wiser. But let’s be honest, that is not the reason a significant percentage of our congregations in the Midwest look like human dirigibles. Why isn’t this problem that is so clearly evident being addressed by church leadership?

1 Like

Classically, obesity (or more accurately, gluttony) was always regarded as one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

2 Likes

This whole post was just so you could use the phrase “human dirigibles.” I see through your ruse. :grin:

This issue goes much deeper than simply gluttony and obesity. A food obsession is an idolatry and there are a lot of fit and healthy people who idolize food as much or more than the “fatso’s.”

(I admit it: I just wanted to use the term “fatsos” :grin:)

People repenting from gluttony often struggle with the opposite side of that idolatry.

At heart this is a deep issue. Sin mixes things up. Legalistic diet plans aren’t the answer. A heart change is needed.

This is another issue where shame can be helpful, a blessing.

2 Likes

Let’s please not confuse the two here.

In fact, I’ve never seen people as obsessed with what they consume as those who look down on fat people.

7 Likes

John, I’ll comment that publishers know three books account for sales: diet books, Lincoln books, and dog books. So when Christians go into high dudgeon against fat, which they often do, I simply resist explaining (if they ask) that I doubt the concerns of the natural man so closely match the concerns of the spiritual man. In other words, if every last American is concerned about dieting, seeing Christians concerned about it, also, seems less than salutary. As for the sin of gluttony being untouchable, I think we live in different worlds. Christians normally graceful turn into schoolmarmy moralists when it comes to obesity.

I regularly talk to people in our congregation about their weight, but more women who are too skinny and I’m worried about control issues than men and women who are fat and I’m worried about gluttony. But I do both. And yes, it does come up in sermons, too, and about as often as pride and greed. Which I’m guessing you have heard even fewer sermons on than gluttony. Love,

2 Likes

I guess we do live in different worlds in this regard. To me, it seems that gluttony has been deemed the acceptable pressure relief (pleasure relief?) valve among Christian circles, and as I said above it’s hard for me to parse a distinction between this sin and other sins that abuse the body. Certainly, as others have pointed out, there is sin on the other extreme of the spectrum, but that is a sin of vanity and pride, and believe it or not, I hear those sins discussed plenty in the Evangelical realm. Not so for gluttony.

I don’t think I’m alone in having the experience of sitting in a prayer meeting where an overweight brother or sister is asking for prayer for this or that ailment clearly related to their unhealthy lifestyle, and then see them over-eat an hour later. Perhaps it is ungraceful on my part to not point this out to them.

Oh dear! There’s additional ways to become fat:

Proverbs 11:25

Proverbs 13:4

Proverbs 15:30

Note: the NASB (the version in the above references, if you click on them) is incorrect on Proverbs 11:25. The NASB renders the relevant phrase “will be prosperous.” But, alas - the Hebrew is quite clear: it says “will be made fat.”

Evidently the translators of the NASB did not think a poor men are ever fat. Maybe they supposed prosperity is the only (and certain) precondition of fatness.

3 Likes

Dear John,

Seriously? Vanity and pride? Seriously? And you’ve thought about admonishing the vain man and the proud man after the service, too? Whose vanity and pride are even more visible and insuperable than the fat man’s fatness?

Here’s the thing I didn’t say before. Gluttony is always subject to more condemnation than vanity and pride because sins one feels comfortable diagnosing are always condemned more often than sins one isn’t as comfortable diagnosing. Which is to say sins with objective evidence in support of are always condemned regularly in a way sins with only subjective evidence in support of are not. If you don’t hear people in churches constantly judging the fat among us, it beggars belief. This condemnation never ever stops, in my world. Love,

2 Likes

I am flabbergasted that this is the case! I guess it must be a regional thing. I suppose we Dutch descendants in West Michigan are much more reserved in vocalizing judgement than our neighbors to the south!

1 Like

It’s all sotto voce, dear brother.

2 Likes

Interesting because since we are so much more home-bound and conscious of how much food we have in storage at any given time, my wife and I are actually loosing weight. Some of it may also be the two toddlers in our home that are growing like weeds and seem perpetually hungry; thus our forbearance to ensure that they are well fed. We’ve had more years of storage to pull from, than they do :wink:.

1 Like

As others have pointed out, gluttony and obesity are two different discussions.

Gluttony has to do with sinful excess and greed. Covetousness. Slaking one’s desire to be satisfied in the creation, rather than in the Creator. Obesity has to do with the state of being overweight.

I believe it’s very important not to conflate the two, not because I deny or want to fly cover for the sin of gluttony, but because it’s very possible to be overweight without being a glutton. In fact, there’s never been an easier time in history for this to be manifest due to the technological era in which we live.

In ages past, a person’s physical condition (i.e. muscle tone, callused hands, etc.) might have told you something about their work ethic and productivity. For a man to be fat may have automatically meant that a man was a glutton, lazy, or that he was an aristocrat who had servants to do all his work for him (Judges 3:17). To be fat or not was directly tied to your output of work. But in a world where so much work is now done in front of a computer screen, it’s not that simple. Most office workers don’t even walk to a printer or a file cabinet anymore. So a person may eat their simple three squares a day apart from any gluttony and still end up obese simply because they don’t burn enough calories on a given day.

Now, if you want to criticize such people for their lack of exercise, that’s a completely different topic altogether. And if that’s where you want the conversation to go, then it would tell me your issue has more with obesity than with gluttony. Just please, don’t conflate the two.

5 Likes

John, I’m curious and ask again: do you or others rebuke pride and greed in your congregation? Love,

1 Like

Well, that is certainly shameful behavior and should be discouraged. And yet, I feel an exhortation from American pulpits on the sin of buying and consuming gallons of Coca Cola every week would be a welcome thing (as would exhortations on many other such vices.) Is the dislike of the former, and a desire for the latter contradictory on my part?

Well, now… this is kind of like Roger Federer asking how one’s back-swing is coming along… but as I said above, I do hear exhortations from the pulpit calling upon us to not to have pride in our possessions, accomplishments, physical appearance, etc. and I think if you ever listen to the sermons played on Moody radio you will hear those themes touched upon (if only very lightly.) I have not yet heard a sermon on gluttony/over-eating, which is a major problem in our society.

Perhaps my point could be best illustrated by an example. I recently heard one of the following statements (surely made in jest) before a bible study meeting, and it was received with chuckles by the crowd who was listening:

A: I guess I shouldn’t have done that whole line of cocaine the other night…
B: I guess I shouldn’t have watched an hour of pornography the other night…
C: I guess I shouldn’t have worked my biceps for an hour last night…
D: I guess I shouldn’t have eaten an entire package of Oreos the other night…

Now if you guessed that D is the actual statement overheard, you are correct! I don’t think if statement A,B, or C were made, it would have flown over so well. I guess it confuses me why that is the case.

But not unrelated discussions… there’s definitely a venn diagram that can be made.

Couldn’t the exact same thing be said about effeminacy? After all, our desk jobs produce weak physical frames, and give low testosterone levels, not to mention that added fat and remnants of the pill in our public water systems create excessive levels of estrogen in male bodies. Yet, I don’t see such excuses made for the effeminacy epidemic made in this forum.

This topic seems difficult to discuss without distinguishing between gluttony vs. overeating vs. eating the wrong things vs. overspending on food vs. obesity. (I am not qualified to make these distinctions.)

I have heard gluttony rebuked from the pulpit in a list of private sins, like pride, that are difficult to uproot.

3 Likes

Dieting is an often discussed topic on Christian radio in my experience.

Wait a minute. You’re equating the wrong things. Effeminacy is to being weak as gluttony is to being overweight. The first things can be, but are not necessarily causes of the second things. We can lament weakness as a sign of growing effeminacy, and we can lament obesity as a sign of growing gluttony, but the point holds true for both sets. We should not confuse weakness for effeminacy or obesity for gluttony. And we should remember that being fat is explicitly described as both a negative and a positive in the Bible.

Your 4 statements are not particularly revealing because two of the 4 things are actually wicked, whereas “being satisfied with good things” like Oreos [they are good. :slight_smile: ] is not. The line between gluttony and being satisfied with good things is not bright, and it isn’t delineated by whether somebody is “overweight” according to today’s standards.

In fact, it seems to me that the chuckling confession is at least a recognition that the line has been crossed. Many such pathetic confessions are heard and never handled in Christian churches, but at least they are confessions. The fact that you would never hear statement C is precisely why I’m more concerned about the other side of the equation. You know why people work on their biceps for an hour in one night? Because they are vain. “Curls for the girls,” as they say. Yet nobody in our culture warns about the vanity behind most dieting and working out. And the only time you hear admissions of working out too much, it is not even an acknowledgment of having crossed a line, but rather it’s a humble brag.

6 Likes

I listened to Moody radio a lot between 2000 and 2008, and I do remember Erwin Lutzer having a very positive message on fasting, describing his experiences. Heard that a few times.

I yield to those who are decrying the need to separate these terms. I stand corrected (though it is beginning to feel a little post-modernist around here, I must say.) Since I am unable to articulate what I am after, let me define a new term, an eighth deadly sin that shall henceforth be known as “Big Gulping”. Big Gulping is the lifestyle sin, particularly abundant in the American populace (though expanding ever more to much of the rest of the world) of consuming multiple times one’s daily caloric expenditure over the coarse of a day, often leading to detrimental impacts on the body. This is the sin that I personally see being brushed off in Christian circles as somehow being more of a faux pas than an actual sin, even though it damages the body we have been given by God, which is not our own, but has been bought with a price.

2 Likes

For a perspective on what others here see in Christian circles, try this experiment. Open a Facebook account and befriend Christians in their twenties to forties. Concentrate on women, particularly homeschooling and stay-at-home moms. Then pay attention to what’s written about food and drink. Watch for expressions of moral condemnation, the preaching of righteousness, and the promotion of individual morality all related to food.

Maybe it’s just Western Pennsylvania (I doubt it), but I wonder regularly whether our Christian circle hasn’t lost its collective mind in a swamp of gnat-strangling food scruples, judaizing (literal and metaphorical), and shameless promotion of self-righteousness evidenced by dieting, ingredient watching, etc. It takes conscious effort on my family’s part to resist the new Torah’s clean and unclean regulations to enjoy just one Oreo, much less the whole bag.

8 Likes

I do not deny that this is also a problem. “Small is the gate and narrow the path”…

As someone who orbits the home-schooling crowd, a sermon against essential oils would also be a welcome addition.

4 Likes