Obesity is a faith issue as well as a health issue

I should like to speak today about gluttony. But first, I humbly admit to the reader that this is one of my biggest struggles. Well, really, it’s not a struggle; it is a sin. Ouch.

Overeating is not just a bad choice; it wreaks of idolatry, and yes, this article does belong in the “Faith” section. If this is hard to digest (pun intended), consider a few facts.

Overeating leads to obesity, which leads to heart disease, is the number one killer in America. In this country, one person dies from heart disease every minute, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By the time you finish reading this article, three people will have died from a disease that is directly caused by the way they ate.

I do not think that this is God’s design for his creation.

“Why don’t you ever preach sermons on gluttony?” I was asked this a few years ago by a young man in my church. This began a meaningful conversation that has been going on in my head ever since. It is very common for a Bible-thumping preacher like myself to rail against the sins of hate, lust, and greed, and then fill my plate with five desserts at the church potluck after the service.

It seems that gluttony is a sin that Christians like to ignore. We are quick to warn against the dangers of addiction to tobacco, alcohol, or media, but what about an addiction to overeating?

The sobering statistics above should make it obvious. And for the person of faith, the Bible speaks directly to this issue.

Proverbs 23 warns, “Do not join those who gorge themselves on meat.” And again, “Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.” And in the New Testament letter to the Philippians, we read the sobering account of those “whose god is their belly.” Gluttony has much to do with the way we approach food. Is it our nourishment, enjoyed and eaten in gratitude to God who has provided? Or is it our medication, our comfort, something that gives us good feelings to balance out the bad ones that we live with day to day? Is our eating, as John Piper puts it, merely the “anesthesia of sadness?” Is God the God of all comfort, or is food the god of my comfort?

For me, this is a real daily battle. There is nothing wrong with eating and enjoying what God has provided. But I am constantly asking myself a few questions. How much should I eat? How quickly do I eat? What would happen to me if I gave up sweets, or perhaps caffeinated drinks, for a spell? Who is really in control? Who is really God here?

Back to my point: this is a faith issue. It is for many reasons, but most importantly for this one: As a man who pursues God, I shall have no other god before God. Any excess that becomes my god is a dangerous evil – be it money, sex, or hamburgers and Coke.

John Piper again: “The most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.”

Let us consider these things. Who is in control? God? Or my belly? May we honor God not only during service on Sunday, but also at the lunch buffet afterward.

THE REV. JEFF MILLER IS THE PASTOR OF VINEYARD COMMUNITY CHURCH IN AUGUSTA.

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