Where has gluttony gone?

One thing I have wondered for a while is where American Christians’ awareness of gluttony has gone. Gluttony typically refers to the over-consumption of food, but can also mean excessive consumption of any items, resources or services. I am referring to this latter definition. The Bible addresses the topic of excessive consumption, expecially in the book of Proverbs (for instance, Proverbs 11:28; 13:11, 25; 15:16; 16:8, 16, 19;17:1; 19:2). The apostle Paul also mentions this matter in his letters (one case is in 1 Timothy 6:6-10, in which he condemns the desire for riches, which is a means by which people consume more goods). Yet I don’t hear many people discussing this topic these days. Why not? Have we conquered it? Clearly not, since Americans as a whole are always craving “more” and “better” (which is a fruit of “more” since things that are better often are considered so because have more); further, we quickly become unsatisfied with what we have. Gluttony is a sin: the Bible makes this clear. Why, then, are we not confronting this sin?

I am aware and ashamed that I regularly act in ways that could easily be considered gluttonous. Not merely in the overeating sense, though this is an obvious way to see potential gluttony; rather in the broad sense of using and abusing more than I must. And I am certain that other people might feel this way, if such a topic is given the courtesy to be pondered. Each day our society is inundated with messages that tell us to worship the great More. Advertisers and businesses make their wages by persuading people that they need something else, something more. People each day eagerly chit-chat about the next thing that’s coming and their expectation of more. Plans are made and bank account balances increased in order to achieve or obtain more. Our culture has not only accepted but embraced and treasured the insatiable More.

All the while God says that we should live not with More, but Less.

The apostle Paul writes in Philippians 3:8, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish” After mentioning a lifetime spent supposedly worshiping God but really worshiping More (Philippians 3:4-6), Paul emphasizes that he has lost his status in the Jewish people’s eyes–his own culture’s eyes–along with his relationships and the entire life he was living before he met Jesus. Indeed, this is written as Paul’s personal response to his mandate for the church in Philippi (and God’s mandate for us through Paul) to keep the mindset of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11). Christ’s mindset was based on humility and loss: “Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped [i.e. coveted], but emptied himself.” And why did Jesus debase himself? “… But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Paul states that Jesus humbled himself and lost all that was his prior to his incarnation for two reasons: to become a servant of men and to obey God the Father.

And knowing this servitude and obedience would cost him everything, he nonetheless resolved to live his human life according to his Father’s plan.

This is the mindset we are to have among us, Paul says. The mindset that even though we might–in truth, we will–lose everything that we know in this life, we are to learn and remember who God is and how Jesus modeled the perfect life for us… and lose it all with joy. This joy comes from knowing we are gaining much more, even though when we are honest we have no idea what form that “more” takes.

Gluttony has no place in the lives of God’s children. Yet it daily plagues the American church.

I do not mean to condemn the church in America; I mean to reveal a sin that seems to have been ignored by it. I do not mean to portray myself as having an exemplary life in regards to being rid of gluttony (I give in to the temptation of gluttony as much as most Americans do); I mean to make Jesus the only example. I do not mean to say that we can ever truly do away with this sin; I mean to say that we should try. I do not mean we should try by our own effort, without Christ; I mean we should try as a result of his grace already given to us. I do not mean we should overemphasize this single issue; I mean we should remain aware of and proclaim the entire truth and grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then we can see more clearly the truth of who God is and who we are, along with the great depths and heights of the grace he has given us, his children.

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