Sinning Like a Christian: Gluttony

Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Faith Words |

Words of Faith

Rev. Rita S. Platt

April 6, 2014

Sinning Like a Christian: Gluttony

This week we conclude our series “Sinning Like a Christian.”  Since we are coming to the end,  I thought it might be good to talk about why  sin is sin.  Just calling it “sin” implies a standard.  If a police officer stops you for speeding, it implies that an official government standard set a speed limit and you violated it.  Sometimes persons will go to the magistrate and contend that they should not receive the ticket – grounds are usually the sign wasn’t posted or it has been obstructed in some way.

The moral standard for humanity comes out of the holy character of God

There is a consequence if we break that standard.  The bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” That is confusing because you do not immediately die when you sin. 

Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden where it all began.  The sin of Adam and Eve was not eating the apple.  The sin was thinking they knew better than God. God told them not to eat the fruit of this tree. Rebellion… “I don’t need you, God; I can figure this out on my own.”

Consequence of that sin is in Genesis 3 – we see Adam and Eve hiding – not because they are afraid, but because they are ashamed.   Do you remember what the relationship looked like before the sin?  The popular hymn IN THE GARDEN describes it: God walked with them, God talked with them…open, intimate conversation… no obstruction.

Sin changes our relationship with God…we begin blocking off/hiding parts of ourselves from God.

The purpose of this series has been to help us identify and remove some of those obstacles…like anger, pride, sloth or greed.  Today it is gluttony.

One of the earliest criticisms of Jesus and his disciples was not that his understanding of God was bad or that his interpretation of Torah was wrong. Jesus’ critics charged, “The disciples of John the Baptist fast, but your disciples eat and drink.” (Luke 5:33) In other words, John the Baptist’s disciples abstained. They engaged in religiously based diets. Jesus disciples were always eating. They also charged Jesus with being “a gluttonous man and a winebibber.” (Luke 7:34)  Jesus’ response was to tell a string of parables about parties and feasts.  We read some of them this morning.

Anyone reading the gospels would know that food played a central role in Jesus ministry.

The picture of people gathered around the table portrait humanity at its best: a warm-hearted generous host.. good food …the convivial banter. Many of our family celebrations involve food. Most of us will confess that at some of these times we have eaten too much.

Gluttony is an odd sin. Of all the sins our culture has demonized gluttony the most. Elementary school children say that they are more judgmental toward fat kids than they are towards a bully. Studies show that an overweight person is at a distinct disadvantage in being hired for a job.

Perhaps our contemporary condemnation is because we are focused on the external.  We judge what we can see.  Although excessive fat can be due to a variety of factors, most of us, whether we openly admit it or not, ascribe obesity to laziness or  lack of self-control.

But gluttony can also make us selfish as in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.” (Luke 16:19-21)

Gluttony is more than self-indulgence, it may be a way to being blind to the needs of others in a world where millions go hungry. A gluttonous person will not share since he cannot ever get enough for himself.

But gluttony has to do with much more than food. The hunger we feel is a much deeper hunger than to fill our stomach, for there is a great cavity within each one of us that yearns to be filled. We eat out of boredom; we eat to reward ourselves; we eat out of frustration (so easy to eat when we are upset); we eat when we are depressed; we eat when we are stressed or angry. We eat because we hope it will satisfy our longing; but it doesn’t because our real inner longing isn’t for food. It is for something deeper and more meaningful. Our longing is for purpose, for love, for community, for God.   But facing that hunger is painful.   Frederick Buechner says that a glutton is one who runs to the refrigerator for a cure for a spiritual malnutrition, that we use our possessions to camouflage a bankrupt emotional and spiritual life, that we seek status and position to camouflage our low self-esteem. We run after anything and everything to camouflage our fear of becoming nothing.

Friends, are you hungry? Do you feel empty inside? Have you tried to fill that emptiness but somehow could not? Have you tried to be so busy that you could pretend that it isn’t there? These things have not really worked, have they?

The good news is there is a remedy. It is found in Isaiah 55:1-2. It’s an invitation from God:

            Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come,   buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend       money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me,     and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

The invitation is for you and for me.  How will we respond?