Yes, Christians: Gluttony is a sin

By Jerry Newcombe

Every year most of us go through the ritual of setting New Year’s resolutions.

For many people, there is a perpetual goal to lose weight – a goal I’ve often struggled with. If you’re overweight, please don’t take offense to any of this. Who knows? Perhaps I may inspire someone to work toward taking off unwanted weight. You might be able to add years to your life – and quality and better health to those years. I recognize that for some rare bodies, nothing they do can change their weight. But, thankfully, they’re the exception. For most of us, it’s simple mathematics: input versus output.

Suppose you took a backpack and put in it a five-pound sack of sugar. Then put that on your back and walk around with that extra five pounds. Now, put in two sacks. That’s 10 pounds extra. Put in three. That’s 15 pounds. Put in five such sacks. That’s 25 pounds of extra weight.

Walk around with that extra 25 pounds of weight. It might hurt your knees for a while and your back. Yet if we’re 25 pounds overweight, isn’t that already happening? We’re carrying around that extra weight.

Unfortunately, many Americans are now grossly overweight. That includes many Christians. One statement in an anti-Christian book really bothered me. Sam Harris in his “Letter to a Christian Nation,” says that Christians are fat. Ouch! That hurts because it seems to be so often the case – perhaps because so many church functions center around eating.

I have noticed that it is easy to use food as a means of therapy – as a pick me up, when dealing with life’s difficulties. But when you eat to feel better, then you get fatter. And you feel worse because of your girth. This becomes a vicious cycle.

About 10 years ago, I did two things that helped me in this area. First, at the gym I go to I hired a trainer, as part of a group rate. (It’s nowhere near as expensive as I thought it would be – or as it could be, I suppose, in other contexts.)

Secondly, I began to participate in runs – 5k’s, 10k’s, 5 milers, etc. A friend who got me into the serious running used to always say of the activity: “It sure beats the doctor’s bills.” I’m very slow. But I’ve learned that I compete against myself, by trying to improve my times, and the other runners around help me to go faster.

Obviously, excessive running can have its issues, too. I know some people who have run multiple marathons and now have knee problems.

My dad always used to say, “Everything in moderation.” I remember the cynical bumper sticker that says, “Eat right, exercise, die anyway.”

Chuck Swindoll once said this about progress in life in general: Three steps forward, two steps backwards. If it’s true that virtually any habit can be made by doing it 21 days in a row, then why not get going now – to start a new lifestyle?

Through a lot of directed training, I was able to really get a handle on my weight and to lose about 30-40 pounds, most of which I have been able to keep off (all except those last five pounds or so). And I think it has improved the quality of my life. Obviously, get your doctor’s advice before starting any serious regimen.

I used to joke all the time, “I’m in shape – round is a shape.” But I have been able to lose many pounds and keep them off. However, it is an ongoing struggle. It is not easy.

A great key to weight loss is counter-intuitive: eat often. Eat small meals about every two hours, including protein. Don’t be like a camel where you eat a large meal and store it.

Fat is our friend. Fat was designed by God to help us through lean times. But now in modern times, where we have such abundance, we generally don’t go through such lean times, so we don’t need the extra fat that keeps getting stored.

In the ancient church, gluttony was viewed as one of the seven deadly sins. In its own way, it is still deadly, and not only to the body. In modern Christendom, it seems that many don’t care about the issue. We just let ourselves go – and go and go and go. We need to remember that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit.

I believe we will never have victory in this area until we see gluttony as a sin. Food is one of God’s greatest gifts, but like all of His gifts, it can be abused.

I know that God is sovereign and that He determines our days. But I also know that He who ordains the ends ordains the means. The research on the deleterious effects of being overweight abounds. In short, we need more discipline.

My brother and his family got into a friendly argument about which was the best exercise: Swimming? Running? Walking? Weightlifting? Their conclusion was simple: The one you actually do.

As a Christian, I view my body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. I remember once thinking: If my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, then why do I sometimes look like the Buddha? Well, in 2013, I hope to see you at the finish line, hopefully looking more like Jesus than Buddha.

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