We Can’t Talk About This Sin…

Once upon a time the church talked about it. It was even considered one of the seven deadly sins.

Yes, I’m talking about gluttony. Junk Food

The dictionary defines it as greedy excess or indulgence, especially when it comes to food and drink. No, this blog post isn’t about healthy living and nutrition. I’m actually very fond of junk food. I’ve hardly come across any ice cream flavors that I wouldn’t eat. My favorite candy is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, followed closely by Twix. I’m also a big fan of meat lovers pizza and bacon cheeseburgers.

No, I’m not going to talk about proper nutrition. Ultimately, I guess, I’m talking about self-control (or the lack thereof). Because in my own life gluttony and self-control are inextricably linked.

This topic has been on my mind recently – I’ve been hit from multiple sides. My wife shared an article with me about 9 sins the church is okay with now (when it didn’t use to be). On the MSN homepage I saw an article about foods you should never eat – ever! On top of that, add in the very public mess with the hack and release of users of the Ashley Madison website designed to help people looking to commit adultery (why can’t people be satisfied with their spouses?).

So I don’t really want to write about food, but self-control. It seems to me that the lack of self-control is actually at the heart of many of the sins humanity wrestles with. But we don’t like self-control. Shoot – we don’t like ANY control. We prefer to live like my 8 year old, who bristles any time she is told that she can’t have her way right now. That part of our humanity seems to stick with us even as adults.

The problem is that self-control seems to be a REALLY big deal to God. The Bible has multiple passages relating to self-control:

– A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back. (Proverbs 29:11)
– But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
– Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. (2 Peter 1:5-9)

There are more, but you get the idea. Self-control seems to be one of the characteristics of God that we are supposed to embody ourselves. Can you even imagine a world where we demonstrated self-control consistently?

I will confess that I struggle with self-control. Self Control For me one area where my lack of self-control manifests is in my eating.

“Oh, here we go, Chris. We KNEW you were going to bring it around to health and fitness.”

No, I’m not really going to spend a ton of time there. But I do confess that it’s a personal struggle. I’ve had to find tools the help me combat my own weakness – and even with good tools I have a hard time. A book I read once (for the life of me I can’t remember the name) in seminary asked how pastors can possible hope to preach about self-control as a godly virtue when so many pastors are obese. It was personally convicting.

Perhaps food isn’t an area where you struggle, but the lack of self-control can hit us in so many different areas of life. If you stopped to think about your life, you might be able to pinpoint how your spiritual life (and perhaps even your physical or mental life) could benefit from greater self-control.

If we understand what the Bible says about self-control and believe that the Bible ought to be the standard for Christian life and thought, then perhaps we ought to examine how we can implement self-control more. For me it’s how I eat. And my anger triggers and responses to my wife and kids. And…

Geezy-Pete, I’ve got some work to do.

How about you?

Vegetarian is Not Another Word for Crazy

So I’ve embarked on a two week quest – a journey, if you will. I’ve decided that for two weeks I will be going on a vegetarian diet. Not just vegetarian, but I’m eliminating breads, most dairy, and all coffee. I’m referring to it as my “no meat, no wheat” eating plan. Mainly just juice, fruits, veggies, nuts, and tubers.

I’ll be totally honest: I had originally thought about going Vegan – to eat no animal byproducts whatsoever. But I’m not committed to it ideologically and am not willing to go through the difficult Vegans face to make sure I avoid no-no foods. For example, while I’m trying to reduce dairy, the other night I had some veggies (prepared by someone else) that had butter on them. Rather than not eating, I decided to not sweat the small stuff. So, I’m not a Vegan, just trying to eat things that only grow from the ground (and reduce my dependence on caffeine). The wheat thing is just something I’m trying out.

I have no ideologically convictions against any food. In fact, Jesus tells us that no food makes us clean or unclean, for it goes in the body and out into the toilet. The things that really make us unclean are the things that come from the heart. So I’m not opposed to meat or wheat. I’m actually very fond of both! But I don’t want to be controlled by my appetites, so I’m given them up for a while.

The idea of going to a vegetarian diet isn’t a new concept. In the Bible, Daniel and his friends are “good Jewish boys” who get captured and taken away to Babylon. While in Babylon, the king wants to feed them royal food with all the other young men serving in the palace. Daniel did not want to show reliance on and allegiance to the king, so he asked to be fed veggies and water for 10 days. At the end of the trial period Daniel was looking better than the other guys who were eating the king’s food.

In the church today, going on a vegetarian diet is often called a “Daniel Fast.” Fasting is something that has been part of the Judeo-Christian faith for a long time. It really comes down to willfully putting aside food (some, certain kinds, or all) for a set period. More or less the purpose is to focus on God and to remember that there is more to life than our appetites – that we will give ourselves over to God and not to our appetites and bodily cravings.

While my purpose is not so high minded (I’m just doing my experiment it for some health purposes), I am amazed at how many people behave like I’ve lost my mind. Christians seem to have forgotten that fasting of any kind is a biblical principle. I know Christian vegetarians who have faced serious criticism and judgment from other Christians. But Vegetarian is not another word for crazy. It’s simply another way of looking at food.
So here I am. I’m 5 days in to this no meat, no wheat thing I’m trying. I’m not crazy. I’m not an extremist. I love the taste of cow, pig, chicken, duck, deer…I like meat – ok? But too often we’re controlled by our appetites – and I don’t want that to be me anymore.

I don’t know where you are in your life, but take a moment to examine it. What appetites (not just food, mind you) are controlling your life? What do you need to surrender to God?