Food Porn and the Fellowship Hall

Food

You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act—that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

…Or suppose you could fill a church’s fellowship hall with high cholesterol congregants to fawn over the ice cream contest—all while starting their diets on Monday. They’re unhealthy, they know it, and they are hopping on the elliptical wagon next week. Would you think that something had gone wrong with their appetite for food?

We shudder at the idea of a few high school kids flipping through some centerfolds in the tool shed behind the church’s family life center (and we should). But why don’t we have the same reaction to the father of four who is 150 pounds overweight, getting his third helping of blackberry cobbler and ice cream right before our eyes? We show concern for the anorexic and bulimic but ignore the obese.

This should not be. We all have some repenting to do.

Food Porn

I’m no health guru. Food used to be my porn. I would eat junk food secretly, knowing good and well it was wrong—sinful (James 4:17). My eating habits were slimy, not holy. “The righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1). I’ve dug pizza (still in the box) out of the trash can. Digital prostitutes don’t appeal to my flesh, but deep-fried ones do. I don’t write this as someone who has arrived at the pinnacle of health—by God’s grace and his resurrection power at work in me, big steps have been taken. I’ve cut out tons of junk, I avoid grains and dairy as often as I can. I feel great. I do Crossfit—I’m stronger and healthier than I’ve ever been, and I’m still trying to get where I need to be.

“Nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels.” That’s a load of mumbo-jumbo; I’ve had cheesecake before. Everything taste better than being skinny feels because being skinny isn’t the chief end. Nothing taste as good as glorying the Lord feels (1 Cor. 10:31). My conscience is lighter than it’s ever been. I miss eating queso, and I’ll eat it again one day—but I don’t miss the sin. I don’t miss eating a whole crate of chips and the conviction that comes along with it.

I had to repent, make personal changes, and follow the Lord. Your changes will probably look different.

The reason to pursue healthy living, isn’t solely for being skinny, looking better during the summer, etc.—the purpose is that our bodies are not our own, they belong to Jesus. The gospel of the Kingdom reminds me that my body is not mine, and it is to be used for the name, glory, and mission of our Christ. And for those of us that are married, our bodies belong to our spouse (1 Cor. 7:4). We are too love each other the way we are, but that never means we allow each other to sin. We are in covenant with one another under the Lordship of Jesus of Nazareth, and this means we bear burdens (Galatians 6), no matter how much it weighs. The chief reason to be healthy is to glorify god and enjoy him forever.

I’m not so obtuse to think that every overweight person is a glutton; rail-shaped people can be gluttons too. Some of us have genetic makeups, health problems, physical issues, etc. that make heaviness far easier than usual. But hear my heart on this, that is probably not most of us. I’m sure there are some who that is there reality, it’s not mine. If that’s you, you and your M.D. know what’s best. But whatever healthy is for you, we must pursue it.

Treat Gluttony Like The Rest of the Vices

One of the biggest hurdles to crucifying this sin is actually seeing it as a sin. You must get to the point where you can say, “My eating habits are sinful. It’s out of control. My weight is sinful. I’m sinning against my spouse, and my Lord. Forgive me, Lord. Empower me to honor you—to be a faithful steward of this body, for your glory and my good.” Until you walk in the light, and are honest with your self and others, you will continue to turn on your hinges, and go nowhere. “As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed” (Proverbs 26:14).

Our thinking needs to change (Romans 12:1-2). We must do a 180 on how we counsel those given to food idolatry. Treat this sin like the rest of the sins we war against.

Would we ever tell a drunkard on Friday, “Hey brother, Thursday was not a good night for you. I’m praying for you. Just start on again Monday.” Would we instruct the porn addict to ween himself off his indulgence and to start a robust plan for sexual health on New Year’s Day? Can you imagine telling the angry factory worker, “Hey, it’s a ok to flip out in anger from time to time, a little here, a little there.” If you do say those things—God help you.

You may be thinking, “Porn isn’t the same as gluttony—I have to eat everyday, I don’t have to click on those images.” You are missing the point. They are the same. They fall into the “whatever you do” category (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17). And you do have to the see the opposite sex everyday, and you must do so without lusting. Pornography is sexual craving spun out of control. And we must eat everyday do for His glory. And overeating is the desire for food, spinning out of control.

There will be times to celebrate with friends and family and enjoy God’s great creations. Pecan pie isn’t evil (1 Timothy 4:4-5), it’s a good gift from God. But even in our celebrations we are to honor the Lord. Is a drunkard allowed to get a little tipsy? Is the porn addict allowed a night of binge viewing? Never. Just because it’s your birthday doesn’t mean that you can go on sinning because grace abounds (Romans 6:1-2). If we are sons and daughters of the Most High, we must learn to be led by the Spirit, not our flesh, the crowd, the calendar, the taste-buds, the gut, or the menu (Romans 8:13-14). You may have to pass on the birthday cake. You may not. That’s something you need to decide. If you have a smudge of icing, are your prone to tumble into sin? If that’s you, you should make no provision for your flesh—pray, have some strawberries and go to bed with a clean conscience (Romans 13:14). I’ve passed up on a lot of delicious things because I have a greater goal than then steam-like pleasure of cake. Here. Gone. Shoot, even Tommy Boy passed on a bear claw.

Many of us have no problem telling someone to stop visiting the online cabaret, but we stutter to tell a brother to stop hitting the buffet. I do too. It’s seems more awkward. We feel like we might hurt, not to be shallow, their feelings. We don’t want a brother or sister to feel ugly, gross, or what have you—but there is a sense in which rebuke brings a faithful wound that leads to life. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).

Do not wait until Monday to repent and pursue godliness. Today belongs to the Lord. Why start on Monday what you can do today? You may not have Monday (James 4:14). And putting this off, scheduling it, and busy-beeing the pursuit of holiness will only perpetuate your current unreality. Your life will remain overgrown and a mess.

“I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” (Proverbs 24:30–34)

The Apostle reminds, “Bodily training is of some value” (1 Timothy 4:8). Ok, so what value? Working out helps control weight, it helps the mood, it combats diseases, it boosts energy, it promotes better sleep—it helps you become a better steward not just of your body, but all of life that you’ve received from God. You can play with your kids better. You can enjoy romance more. You can serve the church and the mission of the gospel more fully. It’s hard to squat in a rice field in Thailand when you aren’t in shape. Bodily training is of some value—but godliness is of value in every way.

Jesus Is Better Than Paleo

The same gospel of grace that changes drug addicts, adulterers, porn stars, gangsters, venture capitalists, plumbers, and homeschool moms is the same power that liberates us from gluttony. If you are engulfed in this sin, like Hebrews says, it “so easily entangles you” (Hebrews 12:1-4), do what Hebrews says: Look to Jesus. Weight Watchers, Paleo, and calorie counters are all great tools—but they cannot change the soul. The fat around our heart needs some exercise, but more than that, our hearts need the gospel truth, “So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). If you want real help, look to Jesus of Nazareth.

When I would meet friends at my favorite Tex-Mex spot, images of the Corinthian meat market would fill my head. I felt like our brothers in the past who struggled to eat the food that was perfectly fine to enjoy—idols are nothing. But in their weakness, they abstained while their brothers could eat freely. Before I walked into the “market”, I would pray, “Lord Jesus, help me to honor you. I want to glorify you more than my lusts. I want to worship you not my idols. Help me. Keep me.”

It may seem silly to pray for strength to not eat a single chip, and to happily and fearfully enjoy my grilled chicken—but this is what the gospel does. It goes to every nook and cranny of life; the reign of Christ extends to the edges of life—food, sex, entertainment, hobbies, books, everything. The power of Christ is for our everyday moments, the whatever we eat and drink.

Help a Brother (and Sister) Out

Church gatherings are often filled with yummy foods. And for some, those foods might be as tempting as the meat offered to idols in Corinth. You may not understand it. That’s ok. But we are to love our family more than our right to Blue Bell. The fellowship hall might be more tempting than Best Buy, the pub down the street, or that flirty co-worker.

Churches should consider the snacks and food at their gatherings. Think about the healthy options. Think about the G-free people. Does the hospitality crew think about the lactose intolerant folks. We ought to love and serve one another. I’m not saying we need to boycott snicker doodles and fried chicken. But how about some fruit, grilled chicken, and extra Coke Zero to serve those who are fighting their flesh in the fellowship hall?

Eat. Drink. Be Merry. And glorify the Lord.

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