Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Are You A Glutton?

Have you ever been a glutton?

Yes! Of course I have. Maybe you have too.

Next question: in what ways are you living as a glutton these days?

Well, I ate a whole bag of Cheetos on the way home from Toledo yesterday afternoon to help me stay awake. But I was shoving them in my mouth so fast, the only reason they kept me awake was the resulting pain in my stomach. Ingesting junk results in gastric suffering - which also helps me avoid drowsiness.

I could go on. You?

Who wants to admit they are a glutton? Sure, maybe you need to eat a little more healthier. And who doesn't eat a little more than they really need. Doesn't everybody eat fast-food at least once or twice a week?

Face it. You are a glutton. You are guilty of the deadly sin of gluttony.

Once you are able to admit it, you can do something about it. Staying in denial only prolongs the inability to resist the temptations. Jesus was accused of being a glutton. His first temptations in the wilderness were all variations of gluttony. The Spirit of God led him into the Judean desert for forty days, and while there got really, really, really hungry. And then the tempations started.

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. Luke 4v1-2 (ESV)

Jesus knows what its like to have to resist the temptation of gluttony. As a follower of Jesus, we can learn from his way of resistance and let it shape our life. During Lent, we are to reflect on our own life, our sins, and our need for mercy, our will to follow Jesus. This prompts a reflection of the story of Jesus in the Wilderness. It also prompts a reflection of Israel's wandering in the wilderness.

We probably relate more to Israel, though we strive to follow the way of Jesus. Israel complained and whined when the hardships came. The were caught mistrusting God, pining for security and stability of Egypt (despite the cost of their slavery there). They couldn't see the end goal of the Promised Land. They wanted to head to the Guaranteed Land. They failed their testing, they succumbed to the temptations of gluttony.

Jesus re-enacted the story of Israel, and he played the part well. When he got hungry, instead of quarreling with God, he wrestled to obey. Instead of whining and complaining about his hunger, he formulated the Lord's Prayer. Instead of taking matters into his own hands, he persevered to the end. Gluttony tempted him to satisfy his hunger now, on his own terms. Trusting God required him to wait for God's timing on fulfillment. There is always much at stake in these tests and temptations of hunger.

It's interesting that in the original language of the story, it's the same word for test and temptation. One way to differentiate: a test from God to see where your heart is at; a temptation comes from within or from the evil one to mistrust God and pull away from Him. God tests, he doesn't tempt; God provides a way out of the temptation, and he never tests you beyond your ability. The powerful urges of gluttony you feel - the Spirit of God could still prevail in your life...

What is the deadly sin of gluttony? Here's how St. Gregory the Great put it all those years ago:
Too Soon
Too Much
Too Avidly
Too Richly
Too Daintily.

Here's the question again: in what ways are you living as a glutton these days?
Do you ever eat too soon? Do you ever snack? Do you ever eat when you are not hungry? Do you ever eat alone when you could eat with others? Do you ever eat too much? Do you ever eat until you are stuffed? Do you ever eat a whole bag of Cheetos?

Do you ever eat too eagerly? Do you ever value your meal at the expense of others? Do you ever eat too expensively? Do you ever eat too cheaply? Do you place more value on the cost of the food than the nutrition or source of the food? Do you ever value the taste of the food over the health of the food?

Do you ever eat too carefully? Do you ever obsesses about your food? Do you pay too much attention to your meals?

Go ahead - admit that you are a glutton at times. Just say it: I. Am. A. Glutton.

Now, what can you do about it?
Here's what Jesus did: He fasted. He prayed. He meditated on Scripture. He fueled rebellion towards the Evil One. He sustained his stubbornness towards the temptation of gluttony. He became uncomfortably honest with himself about his desires.

To fast is to intentionally go without a certain type of food, or to miss a meal. By withholding nutrition from your body, you become acutely aware of how hungry you can get. And then you begin to get a sense of what you are up against in attaining self-control over your appetite. You'll need God's help, won't you?!

To pray is to listen to the Spirit's promptings about what to do next with your desires for food. Listen for hints of reality, of wisdom, of truth about yourself and why you eat the way you do.

To meditate on Scripture is to let God speak to you in the way he has spoken to others who would listen in the past. Let God shape your understanding of you, your hunger, and what is more valuable.

There is more to be said on this. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst more for righteousness - for the right thing to prevail in their life and those around them. Knock, seek, ask, and you will find...

Rebel against your gluttony.

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