Thursday, April 07, 2011

Be A Glutton. Like Jesus.

In reading through the Gospels while preparing for this series on Gluttony, I was fascinated by the idea of Jesus being accused of gluttony. Imagine Jesus guilty of gorging?! As I explored this theme, I came across where Jesus threw the accusations back at the Pharisees, naming them as gluttons. So who's right? What's the difference between a glutton like Jesus and ones like the religious leaders of Israel?

Here's how Jesus recounts the accusation:
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”
Luke 7:34-35 (NIV)

He's been walking around Israel for awhile, doing a lot of good work, preaching the good news of God's coming. Lots of people were flocking to him, getting healed, getting touched, getting fed, getting loved, getting a new heart. People hung out with Jesus and they repented, they confessed, they turned their lives around. And they invited him to lots of dinners.

Mealtime was more than just about eating. It was about hospitality, about welcome, about community, about acceptance, about embrace, about love. To dine with someone was to become associated with them, to be with them, to be for them. So be careful who you dined with! Jesus, obviously was spending lots of suppers with sinners and tax-collectors. They were also doing a lot of repenting.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Luke 15:1-2 (NIV)

So why were the Pharisees so bothered by Jesus? And what was it about Jesus' dining with the poor and the outcasts that solicited accusations of gluttony? There were two images behind this idea of gluttony. The first has to do with wisdom:
Oh listen, dear child—become wise; point your life in the right direction.
Don't drink too much wine and get drunk; don't eat too much food and get fat.
Drunks and gluttons will end up on skid row, in a stupor and dressed in rags.
Proverbs 23:19-21 (The Message)

The second image has to do with a stubborn and rebellious son:
If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (NIV)

How could Jesus be a true prophet of the holy God if he was spending so much time with gluttons and drunkards? Either he is not full of wisdom and thus not a true prophet, or he's a prophet that has rebelled against God and has stubbornly refused to resist temptations of lamb-chops. Either way, the proper response for the religious leaders was either to drive Jesus out of the land, or sentence him to death.

Jesus wasn't scared by the accusations. He knew what they meant. And he knew what he was doing. He was bringing good news to the poor. He was healing the sick. Those who had faith were getting their sins forgiven. And Jesus wasn't going to let the wealthy or the powerful stand in the way. He turned on the Pharisees and pointed out their hypocrisy, their indulgences, their sins of gluttony:
"Instead of giving you God's Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn't think of lifting a finger to help.

"Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something.
Matthew 23:4,11-12, 25-26 (The Message)

So what would you rather be? A glutton like Jesus or a glutton like the Pharisees? Here's how it often goes for us - we're a mix of sinner and Pharisee:

Like the tax-collectors and sinners: we eat to satisfy unending cravings, we try to avoid skid row, we get drunk and get fat, our life has been pointed in an unwise direction.

Like the Pharisees: we eat too much too often, we are vain, hypocritical towards sinners and the poor, we aren’t known for being a servant, our inside life can be maggoty

But here's the invitation to us:
Like Jesus: you eat with anyone, you can welcome everyone, you can be generous with the word “friend”, you can add love and joy to a meal, you ought to encourage gratitude, you ought to help people receive forgiveness for their sins, you ought to send people away in peace.

One more story of Jesus the glutton, a stubborn Pharisee, and a seeking sinner:
One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee's house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him."

Jesus said to him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."
"Oh? Tell me."

"Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?"
Simon answered, "I suppose the one who was forgiven the most."

"That's right," said Jesus. Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, "Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn't quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn't it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal."

Then he spoke to her: "I forgive your sins."
That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: "Who does he think he is, forgiving sins!"
He ignored them and said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."
Luke 7:36-50 (The Message)

What kind of glutton are you?

Be A Glutton Like Jesus. Follow His Way of Eating.

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