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September 15, 2019     The Deadly Sin of Gluttony  

Dear brothers & sisters in Christ, (as we continue our sermon series,   you have an insert in the bulletin as an introduction to the topic) 

This week we were reminded that, since 9/11/01,  we have been aware that we live under the continuing threat of terrorism; this is not a new thing in our fallen world. We pray that our leaders are doing everything they can to defend BOTH our homeland and our freedoms; but those things need to be balanced. We don’t want to be ‘safe slaves’ of those who govern us.

It is impossible to remove all threats & danger from our world & life; but it’s not impossible to remove our God-given freedoms & responsibilities. May the Lord protect us from wicked people, AND from those who would smother us with their empty promises of protection.

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Of course, terrorism or even mass-shootings are not -statistically- the worst threats in our lives. Drug abuse threatens more American lives than direct terrorism; as does heart disease & cancer; as does the automobile.   And then the Department of Health informs us that -probably- the most widespread danger in our country, & in our world, is that of …obesity.

We’re told that over half of the population is unhealthily overweight or obese. Altho you might be surprised at how low their criteria is for determining someone as overweight. For example, the Dept.of Health would like to see all of us thin enough to sit comfortably in one of those regular airplane seats, 17” wide.   *Are we going to say that being overweight is a ‘sin’? No, let’s not say that; but let’s not not say that, either. Scripture helps us see that humans have many appetites; but God expects His people to be self-controlled. But,…let begin with food.

The Dept.of Health would say that being overweight or obese is ‘bad’. There’s a higher cost to accommodate the needs of people with concerns related to being overweight. It can cost millions of dollars for hospitals to have larger chairs, beds & lifts.   There’s also a price-tag on a body’s joint-health & organ function when a person freely eats excessive calories, or when a person over-eats the kinds of foods that put a strain on -what God calls- your ‘temple’ for the Holy Spirit. Such as: sugars, caffeine, & red meats; & I heard this last week that vegetarians have a 20% higher chance of a stroke.

Mankind has always had a certain ‘love affair’ with foods, whether its the sweetbreads of ancient Egypt, or the supersized fast-food meal.   But, the problem =the sin= is not the food; we need food to live.

And, the sin is not directly in obesity, as once a body gets started, it may just spiral itself out of control. The problem =the sin of gluttony= is our old nature’s sinful desire of ‘excess,’ & appetites we want to overindulge; with extravagance & decadence; with no restraint, with wastefulness.

The Dictionary defines gluttony simply as ‘excess in eating and drinking.’ Of course, a few extra vegetables & extra water isn’t what they’re talking about. Proverbs 23 says, “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.”    Here again, wine & meat are not the problems, but ‘too much’ is.   Excess of many foods will make a person sluggish & lazy, and takes extra money away from life’s other things. Excess alcohol also takes extra money, can damage health, and makes people do things that are foolish, mean, or dangerous.

Theologians -thru the years- have not just defined gluttony as a problem with eating or drinking, but man’s sinful desire, which often involves food & drink. For a person to focus their life on excess food & drink is gluttony; BUT it can also involve a craving for only the most extravagant, luscious, rare or expensive food or drink = because /‘that’s what you want’, /or you want to show off to others.   We flirt with the sin of gluttony when we focus on any of our desires, and are not mindful of being a faithful steward, or good disciple of what the Lord desires for us. Gluttony is related to selfish-fulfillment, greed, ignoring the needs of others, or even just squandering things that could be used better = but we don’t care.

In Matt.6, without using the word, Jesus addressed our food-temptations in this way: He says, don’t you see how your Heavenly Father feeds the birds of the air, O you of little faith?’   “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.   Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”   ….. For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Because food & drink is required for humans, so our old nature will take what is good and want to turn it into something bad.   *Are we tempted to use food or drink to show control in our lives? *Do those things determine whether we’ve had a good day or a bad day =  is that what we live for?

If something or someone prevents us from our favorite food or drink, *do we get angry & treat them as a threat or an obstacle to our life?   So, the temptation to gluttony is not just for ‘fat people,’ but for ALL of us who are tempted to focus on our own desires to over-indulge in earthly things.

+We can see this evil desire & the sin of gluttony in Esau in Genesis 25. He was willing to trade his God-given birthright as firstborn for a pot of stew; it wasn’t that he was that starving, but that he did not value his life of faith, and the promises of God more than earthly things.   +The people of Israel fell into the sin of gluttony when they complained about the Lord’s manna. Even after God sent quail for them to eat, they were not satisfied. They craved all the good foods back in Egypt, even tho they were oppressed slaves; back when they were also spiritually lazy, and didn’t care about Abraham’s promised land; they only cared about whether they liked the food & other earthly things. The Lord even tried to prevent their gluttony by only giving them enough manna for each day; if they tried to hoard it, it would rot.

From Matt.6, we heard Jesus apply this concept of gluttony, or excess, to include clothing. So, we become a glutton if we are obsessive & over-indulgent about almost anything.  Like the NBA player who drives a customized $120,000 Cadillac Escalade with satellite TV, six screens & 14 speakers, multiple DVD changer, a Play Station, a fridge & bar. Is this transportation or overindulgence?

Rich people indulge in luxurious houses, exotic vacations, expensive recreation activities, or excessive technology = *are these a good stewardship of resources? Should we have something just because we want it & can afford it?   But even poor people have sinful appetites, and are self-indulgent & excessive in various things. People will hoard things because of their uncontrolled desires. This umbrella of gluttony covers a whole lot of our sins; mostly the sin of us wanting /what we want, /when we want it, /as much as we want, == without asking what our Lord expects of us.

Jesus taught us in Luke 12: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions.” Abundance of anything, leading to obsession, craving & dependence, can become the deadly sin of gluttony.

The warning is that our temptation is to find our satisfaction & joy & purpose in our possessions, and in our earthly appetites, rather than in our relationship with our Creator,  who is our Savior from all our sinful excesses.

Jesus came face-to-face with the deadly sin of gluttony; he confronted it. You remember when he was 40 days in the wilderness, fasting, being tested by the devil. As a man, hungry, He had to determine for Himself what the focus of His life and work would be. *Would He use His mighty power as the Son of God to serve Himself, His bodily needs & desires by turning stones into bread?

If He did, He’d be guilty of the sin of gluttony. And when Satan failed with food, he tempted Jesus with an excess of world power, with a hunger to have control over all things.

But, that’s not what His Father wanted for Him.   Instead, Jesus found His strength & better nourishment in the Word & will of His Father in heaven. And in the strength of the same Spirit we received in our baptism, Jesus turned away from all those temptations to live a humble servant’s life for us.   He told His disciples in John 4, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.”

Likewise, Jesus has warned us (in John 6) to ‘not labor for the food that perishes,’ and has challenged you & me with the teaching that He Himself is ‘the Bread of Life;’ He and His words are the real food that sustains our life with God and our life to come.

The well-fed Jewish religious leaders had a more sophisticated form of gluttony.

They craved their high positions of power & wealth; so much so, that they would kill anyone who got in their way. This too is the deadly sin of gluttony, tho they excused themselves by thinking they only had a desire to preserve the people, the nation, the Law, and the temple. They couldn’t fool the Father, the Son, or the HSp.

Later on in Scripture, we hear Paul warning the Philippian Christians against those who “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” That whole verse is about the sin of gluttony:   a life defined by the desires of our own belly & mind is a life opposed to being connected to Christ & his cross. The christian life is a life of serving, of moderation & self-control in the Word & will of our Savior.   For our temptation to this sin, Jesus’ suffering & dying as God’s atoning sacrifice has covered our gluttony. Going to Him repentant, we have God’s forgiveness for ALL our sins = that’s His promise.    Repentance & forgiveness & obedience continues to be God’s solution to our 7 deadly sins.

In 2 Cor.5, the Spirit says that this ‘love of Christ controls us day after day, …that we might no longer live for ourselves but for Him who for our sake died and was raised.’ So as to empower that better desire to live for Him, the Spirit was promised and given to you in your baptism. The opposite of the gluttony vice is the virtue of ‘temperance’ or self-control.   Fortunately, this is a spiritual gift for us.   As Gal.5 says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and … self-control.”

This means that the life the Lord expects of us He works in us.  So, we can’t say, ‘I can’t do it.’ The very Spirit of God strengthens us to say ‘no’ to ourselves when those earthly things are taking over and pushing God around.   +The 3rd Commandment itself is a mandate from God to oppose our gluttonous use of time for ourselves, so we would give God His Sabbath day each week, which benefits us far more than it benefits Him. +God’s command to return tithes & thank-offerings to Him is a mandate to have us confront our gluttony of money for ourselves. +God’s command to love our neighbor is a mandate for us to turn away from our excess of self-serving to look after the needs of others with the surplus He gives into our lives.

To combat the temptations of gluttony in our lives, the historic church promoted regular times of ‘fasting’, or ‘abstinence’ from food and various earthly things. This was a good practice of restraint, self-discipline. This promoted the Biblical idea of ‘self-control’ and moderation in all earthly things.

As the Spirit wrote thru Paul, 1Cor.6,   “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will destroy them both. ….Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

You say, ‘yah, but pastor, I don’t really feel the temptation of gluttony.’ Test yourself: *What in your life would be hard to do-without for a time? *Could you say ‘no’ to meat for a month, or avoid sweets for that long? *Could you put down ‘the bottle’ for a week, or the TV = especially during your favorite sports season? *Could you go without the phone for one day?   *How about not buying new clothes for a year?   And if something is a real challenge to do without, what kind of excuses to you offer that you ‘can’t,’ or you ‘don’t want to.’

Now, a more serious question: have some of your earthly appetites & desires made you trade-away & do without some of God’s things?   Have your desires kept you from worship, prayer, offerings, or serving?   One thing that makes this gluttony a deadly sin is that it’s one we might not want to acknowledge, or put to the test. But this sin may be robbing God of what we owe Him in proper honor and thanksgiving, and in service to His kingdom and to our neighbor; and so we must be on guard.

It was a pro golfer who made this observation: when he made a good shot and someone would say he was ‘just lucky’, he would reply, “Yah, and you know what? The more I practice, the luckier I get.”    This is true of many things in the world, and things in the life of the disciple of Christ: The secret of self-control is not just praying for the Spirit’s help.

But having prayed, we need to put the gift of self-control into practice. You’ll find that the more you practice this virtue of /self-control, /restraint, /moderation, /& self-discipline, the better you will get at it;   for this is the will of the Lord Jesus for you, that your daily life-in-the-Spirit would be a good testimony to Him in repentance, forgiveness, and holy living.

So He says in Titus 2:   “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,   training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,   waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself to us to redeem us from all lawlessness,   and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

This is to be you & me = His people; renouncing worldly passions, and living self-controlled & godly lives.

Amen