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The House Church Network: Dedicated to Kingdom Expansion
  How Can Overweight Ministers be Effective?

"My pastor preaches against smoking and drinking. He preaches against gossip and divorce. But he stands in the pulpit weighing in at too-much-to-guess. How can a minister who can't keep his weight under control condemn anyone else?"

Before I jump into the question of gluttony, I want to clear up two things. First, no minister has the right or the responsibility to condemn anyone. That's the job of the Spirit, not the minister -- or anyone else, for that matter. As Jesus said, "Let the one who has no sin cast the first stone" (John 8.7). Second, there has been a misconception throughout history that somehow clergy are somehow better, less sinful, more loving, and more holy than everyone else. Well, anyone who knows me (or for that matter, every minister I've ever known) knows this isn't true. Ministers, like everyone else, are subject to the same temptations everyone else has, and fall into them just about as often. So, if your minister has a problem with gluttony, remember so does over half the American population.

Okay, now on to the problem of gluttony itself. Believe it or not, the Bible is nearly silent about overeating. Those who are gluttons are scorned in scripture, but nowhere is there a commandment that says, "Thou shalt not eat dessert, or take seconds, or eat too much."

On the other hand, Proverbs includes this old saying, "Do not be among winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat; for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe them with rags" (Proverbs 23.20-21). The warning here is against hanging-out with those who give themselves over to excesses lest one ruin their reputation or fall into bad habits. And yet, Jesus seemed to prefer the company of these types of people to the point that Jesus himself was accused of being both a glutton and a drunkard (Luke 7.34).

The problem with gluttony today is, however, twofold. First, many, if not most, overweight people not only consume food, but they are consumed by food. Often these unfortunates find their lives controlled by their eating. Their emotions are tempered by their consumption and their moods are often determined by their consumption. These people have an emotional dependency on food rather than a physical dependency. Paul addresses this when he says, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial. . . . I will not be dominated by anything." (1 Corinthians 6.12 emphasis added). Being dominated by food, alcohol, chemicals, sex, relationships, etc. is neither healthy nor godly. (For those caught in the emotional dependency of food, I recommend regular attendance at a local Overeater's Anonymous meeting and a commitment to the twelve steps.)

The second problem with gluttony is stewardship. Today, while you read this column, children and adults are dying because they are malnourished. They die, not because food is scarce, but because food is poorly distributed. The western world consumes far more resources than is necessary for life, even for a rather comfortable life. According to the FDA, the average person needs between 2,000 - 3,000 calories a day for maximum health. However, the vast majority of Americans are eating nearly double that amount. Further, many people "work out" to keep their weight down by burning off the excess calories they're consuming, when better stewardship of resources suggests healthier eating would benefit not only themselves, but the world as a whole. Over-consumption is not only hurting us, it's killing the world.

Ministers are charged with sharing the gospel story and the good news of Jesus Christ. They're not infallible and they get caught up in the same societal ills as everyone else. However, it is incumbent on every Christian to be good stewards of all God has blessed them with -- no matter how little or how much (Luke 16.10) -- and good stewardship begins at the table.

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