The Increasing Weight of the Sin of Gluttony

Some folks built like this
Built like that
Don’t you holler at me
Dontchoo call me fat
Ya know I’m built for comfort
I ain’t built for speed

So sings bluesman Taj Mahal in his rendition of the Willie Dixon tune usually associated with blues legend Howlin’ Wolf (Dixon had played bass in Wolf’s band).1 It is a somewhat playful and humorous song; however, the subject of gluttony is a serious one. In America the problem of overeating is increasing – along with the collective girth of the population in general, and the Church in particular.

This is going to be somewhat of a rant, rather than any sort of well-researched article. This issue has been on my mind for a while now; but, the idea to actually write this article came when I went to an Italian restaurant for lunch this past week.

It’s a restaurant I go to only sporadically. It’s a bit far from my office; so, when I do go it’s usually on the weekend. I’d been there a few times during the week, but this particular time was different. I noticed that the restaurant was a bit busier than usual; however, it wasn’t until I sat down that I noticed something was out of the ordinary. There was a spread of food by the bar area. “What’s that?” I asked, pointing. “It’s our buffet,” came the reply from my waiter. An Italian buffet? Sounded oxymoronic to me. This was not a pizza joint; this was a somewhat respectable Italian restaurant. Apparently, they instituted a Tuesday and Thursday buffet somewhat recently.

I tend to stay away from any buffet. It’s too tempting to eat too much just to “get your money’s worth.” But, this is precisely why some frequent buffets. They come to enjoy “all you can eat.” Like the individuals who ordered the buffet at the Italian restaurant mentioned above. Not one was what I’d term “trim” or “thin.” A few might be considered of normal weight; however, most were overfat. Some were probably obese.

About a year ago I began going to a particular Chinese restaurant for lunch. I usually eat lunch alone, bringing material with me to read as I eat. I now go to this particular establishment about two or three times a month. When I first began going there, the restaurant had just ceased their all-you-can-eat buffet. Apparently, they were losing money with it. Yet, I witnessed countless patrons asking about the buffet. A few left upon hearing what they perceived as bad news. Most would eat their lunch, but I don’t think these individuals would come back, as I noticed the clientele decrease with each passing month. Frankly, I don’t know how the restaurant stays in business.

America is overfat. In San Antonio, the city in which I live, we have the distinction of being the 2nd fattest large city in America.

I’ll try to be precise with my terminology here. The term “fat” comes with baggage. It’s viewed as not “politically correct.” It’s just not nice to call another “fat.” “Overfat” seems better, as we all have a certain amount of fat, even highly-conditioned athletes. “Overweight” does not seem helpful, since body builders, most especially males, can exceed the BMI (body mass index) limit for height. Moreover, all things being equal, one with a large skeletal frame will necessarily weigh more than another person of similar height who is small-framed. Hence, the key is one’s body fat percentage.

BMI tables can be used as a guide; however, these must be put in proper context. For example, I am thin – though not exceedingly so (and quite healthy, thank the Lord) – in part because of exercise and a balanced diet; however, according to the BMI table I can gain another 30 pounds and still be of “normal” weight. Yet, if I were 30 lbs. heavier, I’d be very much overfat!

Eating is a necessary part of life. And, it’s used for celebrating. In the Church many gatherings are associated with food. There’s the “pot-luck” dinner in which everyone brings one food item, for example. A somewhat recent Purdue study found a correlation between persons of faith and an increase in both BMI and obesity. Church members were found to be more overfat than the general population, with Baptists having the distinction of being the most overweight religious group.2 We’re setting a very poor example.

We can and should do better than this. Being overfat increases the risk for certain diseases and maladies. It shortens our lifespans. But, more importantly, gluttony is a sin. Overeating indicates a lack of self-control, which illustrates that one is not walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). Moreover, one can argue that it defiles the body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.

As a Church body, let’s endeavor to become more physically fit. Start slowly if you haven’t exercised in a while (and consult your health care professional). Let’s eat a more balanced diet. Cut down on the junk food (stop drinking sodas, both diet and regular!). Add more fresh veggies and fruits. The money saved can go to the poor and/or missions.

1 Lyrics from “Built for Comfort,” Taj Mahal Oooh So Good ‘n Blues, 1973, Columbia Records, C 32600.
2 See Wendy Ashley, “Obesity in the Body of Christ,” SBC Life, June 2007: http://www.sbclife.net/Articles/2007/01/sla8.

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