17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Gods of Gluttony
Americans eat huge portions at restaurants. They often teach their children to snack incessantly during the day. Obesity is rife according to statistics (http://win.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/index.htm). It seems interesting that Paul should write of a group whose God was their stomachs. The stomach is the seat of appetite. We are consumers in a capitalist society who have trouble controlling our appetites. Affluent Philippians were infiltrated by those who staiated the senses and didn’t know when to stop. The virtue they lacked is temperance. We often associate temperance with alcohol, but it is the outworking of self-control in areas of food, sex, and all other pleasures as well. Paul could say to the gamer that their addiction to gaming is an affront to God. Paul could say to the romance novel addict that their addiction shows that their god is something other than the true God.
There is pain the world and we have to cope with it somehow. There are pleasures in the world that God has designed for us to enjoy, but each of these pleasures should lead to God. Once these pleasures become an end in themselves, we have lost our heavenly orientation and become too earthly. Living in ways that God has not designed, satiating our appetites in ways the body was not meant to, leads to illness, relational break-down and even death.
I saw Saving Mr. Banks yesterday. It was a story about how we all wrestle with our fathers. However, one father drowns his sorrows by drinking. The insistance that he was not a bad man, he just succumbed to the pressures of life is not the truth. We are all prone to succumb to the pressures of life because we are evil. We are twisted from our initial purposes. We can’t work, drink, or eat ourselves to a better place. We must completely renounce our attachment to this earth and align our identity with the God of Heaven. In so doing we will freely enjoy the pleasures of this world without destroying ourselves and those around us by excess.
We all seem to have vices. You have given us many good things, but we have greed and gluttony. Save the nation from addiction, obesity, and appetites that are out of control. Help us to resist those around us who push us to consume more. When we are pushed, help us to think of you and why we are here. Then help us to deny ourselves that we may live more effectively.
- What does Paul command the Philippians to do?
- How does he describe the opposition?
- What do you think the problem was in Philippi?
- How are we overindulging ourselves?
- How has God’s design for you and your body been violated? How might you live better?