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Grace for the glutton

Faith & Inspiration

If your Thanksgiving was anything like mine, you have had to unbuckle your pants a notch or two this morning. 

Thanksgiving is, traditionally, the day we overeat, trumping even Christmas for the most pats of butter and whipped cream–covered desserts consumed in a single 24-hour period.

We all might be bemoaning the calories we consumed and planning to wear black the rest of the weekend, but there is another, more unpleasant aspect of overindulging we rarely talk about.

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According to the Pew Research Center, 69 percent of Americans see obesity as a “very serious health problem.” But how many see obesity as a “very serious spiritual problem?” 

Like envy, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, gluttony is listed among the seven deadly sins. Who would’ve thought that when tucking into that third piece of pumpkin pie yesterday?

Comedian Mark Lowry imitates a stereotypical Baptist preacher railing against the wiles of other people’s drinkin’, smoking’, and fornicatin’, whilst sporting a 52-inch waist. Lowry’s subtext catches the irony: “Gluttony isn’t sin, it’s funny!”Being overweight might be annoying, embarrassing, uncomfortable, or unattractive … but sin? Come on, now.

Though we may giggle or defer when it comes to issues of weight, we wouldn’t dream of laughing about wrath, greed, sloth, lust, envy, or pride. So how do we resolve our inconsistency?

One option is to treat gluttony like other sins. Certainly we do need to take this sin more seriously, but holes appear when we imagine marching the glutton up in front of the church to confess or conducting weekly weigh-ins to determine if they are (by proof of weight lost or gained) repentant or not. What if we ended church suppers with a BMI test and excommunicated anyone found over the acceptable number? The thought, of course, is ludicrous.

Another option is to treat other sinners like we treat the glutton. Maybe this exposes the more salient point: If we wouldn’t do something to the glutton, maybe we shouldn’t do it to anyone. Perhaps we should, rather, put on the compassion and empathy we have for those who struggle with weight issues (and who doesn’t?) for those who struggle with other sins.

Philo of Alexandria famously said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

The glutton’s battle may not be yours and your battle may not be theirs, but perhaps we can all learn from our own struggles that shame doesn’t ever help and what we all need is a double helping of the one thing that does: grace.

Amy Henry
Amy Henry

Amy is a married mother of six and a WORLD correspondent from Kansas. Follow her other "scribbles" at Whole Mama or by reading her book Story Mama: What Children's Stories Teach Us About Life, Love and Mothering. Follow Amy on Twitter @wholemama.

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