A Wisdom Case for Total Abstinence from Alcohol in Modern Times

In my view, the Bible is just ambiguous enough on the topic of beverage alcohol to put the question in the category of matters of conscience. But matters of conscience are not matters to “leave alone;” they’re not excluded from the call to “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Heb. 10:24).

These issues call for respectful challenging of one another’s assumptions — and for pondering the path of our feet (Prov. 4:26).

So, I offer here a few thoughts, mainly with two groups of people in mind: those who are trying to decide what sort of stand they ought to make in their own lives, and those who are looking for ways to communicate a no-drinking position to others they care about.

I’m aware that most of the moderate-consumption advocates I know won’t find this at all persuasive, so in that sense, it’s not an entry in “the debate.” But in another sense, it is: some of the undecided and open minded may find something here that bears fruit later on.

Some framing

A strong wisdom case begins by pointing out a few facts and dismissing some distractions. For brevity’s sake here, just the facts.

  • Relative to today, people in Bible times had fewer beverage options; it was harder (maybe impossible) to avoid fermented beverages entirely, even if you wanted to.
  • In ancient times, wine was not normally fortified with alcohol as it often is today (more on this practice at winespectator.om, and winecoolerdirect.com, eater.com and of course Wikipedia).
  • If not before, certainly after the rise of Greek culture, wine was routinely diluted with water (NY Times, Wikipedia), often to the point that the mix was more water than wine (winespectator.com, “Wine and Rome.”)

Along with these background facts, a few logically obvious points are often lost in the fray in discussions on this topic.

  • Not everyone who ever got drunk started out with the intention of getting drunk.
  • Nobody ever got drunk without a first drink.
  • Nobody ever got chemically addicted to alcohol with the intention of getting addicted to alcohol.
  • More than 10,000 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in the U.S. in 2016 (“It’s Not an ‘Accident,’ It’s a Crime.” Sheriff & Deputy, March/April 2018). Nobody who ever drove drunk and killed someone had their first drink that night with a DUI crash fatality as their goal.

I could go on like this for some time, talking about cheating lovers, domestic violence, and all sorts of other alcohol induced or aggravated crimes. To many of us, these facts alone point to some obvious conclusions. But they’re just background lighting for a biblical wisdom case against beverage alcohol.

The argument from wisdom

For various reasons, a “wisdom case” against beverage alcohol consumption tries to avoid the argument that Scripture directly forbids beverage alcohol or that Jesus and the apostles drank only non-alcoholic wine.

The wisdom case I’ve taught in various venues goes like this:

1 Believers must be wise stewards.

A few passages help bring well-known principle into fresh focus.

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (ESV, Matthew 10:16)

Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. (1 Cor. 4:2)

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. (Prov. 4:7)

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Rom. 14:12)

The “so what” of this principle is that if a course of action is dumb, we shouldn’t do it. If there’s a smarter option, we should do that instead. It’s good stewardship.

2 We are called to keep our minds sharp.

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, (Titus 2:1-2)

For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober … (1 Thess. 5:5–8)

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Pet. 5:8)

These passages add up to strong direction to avoid anything that is likely to compromise our ability to stay sharp in tempting times.

3 Beverage alcohol poses dangers to both wise stewardship and sharp-mindedness.

The Bible’s warning passages in reference to “wine” and “strong drink” are well known, and it’s commonly claimed that they refer only to drunkenness and not to having the occasional drink. But as noted above, it’s really not rational to propose a complete non-relationship between drunkenness and “one drink.” You can’t have the former without the latter. They’re connected.

Since many get drunk without starting out with that goal, it’s absurd to claim that a single drink poses no risk at all of leading to drunkenness.

The likelihood may be low, but the stakes are high.

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? 30 Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. 31 Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. 32 In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. 33 Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. 34 You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. 35 “They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.” (Prov. 23:29–35)

To this and similar passages, we should add the humiliation of Noah (Gen. 9:20-26) and the degradation of Lot (Gen. 19:30-38). It’s significant that the first occurrence of “wine” in the Bible is a story of tragic family consequences. Did either of these men sit down with a mug that day thinking, “I believe I’ll get drunk now and do something ruinous”?

4 Avoiding pointless hazards is wise.

There is no risk-free living. Driving to work every day is a risky activity — but so is farming the back forty. We take these risks because they’re unavoidable and because the potential gain is worth the degree of risk involved. But acts with a high risk and low potential are just stupid, and recklessness is not a fruit of the Spirit!

The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. (Prov. 22:3)

Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight ahead. (Prov. 15:21)

When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord. (Prov. 19:3)

In our culture, we’d say the fool “gets it.” You have to enjoy life. Cut loose and have a good time … and it’s God’s fault when things go horribly wrong.

5 We should seek every advantage for successful competition.

Olympic athletes have a distinctive way of arranging their lives in pursuit of success. Their personal discipline amazes. They take advantage of every tiny detail of posture, clothing, or gear that might gain them a performance edge. Mostly, we respect that. They’re competing at the highest level.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:24–27)

Every Christian is called to Olympic-level godliness –- elite uprightness of character. Few can claim to have achieved that, but the pursuit is supposed to be where we live every day.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (Heb. 12:1)

If there is spiritual advantage in total abstinence, shouldn’t we be eager to seize that advantage?

Avoiding fermented beverages wasn’t easy in ancient times. There is little evidence that most bothered to even try. But in our times, tee-totaling is easy. Alcohol is a much-to-risk and almost nothing to gain scenario, and abstaining is a negligible sacrifice with a significant benefit. Wasting that opportunity is simply not wise.

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There are 211 Comments

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Feel free to be horrified by someone quoting a non-Fundamentalist.  I have long believed it is acceptable to quote someone when they are right, even when I disagree with them on other issues. 

Matter of fact, I imagine you two (John, Bert) have also done so in the past.  The Bible, preachers, theologians down through history have quoted unbelievers when they got something right.  I will continue to do so. 

By the way, I hope all the links Bert has provided up till now are from Bible-believing, Fundamentalists; otherwise…

To further concern you, another quote:

“Not drinking is no easy passport to happiness, no automatic assurance of a good and happy life.  What it does is to increase the odds enormously.”  -Upton Sinclair, Cup of Fury

When Sinclair is right, he’s right! 

David R. Brumbelow

Darrell Post's picture

Back to Aaron's point about dangers and risks. I know a situation where a young man had been an alcoholic, then got help and recovery, got off the addition and started leading a normal life with family, faith, church, and so forth. But at some point he and his family began attending a pro-drinking church, you know, the kind that thinks drinking booze is almost a third ordinance. So they encouraged the man to start drinking again. I don't have to write the rest of the story as you know what happened. And of course the blame for the man's ruin was placed solely on him for not obeying the command to avoid becoming drunk.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Darrell,

I personally know of another story very similar to the one you just related.  Very sad.

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

Aaron, if you look at the hazards--quite frankly you see them every week during the "organ recital" for church prayer meeting--you see the relative risk.  According to the CDC, it's about 8:1 on the side of food/sloth overall, and if you factor out intentional drunkenness, you're probably at 100:1 or more.  Yes, it's an unbalanced comparison, but in the opposite way from what you were asserting, and the zero sermons I've heard on gluttony in the 30 years I've been in Christ just ain't cutting it when 600,000 Americans are dying each year from it.  

Moreover, let's consider what drunkenness is; it's gluttony for the food called wine.  7kcal/gram of alcohol, vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals, yes, it is a food like any other as well as a drug.   Preaching against gluttony is ipso facto preaching against drunkenness.  When a pastor tells the congregation that their spare tires, discomfort after eating, joint pain, bad lipid panels, and the like are in part evidence of sin, and then gives hints on how to remedy that--sip your drinks, ease up on the sugary drinks, chew your food, don't swallow foods or drinks with an off taste you don't understand--he's preparing people to have the same habits regarding the bowl of punch with an unknown strength of Everclear.

In other words, he's doing a lot more to prevent drunkenness than the well-meaning pastor who simply tries to teach total abstinence.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Preaching against gluttony is ipso facto preaching against drunkenness.

Does a preacher need to preach against specific sins? Any time a Christian sins a particular sin it is because he is not walking in the Spirit - and failing to walk in the Spirit, itself, is sin. When preaching focuses on what we are commanded to do instead of focusing on what God commands us not to do, I believe it is far more profitable in helping people overcome those specific sins that the Bible clearly expresses.

 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Bert Perry's picture

JNoël wrote:

 

<my comment snipped>

Does a preacher need to preach against specific sins? Any time a Christian sins a particular sin it is because he is not walking in the Spirit - and failing to walk in the Spirit, itself, is sin. When preaching focuses on what we are commanded to do instead of focusing on what God commands us not to do, I believe it is far more profitable in helping people overcome those specific sins that the Bible clearly expresses.

Well, I'd have thought that a good pastor, confronted with the fact that 600,000 Americans every year are dying of the aftereffects of gluttony, and aware that it's most likely the #1 killer of people in his congregation, might address the Biblical testimony on the matter, but maybe that's insufficient.  You need, per Aaron's comments, to have something more spectacular and gory--maybe if gluttons exploded or something--it would be worth a sermon.  "If it bleeds, it leads" is apparently not just a tenet of journalism, but of homiletics today.  

And let's be honest here.  Part of the reason you don't hear much on gluttony is because it's the prevalent sin in our churches, and the pastor would hear it from the congregation if he did.  He might even get fired.  So he'll ignore the fact that gluttony and drunkenness are linked and preach only on the latter, violating every principle of sound exegesis and hermeneutics in the process, and then proceed to pray for their heart disease and diabetes each Wednesday, go to their bedside when they get open heart surgery, joint replacement, and dialysis, and finally preach their funerals.  It's much safer that way.  Preach about the sins that only a few commit, not against the besetting sins of most of the congregation.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

And let's be honest here.  Part of the reason you don't hear much on gluttony is because it's the prevalent sin in our churches

Opinion.

In my opinion, laziness, materialism, pride, and division trump gluttony. And, actually, let's just toss porneia into the mix, too.

 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Bert Perry's picture

I actually taught on materialism/greed once at church.  I caught it but good.  :^)    Both materialism and gluttony (linked concepts, no?) seem to be represented by fairly strong majorities in most American churches. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JD Miller's picture

Bert, it sounds like you have thought a lot about the gluttony issue.  I would love to read a well thought out article with scripture and other sources that we could all use as a reference.  I am not suggesting this to pick on you, I am simply urging you on to good works since it seems that this is something you have been thinking a lot about.  I would not be suggesting it if I did not think you were up to the task.  I do not expect a copy in my inbox tomorrow or anything, but I think such an article would be a great addition to our Sharper Iron posts over the next year. 

P.S. If you already have something and I missed it, then please link to it.  

Darrell Post's picture

Not everyone who appears to be overweight is guilty of the sin of gluttony. I know some who have medical problems that result in excessive weight gain. I also know of some who literally can eat huge portions of food and desserts and never put on any weight. Its not as easy to decipher as getting someone's body mass index number and then declaring them being in 'sin' if the number is too high.

JD Miller's picture

Darrel wrote:

 I also know of some who literally can eat huge portions of food and desserts and never put on any weight.

Darrel, that is me.  I am a bi-vocational  pastor and am a self employed contractor with no employees, so I do the work myself.  That means I am very active.  I am in my mid 40's and have never felt healthier.  I attribute a lot of that to the exercise I get and the fact that physical labor has always been a big stress reducer for me.  Having said that, I often look at the calorie count at McDonald's and try to order the stuff with the most calories just so I do not loose any more weight (my ribs already show).  Thus I am hungry (pardon the pun) for a good explanation of the theology of gluttony and how it applies to someone like me as well.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

In 2013-2014 I lost 20 lbs and reached my ideal weight for the first time in many years. But I was less healthy than before or now. The weight loss was the result of loss of appetite from an extended period of very high stress. I didn't even notice I was eating less. (That period is another reason I'm glad to have a lifelong habit of not drinking alcohol!). 

Now it's very hard work to keep the pounds from accumulating. You can gain weight while never eating as much as you would like, and still being hungry nearly all the time. I have to think that gluttony would more fun than this! But am I too heavy? My joints are eloquent in telling me that I am! 

Crystal's picture

Darrell Post wrote:

Not everyone who appears to be overweight is guilty of the sin of gluttony. I know some who have medical problems that result in excessive weight gain. I also know of some who literally can eat huge portions of food and desserts and never put on any weight. Its not as easy to decipher as getting someone's body mass index number and then declaring them being in 'sin' if the number is too high.


Yep.  Put me in the category of those that have health issues that cause excess weight. (Actually water weight but I won't go into tons of detail here) At the worst of my health issues I was easily 40+ lbs "overweight"....  Once we figured out what was wrong I dropped dramatically in a ridiculously short amount of time.  

Bert Perry's picture

Folks, the simple fact of the matter is that the words for gluttony and drunkenness are used together at least seven times in Scripture.  If one tries to preach against one without preaching against the other, one is simply violating basic rules of exegesis and homiletics.  Preach what's in the Word, not what's on your soapbox.

And let's define it properly; it's eating, at various times or consistently, more than your body needs to operate.  The construction worker or distance runner who needs 5000 calories per day (used to be me) is not a glutton.  He is eating what he needs.  The glutton is the person who eats at one sitting a lot more than he needs (think Thanksgiving or a Super Bowl Party), or who consistently eats more than he needs.

As such, ample stores of fat are as much a sign of gluttony as bloating and nausea.  You only get those stores of fat by eating more calories over time than you burn; there is no other way.  

And, like problem drinking, the glutton has a series of habits that lead to problems.  The Mayo Clinic Diet  actually starts with a requirement to "detox" by putting off certain behaviors (eating in front of the TV, soda) and putting on others (mild exercise, etc..).  It's a different list than you'd use with a problem drinker, but it's really the same premise.  

But if you want to keep whistling past the graveyard, going to the homes and hospital beds of people getting joint replacements, dialysis, stents, open heart surgery, and the like as you wait to preach their funerals, be my guest.  Ignore the stats because a heart attack isn't as shocking as a DUI-induced car crash, and because the funeral is open casket instead of closed casket.  Keep preaching instead about a problem most of the congregation doesn't have, and dutifully ignore a problem that most of them obviously do.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

And let's define it properly; it's eating, at various times or consistently, more than your body needs to operate.  The construction worker or distance runner who needs 5000 calories per day (used to be me) is not a glutton.  He is eating what he needs.  The glutton is the person who eats at one sitting a lot more than he needs (think Thanksgiving or a Super Bowl Party), or who consistently eats more than he needs.

I'm curious what your thoughts are on secular entertainment. Do you ever play a game of Monopoly? Play basketball? Watch a secular movie (say, for example, The Fox and the Hound)? I have wondered how many secular activities Paul participated in, considering verses that make it appear that he never did anything but that which was based on the eternal.

Just trying to understand where you're coming from; not casting stones here.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Bert Perry's picture

That's a nice dodge, Jason, but it's worth noting, ahem, that I've got no less than seven times in Scripture that the subjects of gluttony and drunkenness are linked.  I would hence argue that if you want to address one using these passages, hermeneutically you really ought to address the other.  Otherwise, you're just cherry-picking, most likely on the basis of fundamental soap boxes.

Like, ahem, entertainment.  If you demonstrate it's linked to the subject at hand, I'm game, but until then, maybe....keep to the subject? 

Again, if Scripture establishes clearly that an excess of wine is bad--and it does--then what do we make of the fact that in the same verse, it also establishes very clearly that an excess of food is bad?  And apart from the fact that preaching on gluttony tends to hit too close to home, tell me why we get a fair amount of emphasis on something not many people are doing, but very little on something that anyone can determine at a glance.  Why is that?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

I had a massive heart attack 16 months ago. I'll admit that I was overweight (according to my doctor the term was mildly obese) but my BP, cholesterol. etc. ere within healthy parameters for someone my height and age. I've learned a lot about diet in the last year that has changed my life. I'm down around 50 pounds, motivated primarily by the fact that my engine (heart) is now a four-cylinder and it just doesn't do well in an old big truck body.

I just got back from a check-up with my cardiologist amd I'll pass on what he said about this subject in simple terms. The typical male caloric intake should be 2000 calories and sodium intake around 2000 mg a day. Non nutritional foods are literally killers (donuts, sodas diet and regular, and desserts.) They're nice treats but should be rare. (A Krispy Kreme donut is 45 minutes at 3 mph on a treadmill)

Simple truth from the doctor: If your waist at your navel is more than half your height, YOU"RE FAT! and heading for health trouble.  

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Like, ahem, entertainment.  If you demonstrate it's linked to the subject at hand, I'm game, but until then, maybe....keep to the subject? 

Again, if Scripture establishes clearly that an excess of wine is bad--and it does--then what do we make of the fact that in the same verse, it also establishes very clearly that an excess of food is bad?  And apart from the fact that preaching on gluttony tends to hit too close to home, tell me why we get a fair amount of emphasis on something not many people are doing, but very little on something that anyone can determine at a glance.  Why is that?

I'm just trying to figure out whether or not you take things like gluttony the same way as other things in scripture. In other words, you and others here must have a different overall hermeneutic to be coming to such differences in opinion on scripture. From the way you talk, it seems you believe Aaron Blumer to be intellectually dishonest in his choice to brush aside gluttony and, instead, focus on alcohol. But I don't think you really believe that, I just think you interpret and apply scripture differently than him and others - which is why I asked questions about other things in the Bible, to try to gauge how you interpret scripture.

How about divorce and remarriage? Do you believe the Bible authorizes divorce and, if so, under what circumstances? Do you believe the Bible authorizes remarriage and, if so, under what circumstances? No, I'm not really looking for an answer to those questions, but we can come to differences in opinion on a huge variety of issues in the Bible and yet still recognize that we are, indeed, born again believers who will share in heaven's glories. Many, like me, believe alcohol is far more insidious and dangerous than you; I am dumbfounded that any American Christian would say it's "okay" and even "good" to drink alcohol considering the devastating impact it has on so many aspects of our country. You believe gluttony/overeating is worse. Maybe you're right; I'm certainly not there with you yet.

I think the bottom line, though, is that these are all sins of the heart. When we are rightly related to God, walking in the Spirit, we do not sin, we cannot sin. Only when I am walking in the flesh do I sin. If I am rightly related to God while I am eating Thanksgiving dinner, walking in the Spirit, I can be confident that I was not a glutton - even if some human medical expert tells me gravy, mashed potatoes, apple pie a la mode, and a can of Coke are horrible for my health. We could talk all day about what we eat and find that we'd all have to go back to being farmers if we wanted to consume only that which was good for our Temples. My conscience tells me that when I'm walking in the light, in fellowship with God, that it is a blessing from him to enjoy food, even if, sometimes, I consume more than my body needs at that moment in time in caloric intake or if it contains substances that not only lack healthiness but are actually bad for me (back to the buttery mashed potatoes and Coke example). Am I enjoying the food because I am thankful God provided it, or am I driven to consume whatever I want at all times regardless the impact it has to my body? That, I believe, is the fundamental, important question.

But bringing this back to the topic at hand, there is nothing good about alcohol that I can't get elsewhere. And there is an abundance of bad. Any so-called health benefits from alcoholic beverages can easily be obtained without drinking alcohol. Some like the taste and call it a blessing; I argue wisdom tells me to run away from it because no human knows if he will be the one who will fight with the chemical dependency for the rest of his life because he tried it. This same wisdom tells me to run away from gambling, porneia, tobacco, opioids, and any other of the things that have proven, historically, to be addicting.

Bert Perry wrote:

Again, if Scripture establishes clearly that an excess of wine is bad--and it does--then what do we make of the fact that in the same verse, it also establishes very clearly that an excess of food is bad?  And apart from the fact that preaching on gluttony tends to hit too close to home, tell me why we get a fair amount of emphasis on something not many people are doing, but very little on something that anyone can determine at a glance.  Why is that?

At my church, we rarely hear preaching against specific sins, although it does come up in the context of things that happen when we are not walking in the Spirit. When the preaching is almost strictly exegesis, working through books, you come across whatever topic happens to be in the book, of course; but telling someone not to sin is less effective than pointing someone to Christ, which helps them realize why they sin - because, at that point in time, they were failing to walk in the Spirit. The Don't Do It becomes less the focus - it becomes less about the individual and what he shouldn't do and, instead, it becomes more about depending on Christ, submitting our will to his, knowing that when we are in the Spirit overcoming temptation to sin is much easier...no, it is infinitely easier.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Darrell Post's picture

"Preach what's in the Word, not what's on your soapbox. And let's define it properly; it's eating, at various times or consistently, more than your body needs to operate."

Bert, you call for preaching the word, not what's on your soapbox, and then you give a definition for gluttony that you provided, not one from the Scriptures. Science has measurements they use to define obesity. The Scriptures do condemn gluttony. But who decides at what point the scientific definition of obesity moves someone into the realm of being guilty of the sin of gluttony?

Go back and read your post. You decided what a glutton was, not the Scriptures:

"The glutton is the person who eats at one sitting a lot more than he needs (think Thanksgiving or a Super Bowl Party), or who consistently eats more than he needs."

Chapter and verse?

I am not excusing the poor stewardship many have in regards to the care of their bodies. There are many ways people knowingly harm themselves.

But you also said this: "You only get those stores of fat by eating more calories over time than you burn; there is no other way."

Actually there are other ways. There are people with medical conditions and disorders where they eat a very low calorie diet--any lower and they would encounter other medical problems, and yet the weight just keeps climbing. They don't want to be over-weight, but there is little they can do about it.

Also, joint replacements are not always associated with carrying around excessive weight. I know of several people who had both knees replaced and were otherwise physically fit.

This is a valid topic, and I agree with the premise that preaching should include being good stewards of the physical bodies God has given us...but we should be careful not to paint everyone with the same brush--especially if we are relying on scientific definitions and relating them to the Scriptures in a way not defined by the Scriptures themselves.

 

 

 

Bert Perry's picture

Darrell, it is worth noting that I did in fact provide a link to the definitions of "zolel" and "phagos" that indeed does back up what I'm saying.   The root words for gluttony do indeed convey a general sense of excess.  Again, that tight stomach/nausea after overeating, or gaining fat around the body.  

And that's a big reason why I disagree with one of Aaron's main claims in his earlier link that a person can get fairly overweight (or even obese) without gluttony.  While it can certainly sneak up on you--you can gain 50lbs of fat in 50 years with ten extra calories per day(3500 calories/lb of fat)--your body is indeed mute testimony to your moderation or excess. 

Really, if we're going to follow a chain of hypotheses to go from the very Biblical proscription of drunkenness to a general prescription for abstinence from wine, exactly why would we refuse to follow the statistically documented correlations of overweight/poor diet/lack of exercise to start teaching more on gluttony?  Really, when we compare our approaches, we're inverting the normal hierarchy of evidence, statistical evidence being ignored for hypotheses.  

And regarding the notion that there are other ways to put on extra weight than extra calories; that's nonsense, Darrell.  Pure, unadulterated nonsense.   Fat gain is a simple equation of calories in vs. calories out.  There are ways (see link) that you can persuade your body it's satisfied (that's the root of just about any diet, really), but let's not pretend that we can get past thermodynamics.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Don Johnson's picture

The passages in question are:

  • Dt 21.20
  • Pr 23.20
  • Pr 23.21
  • Pr 28.7
  • Mt 11.19
  • Lk 7.34

Bert says seven, I only see six references. In all but one, Pr 28.7, the term is used in conjunction with drunkenness, "the glutton and the drunkard", etc.

Whatever gluttony means in the Bible, it is clearly connected to drunkenness. It is an excess in the same way. It may even be the same excess.

I think that people tend to overeat. I agree its not healthy, not good stewardship, etc. But is it gluttony according to the Bible? Is it overindulgence in the same way drunkenness is overindulgence? What is that way?

The problem is that we have to eat, we don't have to drink alcohol. When there is abundance, we can habituate ourselves to eating too much, and that will show itself. But to say that is gluttony is a stretch in my mind.

 

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

I think I should write a little more on the nonsense idea that one can gain fat without excess calories.  While there are some medical conditions (e.g. thyroid diseases) that can greatly change the metabolism, that does not change the fact that if you're putting on fat, you are eating too many calories, period.  One might argue that a lipoma--fatty tumor generally beneath the skin--is an example, but again, if you're not taking in more calories than you're burning, that lipoma can only grow by taking fat from elsewhere in the body, upon which it becomes obvious and you hire a surgeon to fix that issue.

The only quasi-exception to this pattern is when a tumor or water retention adds to the non-fatty tissues of the body, and I've made it explicit that I am talking about fat.  But even there, when you gain weight, that's a sign that something is different.

As a rule, when people argue "oh, there are all these other ways to gain weight than overeating",that's usually a dodge to get around the fact that they're fairly overweight.  Very often, it's visible at a glance, and at other times, the old 1970s "gut check" can work wonders; take off your shirt, pinch your skin to the side of your navel, and tell me how thick that fold is.  Can you pinch an inch?  If you can, you've got some weight to lose.  

 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JD Miller's picture

Darrel, you have brought up some really good points on gluttony.  The points you raise are the reasons that I would like to read a well thought out article on the subject that is supported by scripture.   You wrote earlier:

Not everyone who appears to be overweight is guilty of the sin of gluttony. I know some who have medical problems that result in excessive weight gain. I also know of some who literally can eat huge portions of food and desserts and never put on any weight. Its not as easy to decipher as getting someone's body mass index number and then declaring them being in 'sin' if the number is too high.

I could not help but notice that someone hit "dislike" for that post (I copied and pasted the whole thing).  I wish I had a scripture to show why what Darrel said would not be liked.  If I am missing something, I want to learn.  My wife was the one who posted earlier about having so much water weight.  She dropped a lot of weight in just a couple of weeks once the medical professional found out that she had both food sensitivities and nutritional deficiencies.  These conditions were causing inflammation (Inflammation is not fat).  She was actually swelling due to a health condition, not due to her eating too much.  She quit eating the foods she was reacting to (many of them were what we would typically consider healthy- she had to stop eating legumes for a while).  Once those foods were gone and she started taking supplements for what was lacking in her diet, the inflammation (water not fat) quickly vanished.

 

Darrell Post's picture

The context of what you said was about how to get the ample stores of fat that are a sign of gluttony:

"As such, ample stores of fat are as much a sign of gluttony as bloating and nausea.  You only get those stores of fat by eating more calories over time than you burn; there is no other way."

My point was that there are people who eat minimal calories and yet still put on excess weight. You seem to be ready and willing to label these people as gluttons.  It has nothing to do with thermodynamics, but rather with a body chemistry that aggressively stores calories as fat--in a way that is not normal for most folks.

Furthermore you did move from 'a general sense of excess' to 'The glutton is the person who eats at one sitting a lot more than he needs (think Thanksgiving or a Super Bowl Party), or who consistently eats more than he needs' which is more than what the Scriptures say.

What about the person whose metabolism burns off everything at an incredible rate? Would you label that person a glutton? I know someone like this who is not overweight, can eat incredible amounts of food, including 5 dunkin donuts in one sitting (I would be in pain by the 3rd), and yet he is a normal weight (and 'hated' by friends for his ability). Is this man a glutton according to a Scriptural definition? How about by your definition?

 

 

 

 

 

Bert Perry's picture

JD, I made clear, repeatedly, that I was talking about gaining fat, not water.

Regarding the notion that a medical condition can result in adding fat without excess calories, that is once again absolutely false.  The reason is the first law of thermodynamics, as well as the laws of conservation of matter and conservation of energy.  Each gram of carbohydrate, protein, fat, or alcohol is either used to make energy (with water/carbon dioxide/etc. excreted, etc..), form muscle and connective tissue (proteins), not digested/excreted, or stored as fat.  So if you're gaining fat, you have a surplus of nutrients coming in. Always.

For the two examples, that means that the person who gains fat despite "eating like a bird" in our view is still eating too much for their metabolism and activity level.  You might get that checked out (e.g. hypothyroid conditions), but dietetically, it means the person is getting too much food.  Conversely, it means that the person who eats "like a horse" but doesn't gain weight isn't being a glutton because they're simply eating an amount of food that corresponds to their metabolism and activity level.  Again, you might get it checked out--weight loss is an early sign of many cancers--but eating like Michael Phelps is not gluttony if you're training like him, too. 

Put strictly speaking for JD--my mom was a dietician and I learned a bit--that might also mean that you're going to want to look closely at how quickly your food gets into your blood, as large amounts of sugar wreak havoc with your insulin response.  That large Coke at McDonald's may get you through the day, but it'll do nasty things for your blood sugar and fat in your blood.   Check out www.eatright.org  (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) for a lot more info on this.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

Regarding the point that there isn't anything in wine that you can't get elsewhere, well, that's almost true.  You can buy resveratrol tablets or eat a lot of dark grapes, and you can get blood thinners and diuretics that work in a similar way to alcohol, to be sure.  But let's go with it.  Sure, there's no need or particular advantage to wine with the exception that people can enjoy it in moderation.

But that noted, if you go to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (again, eatright.org), you'll learn that there is absolutely no food that you absolutely need.  So let's play the game of "you don't need this" with other foods.  Let's cut out that Coke, that butter, all those eggs, and forget about that steak.  No chocolate, no coffee....all of a sudden, what we've done is to keep everything you need in your diet, and it's quite frankly a diet that you will absolutely HATE.  

Thankfully, the Scripture does not use this approach with any food, including wine.  And that's my point. If Scripture does not condemn the person whose wine-vats are full by God's blessing for using those wine-vats in moderation, neither should we.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Thankfully, the Scripture does not use this approach with any food, including wine.  And that's my point. If Scripture does not condemn the person whose wine-vats are full by God's blessing for using those wine-vats in moderation, neither should we.  

But the Bible does not warn against specific foods, just against "gluttony" (pick the translation/interpretation of the word of choice - doesn't matter here). There are warnings against alcohol specifically, but I don't know of any warnings concerning eggs, butter, or steak (unless it was offered to idols ;)). Not the same conversation.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Darrell Post's picture

"Regarding the notion that a medical condition can result in adding fat without excess calories, that is once again absolutely false."

You put someone with a low thyroid in an impossible situation Bert. You accuse them of taking in too many calories, but if they get any fewer, they would battle incredible fatigue and other problems. Someone close to me developed thyroid disease as a teenager, and the condition worsened throughout adulthood until the point it became a dangerous thyroid cancer that had to be surgically removed. But a decade before the cancer, a doctor decided to take her off thyroid treatment altogether to see what it would do. She did not change her diet, which was balanced and healthy, and yet the pounds started adding on. Going on a diet to eat less to try and stop the weight gain led to a much greater degree of fatigue and failure to thrive. The only option was to get back on the synthroid and the weight came off--again with no change in diet or exercise.

So in a way, your statement itself was absolutely false, because for this person, eating a healthy diet, taking in just enough calories to fend of extreme fatigue was still resulting in the addition of fat. Do you see my point? Eating any less would cause a significant health crisis, but the calories kept getting wrongly stored as excess fat. She didn't want to gain weight and only ate enough to stave off the weakness due to the lack of proteins and calories being put to work to keep the body functioning. Her broken body was wrongly storing it up as fat instead of using it the way it should be used.

The bottom line is we are in decaying bodies marred by sin. Our bodies can be broken by a host of problems, and for some people the best of intensions when it comes to calorie intake still does not resolve their problems with weight gain.

Darrell Post's picture

And for the record, the person I described above along with myself are both a healthy weight. I was 'blessed' to have inherited a very wide skeletal frame from a very wide German great-grandmother. So I typically weigh a little more than what my height says I should weigh on the government provided charts. But no one would look at me and think me obese or anything.

So I am not arguing on this thread from perspective where I am trying to play a 'get out of obese free' card. But I do have some overweight friends, and I hurt for them in their struggle with their health. I don't know about each of their conditions although I know at least two of them have a severe and life-threatening battle with auto-immune disease--a complicating factor with their weight gain.

 

 

 

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