Psalm 141:3-4 Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil,
to take part in wicked deeds
with men who are evildoers;
let me not eat of their delicacies.
I had always thought of verse 3 as expressing the desire not to speak wrongly, but in context I see that it’s a matter of eating instead. You might even say this is a dieter’s prayer! We don’t know the specific things David is referring to here. In those days obesity was certainly not thought of as sinful, so it’s possible he ‘s talking about meat sacrificed to idols, or simply non-kosher food. It’s also possible he wasn’t talking about food at all, but just speaking metaphorically. In any case, his desire is not to participate with those who ignore God. Today, however, when obesity is such a major problem in the US, it is not inappropriate to take these verses at face value. The Bible does not speak well of gluttony, and in Church history it was considered one of the “7 deadly sins.” (That may have been because few people had the luxury of eating too much, so this helped poor people feel righteous.) Today, many churches would provide a good excuse for one little child’s misunderstanding of Silent Night: “round John Virgin.” When we are overweight, we are less nimble, less active, less available for whatever the Lord wants us to do. With all the negative health effects of over eating, it is certainly not good stewardship of the bodies God has given us. The flip side of that is that it is easy to become so obsessed with our bodies that it’s a form of idolatry. Satan doesn’t much care what we worship, so long as it’s not the true God! When our hearts are genuinely focused on God first and foremost, He will guide us into accurate stewardship of all that is physical, including our bodies. We all know people who are constantly on one diet or another. If our focus is on taking in the Word of God and then exercising that Word in our daily lives, then food issues will cease to be a problem.
I have never been severely overweight, which I consider something of a miracle, when my wife is as good a cook as she is. However, the same genes that have blessed my girth (or lack of it) have given me a tendency to high LDL cholesterol. Since my father, who was never badly overweight, died of heart issues at 64, I realized that good stewardship of my body included exercise. (That was not an awareness my father seemed to have, though he was not sedentary.) I’ve been fast-walking 5 km 2~3 times a week for a few years now, and I really appreciate the benefits. The biggest issue in getting started was time, because it has to be intentional. However, when I pray and worship as I walk, the time is sweet indeed. Since I grew up with a strong “clean your plate” environment, I try to be careful how much I put on my plate in the first place. I do enjoy tasty food! I need to be grateful for the abundance of God’s blessings but not misuse any of them. I need to let God be in charge of every detail of my life, and not think that anything is irrelevant.
Father, this is such a personal issue that it’s hard to deal with as a pastor. Thank you that it’s not a major issue in this church. Keep me from being holier-than-thou about anything, but specifically about this. May I encourage all the believers to be good stewards of their bodies, their abilities, and their resources, so that Your purposes for all those things may be fulfilled, for the blessing of all involved and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!