Are We Eating Our World To Death?

David Mansfield

I was getting the mower ready to turn the grass into lawn. Checking the oil and petrol, I noticed a warning label next to the oil cap that said, DON’T OVERFILL.

What damage could too much oil cause, I wondered, not being a petrol head, as I checked the level? Then, as I pushed the mower up and down the yard, I couldn’t help thinking about the kind of damage my love of too much food, and too much of the wrong kind of food, was doing to my body, and even to my world.

Was I, am I, guilty of gluttony?

The Archbishop of Sydney in his Presidential Address at the 2011 Sydney Anglican Synod said:

Think of the great temple-like shopping centres  where we attend to the worship of ourselves through  the accumulation of possessions and possessions  and possessions – endless possessions; the obesity  epidemic, where we are sated with unhealthy  food (bold lettering mine); the substance abuse  which mars the lives of millions; the slaughter of  unwanted infants in the womb . . . 

But this piece is not primarily a rant against obesity. There are different reasons for obesity, many of which are medical but only one of which is gluttony.

Nor is it a rev-up for thinness, trimness and the body beautiful. Gym junkies, whether at home or in high-tech fitness centres, are feverishly working off the grams that their gluttony puts on.

Body image can be as misleading as obesity as an indicator of the ancient sin of gluttony.

If anything, this is a plea for men over forty, like myself (who am I kidding? I’ve just hit sixty!), who roll the dice with undisciplined diets.

Many questions crowded my mind as I stroked my grass’ insatiable appetite for being cut.

Why have I never been warned about gluttony in a sermon or had the topic addressed in a bible study? Why is it left to government-sponsored advertising to become a swapper instead of a whopper when I know they are more interested in the blow-out of the health budget than the breakdown of my personal health?

Why have I been in a Christian sub-culture where I have been constantly warned about the dangers of drinking alcohol, and indeed, of drinking excessive alcohol (and rightly so), but never heard a warning about excessive fats and sugars?

The Scriptures are not silent on this serious matter:

When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your  throat if you  are given to gluttony (Proverbs  23:1-2).

He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but  a companion of gluttons is a disgrace to his  father (Proverbs 28:7).

Even one of their own prophets has said,  “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy  gluttons” (Titus  1:12).

And notice how drunkenness and gluttony are often paired as partners in crime (Proverbs 23:21, Luke 7:34).

The questions keep piling on, like the starters, the mains and the desserts at one of those ‘all-you-can-eateries’.

What is my over-eating of the wrong food groups doing to my body, to the organs in my body, to the joints holding my body up, to the energy levels and stamina I want to give to ministry and the privilege of each new day, to the quality of the last quarter of my life?

How is my excessive eating contributing to the lack of food that the billion extremely poor people in the world could have otherwise been sustained by?

Don’t think that I’m weighed down with guilt by these questions. Which begs another question, WHY NOT?

For most of my adult life I’ve been 5-10 kilos overweight, the weight of newborn twins, even triplets. I am now in the classic pre Type 2 Diabetes stage of life and the medicos are warning us that there’s a diabetes tsunami on its way.

I have known for a long time that if I sensibly consume about 7,000 kilojoules (1,700 calories) a day, I will, over time, even out to a wise weight for someone of my height and age and greatly increase my chances of dodging Type 2 diabetes, and other lifestyle diseases.

I have been schooled in, and espoused to others, the virtues of self control, discipline, moderate exercise and delayed gratification; the joys of food and drink for times of relaxation, social banter and celebration; and that fats and sugars are a choice. Nobody force-feeds me those seductive sisters from King Island: Blue and Brie.

What would happen if what I saved by eating in a disciplined, sensible and non-obsessive manner went to those suffering from starvation?

What if the money I saved from not buying and consuming those extra kilojoules, was applied, according to best Aid and Development practice, to the billion people in extreme poverty? Would it make a difference?

Perhaps I would be healthier and wealthier, with greater energy and longevity for serving others and greater financial capacity for sacrificial generosity.

To think, I could have greater health and wealth without buying into a dodgy theology that shamefully offers those things. I would be wiser too, and have the big three! Would that be a worthwhile difference?

Perhaps I would stop eating myself, and my world, to death.

Would that be a worthwhile difference?