Do not mix with winebibbers,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags. (Proverbs 23:20-21)
I've learned that gluttony is the equivalent of drunkenness, only instead of indulging oneself on alcohol, the substance of choice is solid food. You don't have to be fat to be a glutton, either. All you need to do is give in to temptation and eat uncontrollably, whether you are hungry or not. We call this overeating. The Bible calls it sin.
Ever notice how people who quit smoking or drinking will tend to put on weight? This is because people often will satisfy their cravings for nicotine and alcohol with sugar, and vice versa. We replace one substance with another. When I worked for a while at an eating disorder clinic, many of the girls we saw did not just suffer from eating disorders. They also had problems with drugs, alcohol, and sex. All of these behaviors are common in that they are vices to indulge the flesh. There is nothing wrong with food, sex, or even having a glass of wine (in my culture, having a glass of wine with dinner is akin to having a dinner roll). The problem comes when we abuse these things and attempt to get our comfort from them, instead of God.
The Bible says we cannot conquer these issues on our own strength. We must abide in Christ, or we will find ourselves right back where we started - perhaps even worse than where we were before. Here's a similar scenario: have you ever lost a great deal of weight, only to gain it back, plus a few more pounds? Of course, we all have. In fact, this phenomenon reminds me of a certain scripture:
“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26)
We may enjoy success on our own strength temporarily, but if we do not surrender to Christ, our old behaviors will return. We will either return to this sin as a dog returns to its vomit (Proverbs 26:11), or we will fill the void with something equally as sinful (such as drinking, drugs, or illicit sex). So it is not enough to simply repent from gluttony. We must turn from sin and turn toward God. One of the ways we can do this is through fasting.
Fasting is not something that is practiced much these days. I believe we have really adopted a "modern gospel" view of fasting. We may possess an intellectual understanding that Christ came for the salvation from our sins and not to give us temporal prosperity, yet our lives do not reflect this. We will whine about fasting, claiming all sorts of medical conditions* and other reasons why we cannot partake in this spiritual discipline. Instead, we happily volunteer to participate in less painful forms of self-denial. This "alternative fasting" often presents itself in the form of abstinence from TV, internet, or other "busy" activities. But this is not really fasting, according to the Bible. Nowhere in scripture do we see someone fasting from anything other than food. While it is good to shut off the TV or computer from time to time for the sake of holiness, it is not the same as fasting the way scripture intends.
As a single person, I abstain from sexual activity. No one would consider this fasting, and neither should we equate abstinence from other activities to be fasting either. Through true fasting, our bodies have time to rest. The digestive system shuts down and the body begins to detoxify and purge itself of impurities. During this time, we are to look to Christ for our strength, as He purifies our souls. We do not get these benefits of fasting when we decide to go without TV for a month. In order to truly claim that one is fasting, one must abstain from food.
For this reason, I have decided to take on The Lord's Table, Phase II, also known as "Feasting and Fasting." (Click here to read about my experiences with Phase I). Starting today, I will take 2 days to transfer into a 16-day fast, when I will drink nothing but liquids. After this, I will take two days to transfer out of the fast. The entire program is accompanied by a daily Bible-study with Setting Captives Free, the same ministry that brings us The Lord's Table, Phase I. There is a suggested donation of $50 for this program, but Phase I is free. If you have not yet participated in Phase I, I cheerfully encourage you to give it a try.
I do not look forward to the suffering that I will experience. But I do look forward to the spiritual changes that I expect to take place during this time. I may or may not be posting much during the fast, but I imagine I will respond to this post with updates via the comment feature to report how I'm doing. I would also like to invite you to prayerfully consider fasting with me - not necessarily for the whole 20 days, but for a portion of the time. Even if it is one day, we can claim victory over the lies that say we can not fast when we realize that a greater likelihood is that we will not fast. Will you consider joining me in this battle against the flesh? If so, I'd love to hear from you. Please use the comment feature to let me know how you are doing, and God bless!
Please Note: The Lord's Table, Phase II is no longer available through Setting Captives Free, however, Phase I is still available.
* A word about medical conditions: I once suffered from severe hypoglycemia, but now my condition is virtually non-existent. I have not had a problem with hypoglycemia for several years, yet all of a sudden it emerges when the word "fasting" is brought up. This is because I do not want to fast. I convince myself that a headache is a sign of danger. Yet I realize now that my body is detoxifying itself, and that's why I have a headache. I acknowledge that some medical conditions are real and prevent one from fasting, however, it may behoove some of us to reconsider our reasons for not fasting. We may discover that the enemy wants to convince us that we cannot fast when the Lord says we can.