Monday, April 28, 2008

dieting and gluttony (5g) Carolyn Mahaney on self-control

Let's eat to the glory of God, not our own glory!

Carolyn Mahaney encourages us to glorify God by enjoying food with thanksgiving, and by avoiding over-eating, comfort eating, and eating (or not eating) for vanity.

I enjoyed her story about the woman who always ordered a salad!
I usually don't stop to contemplate why I am eating. ... Most of the time we eat because we are hungry or simply because we desire food ... Scripture, however, tells us that we are to eat and drink to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). How then are we to fulfill this command?

We are to receive food with gratitude and enjoyment; however, we must not be given to overeating. ... Eating too much food is sin. [Prov. 23:2, 20-21] ...

Eating to calm our fears, alleviate stress, or overcome feelings of depression are other habits that do not glorify God. Food is not our source of help and comfort. God is. ...

Our society promotes the pursuit of physical beauty, but God's Word exposes this quest as vanity and calls us to pursue the fear of the Lord instead: "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised" (Prov. 31:20) ...

Being thin is one of our culture's requirements for physical beauty. ... We must not chase after the ideal our culture worships, but instead pursue what God esteems.

A disciplined approach to eating does not automatically indicate the presence of self-control ... I know a woman who always ordered a salad at restaurants because she desired a figure that would attract the attention of others. Although she appeared disciplined to those around her, this woman realised that her motives were actually sinful. She was pursuing self-glorification - not godliness. This sin of vanity is no less serious than the sin of gluttony. When this woman repented of her vanity, she was then able to pursue self-control in a manner that brought glory to God.

We need to ask ourselves: Am I seeking my own glory or God's glory with my eating habits?
My highlights; this quote is from Carolyn Mahaney, Feminine Appeal, pp.69-71.


Belinda said...

Its interesting thinking about that quote "Eating to calm our fears, alleviate stress, or overcome feelings of depression are other habits that do not glorify God". Obviously God is our main help and comfort. But I get help and comfort from spending time with friends and my husband, from reading a good book, from going for a walk, from going on the internet. Is it always wrong to eat because you know you'll feel better- if it is done in a self controled way- acknowledging that food is a good gift from God and not a god in and of itself?

Honoria said...

A wise friend was reflecting on a young Cantonese girl's eating habits. Like other Cantonese girls, they have an aversion to healthy food, basically stuffing themselves with junk whenever they want. Their staple is instant noodles.

This pattern of eating is probably deserving of the label: eating disorder. This is another form of abusing your body and excessive and obsessive control over food. Girls often get eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia to gain control of an area of their life when they feel like they don't have control of their life. But this is a false sense of control, since their actions are harmful and their perception of food is warped.

Jean said...

Good question, Belinda, and I'm not sure I've got the answer, but I'll think more about it!

You're right, food is a good gift from God, and like other gifts, will sometimes bring comfort.

The problem is probably when this becomes obsessive, idolatrous or self-centred: when my main focus in a relationships is my needs, or when I can't do without my pleasures cheerfully, or when I consistently turn to something like eating whenever I feel sad or lonely, or when my pleasures hurt others or are unloving in some way.

What do you think?

Jean said...

Honoria, I couldn't agree more, what we call "eating disorders" are a way of using food to gain a sense of control.

Something created by God becomes distorted and bent out of shape, idolatrous, a means of gaining something it was never meant to provide.

Honoria said...

I think many girls tacitly belief:

food = love

(the book "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant" picks up this idea, and food is the main "love language")

The Cantonese girl I referred to has a terrible self-esteem. She is hostile to her parents and believes her feelings are reciprocated. Perhaps she gorges herself, and offers her friends the same junk, to fulfill a longing for love.

So right on that real satisfaction is from Jesus.

~ John 6:51
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

Still not sure how to seek God's glory in our eating habits... does it look like Thankfulness to the Provider of food? (the Chief Baker?)

Jean said...

Short answer: yes.

Some ideas for a long answer: thanksgiving, refusing idolatry, energy to serve God, loving others, I'll keep thinking ...

Letting pleasure take its rightful place as something which leads us towards God in praise, not something which leads us away from him into idolatry. Eating in a way which is loving towards those around us.

Any more ideas??

Honoria said...

The big idea in Michael Hill's book "The How and Why of love" is a teleological ethic. The telos being the goal or purpose of something.
- An acorn's telos is the oak tree
- our telos is to know and worship God.

Food's telos is for nourishment, sustenance and celebration... (feasts in the Bible)