“How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to Your word.
With all my heart I have sought You;
do not let me stray from Your commandments.
I have hidden Your word in my heart
that I might not sin against You.
Blessed are You, O LORD;
teach me Your statutes.
With my lips I proclaim
all the judgments of Your mouth.
I rejoice in the way of Your testimonies
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on Your precepts
and regard Your ways.
I will delight in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.”
Psalm 119:9 -16
When I started studying for this post I got really excited because it gave me the opportunity to pull Scripture quotes from three of my favorite Old Testament books: Psalms, Proverbs and Jeremiah. While the basis for our discussion is consistent throughout the Old and New, I still enjoyed the opportunity.
By now you are well aware that what is discussed over coffee with my family often ends up here. This post is yet another example. A few months back I brought up some of my reflections regarding the varying attributes my Bible reading had taken on over the years and how much different it is now. A few weeks ago, a friend, excited in the Lord, made mention to her current Biblical consumption, prompting me to tell her about the coffee table discussion weeks prior. Following our talk, and in light of the commonality of this subject, I thought I should share the discussions with you.
The theme of my reflections and later discussions was that all Christians go through periods of Scriptural Eating Disorders. It also occurred to me that many Christians live in one of these disorders as part of their ritual performance of Christianity.
So, let’s look at these “Disorders.”
Gluttony or, as my friend and I had put it, “Inhaling” Scripture. I think this is one most sincere, newly converted Christians go through. In our excitement for God, we just can’t get enough. We often read all the books we can get our hands on and we dive in and plow through the Scriptures. But is it fair to label it “Gluttony?” I think so; “Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be on solid ground.” Proverbs 4:26 While our intent is not actually bad, our approach is. A glutton, as we described, dives into their food and just keeps shoveling. They eat more than they can possibly properly digest. By not properly digesting the intake, their system misses out on much of the vital nutrients of the food. The glutton does not “carefully consider” what they put in their mouth. They do not chew it slowly and savor the taste. They don’t truly enjoy the experience of eating, and they do not give their system time to understand what just happened. They simply “Inhale” their food.
When we “Inhale” Scripture we do the same thing. In our excitement to take in as much as we can we only get a cursory effect of what we read. The “nutrients” The Holy Spirit infuses in every word are, for the most part, missed. As I said, the intent is not bad. The sincere Christian simply wants to get to know God as quickly and fully as possible. That’s where the hitch comes in: We can’t know Him fully if we consume too quickly. “The foolish believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.” Proverbs 14:15 For those who would jump in the wrong direction and claim I am telling you to nibble only a little at the Scripture, relax. We’ll get to that Eating Disorder in a second. What I am saying is that when we commune with God through His Words, we are to “Carefully Consider” what He says. We should study, not shovel. We should chew slowly as not to miss a single nutrient He has for us. If we “Inhale” and swallow fast we will receive, but if we take time to digest, we will be given more: “The knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.” Matthew 13:11,12
This was the reality I wanted to celebrate with family over coffee that morning and suggested to my friend weeks later. While this had been true for quite some time, I now understood that the more I took time to digest rather than “Inhale,” the MORE was given to me. Words and verses that I had consumed many times earlier in my Christian life took on new meaning, or actually, revealed previously unseen Truths. Truths the unbelieving world and insincere “Christian” “will be ever hearing but never understanding;… will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” Matthew 13:14 & Isaiah 6:9 Truths I for one do not want to miss out on!
That takes care of the Glutton. What about the Bulimic? We have pointed to this style of Scriptural consumption many times at P.O.C. This “Take what you like and let the rest go” approach to the Manual is one many Modern Christians take. They take in an adequate share of The Holy Spirit’s instruction, but they spit back out the bits they don’t want to keep. These dysfunctional digesters take on an authority that is not theirs and do not please God. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He takes pleasure in his way.” Psalm 37:23
Like the Glutton, those with this Scriptural Eating Disorder miss the nutrients the Scriptures have to offer, but, unlike the Glutton, their intent is not so sincere. This “Christian” has convinced themselves that this constant vomiting back of Scripture does no harm. They are wrong. Just like those who suffer with this eating disorder, they are harming their body and endangering their life. The difference here is the body they harm is their Spiritual one and the life they endanger is Eternal.
We have not only pointed to those who embrace this disorder, we have written an entire post warning of the dangers of adopting it, “The ‘Great Evil’ Sisters.” Like Gluttony, we are all at risk of falling into the trap of Scriptural Bulimia. We are all one step away from “stumbling” from our position “in” the world to one “of” the world. Those who do take on this Spiritual Lifestyle want the security and blessings God offers, but they don’t want the disciplinary calories that go along with it. So, when the Manual says, “You Can’t” or “You Must,” they will read it alright, but if they don’t want to live with it, they quickly spit it out and move on to the next verse. Where does this leave you if you consume the Scriptures in this manner? “Whoever keeps the whole law but stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” James 2:10
Finally, we have the Scriptural Anorexic. This is the person who claims the name of Christ but only lifts their Bible to dust the nightstand or to carry it back and forth to church on Sunday. If… and I do say “if,” this person ever actually reached for the offer Christ presents, they never actually embraced it.
I’m going to use a chocolate cake analogy here. Why chocolate cake? Seriously… It’s chocolate cake! The day when someone walks into a room holding a beautiful, brown, glimmering in the light, piece of chocolate cake and offers it to me and I don’t grab hold of it ??? I mean, just take hold of it, smell it, taste a little frosting with my finger and I don’t devour it… this will be the day you can say, “He never really loved chocolate cake.” I hope you get the point because I really want some chocolate cake now.
Anyone who experiences something wonderful, who even tastes something amazing, wants more. If, in the case of our analogy, they get a taste but the cake is gone, they will want to know how to get more. Anyone who has their first bite of chocolate cake and falls in love with it will not go through the rest of their lives walking by cake shop windows never opening the door to get some more. They will not attend birthdays, weddings and other parties and pass on the chocolate cake when it is on the table.
When we come across things in life that we enjoy or find valuable, we look for ways to repeat the experience. We learn more about them. We embrace them. This being true, how do you make the case that you have accepted the offer and had the greatest experience possible, but… I’m good thanks? If Christ has touched your heart, if you have died to self, if the Holy Spirit is offering to teach you, how do you not consume all you can? How can you resist that tempting book lying on your nightstand?
As we pointed to above, the Scriptural anorexic is the “nibbler.” They are so obsessed with the world view of themselves that, at best, they nibble at the edges of the Manual but take in no nutrients. They may look good to the Physical World but they are Spiritual “skin and bones.” They stand at death’s door and deny the reality of their Scriptural Eating Disorder. Short of an intervention and spiritual healing, the inevitable end of their choice not to consume is sealed. They have condemned themselves to an Eternity of Spiritual starvation, separated from the source of all health… separated from God.
I was going to again make you a list of Scripture references or Scriptural appetizers, if you will. You know things like, “if you love me you will keep my commandments” and “you will live as I live.” The question arose, “How can you do this if you haven’t actually consumed His ‘commandments’? How can you mimic His life if you have not digested His example?” So… none for you. I mean isn’t that the point of this post? If you have had the experience of Christ, then you will want to consume the Scriptures for yourself. If you are sincere, you will dive into that “chocolate cake” on your nightstand and “Digest” the Scriptural nutrients for yourself. If you don’t dive in, then you will have revealed yourself to be a Spiritual Anorexic. In that case, why waste my time? If you do dive in but spit out the bites with too much flavor, too many nutrients, then you have shown yourself to be a Spiritual Bulimic, a Heretic. In that case, why waste my time? If on the other hand, you sincerely want to build on and relive the experience you had with Christ, then your excitement might get the better of you. Don’t be a Spiritual Glutton. For you, I share a little table lecture “Ma” used to give us. “Slow down, Take smaller bites, Chew well, Give your system time to Digest and then take another bite.” For you, I always have the time, but will not rob you of the opportunity to enjoy the cake yourself.
I will, however, offer this one Tasty Tidbit to all of you:
“Let anyone who boasts boast in this, that they understand and know Me, that I am the LORD, who exercises loving devotion, judgement and righteousness on the earth—for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:24
After completing this post, we were reading Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of The Cross. I wanted to share a little of what he wrote as it makes a point I only alluded to at the end. Scriptural intake is only one way these Eating Disorders can interfere with our Pursuit of God’s Character. John shows us how we can evaluate all we do in the “Pursuit of” and in the name of Christ under these same distinctions:
“WITH respect to the fourth sin, which is spiritual gluttony, there is much to be said, for there is scarce one of these beginners who, however satisfactory his progress, falls not into some of the many imperfections which come to these beginners with respect to this sin, on account of the sweetness which they find at first in spiritual exercises. For many of these, lured by the sweetness and pleasure which they find in such exercises, strive more after spiritual sweetness than after spiritual purity and discretion, which is that which God regards and accepts throughout the spiritual journey. Therefore, besides the imperfections into which the seeking for sweetness of this kind makes them fall, the gluttony which they now have makes them continually go to extremes, so that they pass beyond the limits of moderation within which the virtues are acquired and wherein they have their being…Inasmuch as all extremes are vicious, and as in behaving thus such persons are working their own will, they grow in vice rather than in virtue; for, to say the least, they are acquiring spiritual gluttony and pride in this way, through not walking in obedience. And many of these the devil assails, stirring up this gluttony in them through the pleasures and desires which he increases within them, to such an extent that, since they can no longer help themselves, they either change or vary or add to that which is commanded them, as any obedience in this respect is so bitter to them. To such an evil pass have some persons come that, simply because it is through obedience that they engage in these exercises, they lose the desire and devotion to perform them, their only desire and pleasure being to do what they themselves are inclined to do, so that it would probably be more profitable for them not to engage in these exercises at all.”
In this, St. John of The Cross makes clear what we have just laid out and adds a little of what we talked about in “All Nice and Comfy!’;” the devil (Adversary) is happy to push us to Christian gluttony in any and all parts of our “Christian Life.” He knows if he can get us to scarf down the Scriptures, our Prayer or other Christian practices, then we will miss the nutrients they offer and we will grow tired and fatigued at the practice, giving it up as unhealthy… or at least not nutritious.
“These persons have the same defect as regards the practice of prayer, for they think that all the business of prayer consists in experiencing sensible pleasure and devotion and they strive to obtain this by great effort, wearying and fatiguing their faculties and their heads; and when they have not found this pleasure they become greatly discouraged, thinking that they have accomplished nothing. Through these efforts they lose true devotion and spirituality, which consist in perseverance, together with patience and humility and mistrust of themselves, that they may please God alone…I will only say that spiritual temperance and sobriety lead to another and a very different temper, which is that of mortification, fear and submission in all things.”
I think I will let John close his own thoughts as he needs no help from me. I am, however, grateful that he was able to add to our understanding of all the forms Christian Eating Disorders can take.
“It thus becomes clear that the perfection and worth of things consist not in the multitude and the pleasantness of one’s actions, but in being able to deny oneself in them.”
© Scott A Caughel 9/13/2019
2 thoughts on “Scriptural Eating Disorders”
Wow, what can I say? You have given me “food” for thought (pun intended). Yes, I do think I had a gluttony problem, with scriptures, for a long time. It was after you pointed some things out that things have really changed in reading scriptures. Now it is like having a cup of tea with my Father. We sit down and enjoy the company. We linger. I have discovered scriptures that have jumped off the page and sat in my lap. There have been scriptures that I have read that have made me say “whoa, really?’ Thank you, my friends, for having open hearts and open ears to hear the Spirit speaking.
As you know my prayer in any conversation whether direct or through P.O.C. is “Not Mine But Thine.” We appreciate it when someone let’s us know we have been “listening.”
One important note on “Good Eating Habits.” As any athlete knows the point of taking in all this nutrition, in the case of our discussion, Spiritual Calories, is to provide energy. Taking more in is great, but the point isn’t about what we get out of it. It’s Not About Us; The point is “For the Greater Glory of God.” We need to get off the Spiritual Couch and burn those calories in the living of our lives. It’s about the “Pursuit.”