I have spent a lot of time in the last couple of years thinking about the connection between physical discipline and spiritual discipline. I know this is not a very popular concept in American churches. We are a people of excess. This can be seen in so many areas: just look at our houses, we are stuffed to the brim with, well, stuff. And many of us are stuffed beyond the brim, statistics show that the self-storage industry just keeps growing…because we are people of excess.
But talking about our tendency toward excess in food is unpopular in modern Christian circles. There was a time when the gluttony, or over-consumption, was considered a “deadly” sin. In the middle ages some ascetics warned against eating too eagerly or anticipating meals to much in addition to simply over-eating. In today’s church, however, we seem to have gone the other way. Churches offer coffee and donuts nearly every Sunday, we have potlucks during which we pile food on our plates like we aren’t going to eat for a week, there is rarely a church event without food being involved. The church isn’t only ignoring the sin of gluttony, it is leading people into it.
Here’s the true story: I am a glutton. I regularly eat more than I need. I regularly turn to food for comfort and companionship. And there are spiritual consequences for my sin. I know that when I am less focused on food, when I am more disciplined about my physical life that I am also more disciplined about my spiritual life.
It is discipline that I crave. And I am committed to being more disciplined. I don’t want to go in to details here because I don’t think my plan is necessarily prescriptive. What is discipline for one person is legalism for another. But I do not want to be a slave to the sin of excess any more.