Today: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The body in the Bible: is your stomach your god?    (9/30/2012 )

“If  you get rid of the spare tyre you can save a lot of weight,” he said, as I bent forward to look into the boot of the car he was showing me. 

I’d just been to the NHS free checkup and had been told, like thousands of others,  that I’d expanded round my stomach and I needed to ‘lose weight and exercise more’ , so perhaps I was being over-sensitive when the car salesman commented about my  middle-age ‘spare tyre’.   Or perhaps he was talking about the car. I didn’t like to ask…

Anyway, I’ve recently been thinking about the stomach. Paul, a writer of many letters in the New Testament, used the stomach as a striking illustration to a group of people who claimed to be Christians but ‘whose God is their stomach’.  (Phil 3:18)

Paul taught with such clarity, passion and boldness about the grace of God that he was often misunderstood.  His emphasis was on the undeserved forgiveness and favour of God (which we can receive through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross) contrasted with the burden of following a list of laws and regulations  to earn God’s approval.

Some people began to take this to mean that they could indulge in all sorts of physical excesses including gluttony (hence ‘stomach’) but also sexual immorality of every kind, and live just like the pagan society around them.

Today we’re urged by advertising: ‘indulge yourself’ ‘because you’re worth it’; ‘see it, want it, have it’, and to put our physical desires above everything else. It’s hard to avoid pervasive messages like this unless you’re living in a cave somewhere.

There was a Christian community at Corinth that  Paul wrote to.  In the first century, the word ‘Corinthian’ had been coined to describe a lifestyle where every perversion and excess was indulged.  Inevitably, some of the people who began to believe in Christ were from such backgrounds.

Paul had to write to the church at Corinth pointing out the sins that were all around them in their society, and remind them of their radically new status in Christ:

"A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list… Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit." (1 Corinthians 6:11 - The Message version).

This is great news for 21st-century Christians. A person who puts their trust in Christ has not simply made a decision to make a few changes, turned over a new leaf,  and is struggling to change themselves. Rather, he or she is someone, who has been  ‘cleaned up’ by God,  and ‘given a fresh start’, and has the Holy Spirit at work in them.

We don’t need to be those ‘whose god is their stomach’.

And by the way, I’m still working on that spare tyre…

Read: the whole of Phillipians chapter 3 to see the bible context for this article

Pray: Thank you God for your love and kindness towards me. Help me to make sure I never put anything before you as my God.

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