their god is their belly
Philippians 3:19 ESV
What does Paul mean by belly here? The stomach or appetite, as some translations read, represents our instinctual and base-level desires, our hungers, cravings, and lusts. For the ancients, the belly was the most animalistic part of all humans, and we tend to agree with them, even is subconsciously. After all, how often do you have a gut-feeling about something? Do you ever question whether or not you should just go with your gut? Have you ever felt the fluttering in your gut while in the throes of infatuation? Our gut is our primal nature, working beyond the confines of logic and reason and, because of sin’s corruption, always longing for things forbidden. For this reason, we must learn the twin arts of self-control and self-discipline, teaching our head how to keep the stomach on a leash. Christians are especially charged to do this.
But not so for these enemies of the cross. Instead of treating the gut’s cravings with a proper amount of skepticism, they elevate it into their god. Does this mean that they hold formal worship services to their own stomachs? Probably not. But worship is not exclusive to churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, and the like. Worship is simply devotion, a life dedicated to one’s deity. To worship a god is to obey it, follow it, yield to it, and serve it. Because we know the one true God, who created all things, and we know that He has love and grace toward us beyond measure, we Christians joyfully offer up our lives as worship toward the God of the Bible. Our Sunday gathering is a piece of our worship, a highly significant piece but a piece, nonetheless. As for the doomed we are describing, their daily devotion goes to their own hungers and desires, the lusts of the eyes and of the flesh.
The real-world application of this is unfortunately quite easy to find. In fact, because the United States is a society of abundance, we tend to often be quite indulgent as well. Indeed, we live in a breeding ground for belly-worship. Our society places very few limits on our consumption of stuff, so we are left to our own self-discipline and self-control. Of course, I believe that this freedom is better than the alternative, but such freedom undeniably reveals the truth of humanity’s sinful nature.
Why is pornography such an epidemic? Because it’s easy to get. You are only restricted by your own values and the judgment of others. Sadly, values can be easily ignored, and online footprints are easy to hide.
Why do casinos have more people under their roof to “worship” than most actual churches on Sunday morning? Because toss money away for the mere hope of getting rich without earning it is often encouraged.
Why is there an obesity crisis in our nation? Food is cheap, plentiful, and conveniently accessed. Plus, many of the cheapest foods tend to be addictive in nature, capitalizing on the body’s natural cravings for sugar, salt, and fats.
Of course, then these things are coupled with being unable to express sincere concern for a over-weight loved one’s health because doing so would be unthinkably rude (although inquiring about someone under-weight is typically quite acceptable).
But each of these are not primarily health or psychological problems; they are spiritual problems. They are matters of idolatry, worshipping our own desires and lusts instead of God. They reflect that the primary religion of the United States is self, and the belly is the national god in whom we trust. We are not a Christian nation; we are a hungry nation, a lustful country, a land dominated by our own cravings.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, beware! Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, a proof that we belong to God. But we live amid excess. Each hour a test of our resolve against over-indulgence is set before us. Are you passing or failing those tests? How often does checking Facebook triumph over your time in the Word? How often does the television speak more in a day than the members of your household do? How often do you find yourself reaching for a snack either out of habit or in response to an emotion like sadness or boredom? Do not think these are minor problems. They may very well signal that you worship your own stomach. The fight for self-control is a fight for our very souls.