T. PIERCE BROWN
You may have heard of the woman who was so pleased when the preacher condemned drinking, gambling, fornication and various other sins that she said, “Amen” after each denunciation. When he began talking about dipping snuff and gossip, she said, “Now he has quit preaching and gone to meddling.” How long has it been since you heard a sermon on the sin of gluttony? If you did hear one, would you think the preacher had “gone to meddling?” Do you notice in the Bible that gluttons and drunkards are often classified in the same way?
Deut. 21:20, “And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.” Prov.23:21, “For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.” Luke21:34, “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.”
An excellent preacher, “sound in the faith,” was neither ashamed nor afraid to preach against unscriptural marriages, strong drink and other sinful practices. He even made snide comments about smoking. He had a friend and brother (another preacher) who weighed about 300 pounds. When he ate, he often went back to fill his plate about three times, not counting desserts. He had another brother who took a glass of wine at his evening meal. (That might be a “social drink” or, if in private, an “anti-social” one.) This preacher would wax eloquent about the fact that the second brother was on the way to hell, but was never heard to even comment about the possibility that the first one might need to examine his eating habits.
Most of us probably reason, “Drinking is far worse than gluttony.” That is true if one is thinking of the consequences of broken homes, battered wives and children and murder on the highway. Is the fact that some sins are worse in their temporal consequences a good excuse for failing to point out that ANY sin of which one does not repent will cause him to be lost?
Let us examine another aspect of the problem. Most of us probably admit that gluttony is a sin. We have trouble defining or recognizing what it is. We can define it as “eating to excess.” But when does that happen? What is excess? The problem is similar to that of covetousness. I never heard of anyone admitting either gluttony or covetousness. Those of us who preach against “social drinking” usually say something like, “If a person would become drunken by taking ten swallows, one swallow would make him one tenth drunk and that is still a sin.” Does the same logic apply in the case of a glutton? If eating 10 pieces of chicken would make a man a glutton, does eating one piece make him one-tenth a glutton and still a sinner?
Assume that we are concerned with our brother’s eternal destiny, and see him with a bottle of liquor. Even assuming that we are so “liberal” that we think he could probably take one drink (a small social one) without sinning, would it be proper to warn him to leave the first one alone, since no one ever became an alcoholic who did not take the first drink? How does that responsibility relate to our concern that he may be a glutton? Should we warn him, laugh and joke about it, or just overlook the whole thing?
Suppose we warn him about the dangers, suggesting gently that he examine his actions to see if he weighs 300 pounds because he eats properly, or if perhaps three servings may be excessive. He disregards our efforts, laughs us to scorn and actually practices gluttony. He has a heart attack and dies. He has been an outstanding preacher. Is he in danger of being lost?
Our conclusion is that he is a glutton. It is based upon hard evidence. The Bible is plain in its condemnation of gluttony. It classifies it in the same listing as drunkenness, though does not imply that its temporal consequences are the same. What are we to teach about his eternal state?
I suggest a principle that should be of value to us in this and all other situations. We are not to teach anything at all about his eternal state. We are not to presume to be judges concerning the eternal state of anyone, including Solomon or Martin Luther. We are to teach the truth about all matters. All liars have their part in the lake of fire. All thieves will lose their souls in eternity if they do not repent. But suppose you hear a brother or sister say to one person when asked how they are doing, “I don’t feel so good.” Then a few moments later you hear the same person say to another, “I am getting along fine, and feeling very well.” Have they lied? If they should fall dead the next moment, would they be lost?
The truth is, you do not know. Nor should you allow yourself ever to be put in the position of passing judgment on a specific person with regard to his final destiny. That destiny will be in terms of his ability, opportunity, motive, attitude, words, works, etc., as well as in terms of the written word of God. The only one about which we can know much is the written word, and we may be a lot more ignorant of that than we suppose. It is one thing to condemn a sin, which every teacher has the right and responsibility to do. It is another to condemn the sinner to hell, which no human has the right or ability to do.
Although we have neither the right nor ability to consign a person to hell, we do have the obligation to preach against gluttony as well as against drunkenness. We also have the responsibility to practice temperance in all things that are right, and abstinence in all things that are wrong and not to joke about any sin as if it were of no consequence. The fact that the preacher is a leader, and may be close to the front of the line, as I try to be, at all “church dinners” does not change the fact that he is supposed to preach against gluttony and practice what he preaches. What do you teach — or practice?