MESSAGE DELIVERED: SEPTEMBER 17, 2017
Continuing our look at the “7 Deadly Sins”, this week we’ll look at GLUTTONY, and after making just about everybody guilty LAST week when we looked at LUST, today’s topic should let most of us relax, because we’re certainly not ‘gluttons’, are we?
Well, as we look closely at this sin, the truth may be a lot different than you’re thinking right now. And that’s because we don’t hear too much about this particular sin anymore, and if you DO, it will almost certainly be used in referencing “OVER-EATING”.
So it was with that thought in mind that I turned to this familiar story about “Lazarus and the Rich Man”. And that story really does concern itself with gluttony, but over-eating was only a part of the problem.
I also chose this story because it deals with death: the death of the poor beggar, and the death of the pampered rich man. And by looking at some of the tiny little details found in this story, we’re given a glimpse of what happens, both at death, and immediately afterwards.
So first of all let’s look at the rich man. We’re told he was clothed in purple and fine linen…and that he ‘fared sumptuously’ every day. That describes a lavish lifestyle. A lifestyle of OVER-consumption. And ‘over-consumption’ is a synonym for “GLUTTONY”.
The ingredients needed to make purple DYE were extremely expensive and as a result only the VERY wealthy could afford to BUY purple cloth. The same was true about “Fine Linen”. It was far more expensive than plain wool or cotton cloth. It still is, as a matter of fact.
So just this man’s wardrobe tells us this man is one of the wealthier people in the city…a man who could certainly have afforded tossing a crust of bread to the starving man at his gate. But he didn’t even do that! Even though he himself OVER-indulged in the finest foods, every day!
And I also want to point out that one little detail about the DOGS that came and licked the sores on the body of the beggar. Being a ‘dog-person’ myself, I at first assumed this meant that even the dogs on the street treated this poor man better than the rich guy did.
But when I looked closer, I discovered that every single reference TO dogs, IN the Bible, was a NEGATIVE reference. For the most part, dogs were not loved and pampered then, as they are now. They were what we would call ‘curs’, and they were only tolerated because they helped to keep the RATS under control, as well as cleaning up a lot of the garbage that was thrown into the streets regularly.
What we are being told with that reference, is that this poor beggar is SO weak, and SO malnourished, that he couldn’t even protect himself from this INDIGNITY…that of having UNCLEAN ANIMALS coming and licking at his body.
Death by starvation is an especially cruel and painful way to die, and for a man to suffer such an end, within sight of all this OPULENCE, made it even more cruel.
But look at what happens when the poor man finally dies in verse 22. It says that ‘flocks of angels’ came to receive his soul, and to gently carry him to a place of complete peace and comfort.
Beloved, WHAT is there to FEAR, in THAT? What is there to FEAR, in DEATH, for the child of God?…for the believer? Absolutely NOTHING! Rather, it is an event to be LONGED for!
There may be a period of time, like now, when we have to suffer from physical pain, or the debilitating effects of an illness, or maybe some personal loss, and maybe we’re concerned about friends and family who are not Saved yet.
But, when THIS life ends, and those flocks of angels come to carry you to your new home, there will be NO sadness, NO concerns, NO worries at all. Your former life of worry and concern will be ended, and a brand NEW life of unending peace and comfort will have just begun, and IT will NEVER end.
But then look at the RICH man also in verse 22. He died, and was buried. No angels, no comfort. Instead, he died, and opened his eyes in TORMENT! And as if the fires of hell weren’t bad enough, he could SEE the former beggar, who he RECOGNIZED as the poor man who lay at his gate every day and begged for food, which he never GAVE him. He can SEE and RECOGNIZE the former beggar, enjoying ultimate COMFORT, while he himself is in TORMENT, and suffering HORRIBLY.
Folks, for one thing, that tells us that there is NO cessation of LIFE, of CONSCIOUSNESS, when you leave THIS life behind. The NEXT life begins IMMEDIATELY, and where you will SPEND that next life, has already been determined, BEFORE this life is OVER!
And remember, this story is from the lips of Jesus Himself, and THAT should be a WARNING to EVERYONE…ENOUGH warning, for anybody to understand that “YOU BETTER GET READY NOW, BECAUSE ‘LATER’ WILL BE TOO LATE!”
Well, my purpose this morning is NOT to talk about death. At least not directly. We’re supposed to be talking about gluttony, and THAT is the sin of EXCESS. It’s the sin of UNRESTRAINT, of SELF-INDULGENCE, of OVEREXTRAVAGENCE. And it really doesn’t LIMIT itself to just over-EATING!
Gluttony seeks SATISFYING, “to OVER-indulge, our every NEED or DESIRE, while at the same time, IGNORING the needs of OTHERS!
And THAT was the rich man’s sin. He KNEW that starving beggar was there outside his gate every day. And he KNEW the poor man was dying. He simply DIDN’T CARE! It would have cost him NOTHING to toss the SCRAPS from his rich meals TO that beggar. But he refused to do even THAT!
WE know that HE knew the beggar was there, and dying, because when he opened his eyes after dying, and found himself in indescribable torment, and he looked across that ‘unreachable gulf’ that separated HIM from PARADISE, he SAW the former beggar there being comforted, and he RECOGNIZED him! He knew WHO that beggar WAS, and he knew that he had IGNORED him in life, while at the same time, stuffing HIMSELF with every kind of delicacy. And THAT is the very DEFINITION of GLUTTONY. It is satisfying your OWN needs, while completely disregarding the needs of others!
And LOOKED AT that way, gluttony covers a LARGE number of sins, and certainly in our own affluent American society; then maybe we can recognize this sin, and how much heartache it causes to so many people.
I will never deny that Saddam Hussein was an EVIL man, and needed to be removed from power. But we spent 500 BILLION dollars, and DESTROYED a well-functioning nation, in order to accomplish the removal of that ONE man! And then we pulled our forces out, and our government wanted another 100 billion dollars, in AID, to rebuild what we had destroyed, and a large part of the aid was in the form of FOOD for the Iraqi people, and the offer of FREE MEDICAL service, to anyone who needed it.
Altruistically, that was a noble undertaking before it was cut short by the arrival of the group called ISIS. And I agree that we need to repair the damage we caused…but, at the same time, right here in America, the nation that is being asked to PROVIDE those funds, something like one out of ten people doesn’t have ACCESS to medical care, or can’t afford the COST of medical care…and in many places, people go to bed hungry, if they even have a bed. And people stand in long lines to receive hand-outs.
And you can’t point to any ONE person, and say THIS guy is responsible for this disparity. And you can’t say that Bush alone was responsible for all that damage and waste. EVERY single governmental agency had to cooperate in order to undertake that destruction. And the cost in dollars doesn’t even begin to count the cost in lives lost or ruined, and families destroyed or chased out of their homes.
But when you look at that COST, over 500 billion dollars, and then look at the desperate needs, right here in America, you have to see THAT as GOVERNMENTAL GLUTTONY, on a MASSIVE scale.
Where we lived in far northern New York, was an extremely depressed area, where jobs were scarce, and a lot of people were desperately poor. Had it not been for government assistance, a lot of them may have STARVED. But fortunately, New York has a GREAT welfare system.
I myself spent several years delivering hot meals to people who weren’t able to get out by themselves. And at the same time, a rich guy came up from Manhattan, wanting to build himself a VACATION home.
There was a ski lodge a few miles from where we lived, and this rich guy BOUGHT it. Bought a working, functional ski lodge that employed a lot of people, and he SHUT it DOWN.
He had the lodge converted to a private residence, and I gotta admit, it made a beautiful home. But the guy didn’t want to LIVE in it. He just wanted a place to stay, while he had his REAL home built, at the very TOP of that mountain.
In order to do that, he had to have a ROAD built to the top of the mountain, and MATERIALS flown up there by helicopters. And he built a 10 million dollar home, on the top of that mountain. It took a couple years to complete. And when it was finally finished, it was UN-inhabitable.
Even though it was built on solid rock, the heating system required to HEAT this massive place, was so HUGE that, every time it would cycle on, it would SHAKE the whole house. DISHES would rattle right out of the cupboards. PICTURES would fall off the walls.
And the ROAD he had built, to reach it, was so steep the fire trucks couldn’t get up it, so he couldn’t have the place insured. And there were so many problems like that, that the guy finally just ABANDONED it, and moved to Florida.
So, the house is still there, perched right on top of the mountain and visible from all over. A 10 million dollar FAILURE, looking down on some of the worst poverty in the nation. And THAT is GLUTTONY, on a MASSIVE scale. The money he wasted on that boondoggle, could have REBUILT the entire COMMUNITY below it. But that rich guy never even NOTICED those people.
Well, by now it should be obvious that gluttony is a sin of the affluent. But at the same time I need to point out that simply HAVING wealth, is not a sin. There are many Biblical examples where people used wealth to serve and honor God.
But there are even more instances where wealth proves to be a stumbling block. In fact the Bible generally tends to be skeptical of the USE of that wealth, by those that possess it.
Like that rich young ruler that came to Jesus, asking what he had to DO, to inherit eternal life? And Jesus knew the man’s wealth meant more to him than anything else. So He told the young man to go and SELL all that he owned, and GIVE the proceeds to the poor. And the young man walked away very sorrowful, because he COULDN’T do that. He walked away from the only One who could have guaranteed him eternal life, and clung to his riches instead. And then, unfortunately, one day he died, and “opened his eyes in torment”.
This week I gave you for a memory verse, 1st John 3:17…which says…”Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him; how does the Love of God abide in him?”
That isn’t talking about making a GREAT sacrifice, just a small gesture to help out another. Remember Jesus also said “If you have TWO coats, and see someone else who has none, you should GIVE that person one of yours”. That’s from Luke 3:11. That’s just giving what you DON’T need, TO someone who DOES need it.
We are supposed to bring to our Lord, a SACRIFICIAL offering, with the Promise that if we do, we will receive in return, far MORE than we gave away. But THAT is just a part of WORSHIP!
THIS is different. All this is doing, is asking you to SHARE with a stranger, something you aren’t using ANYway! NOwhere are we EVER asked to DEPRIVE ourselves, or your family, in order to help someone else. We are simply asked to SHARE with others, out of your EXCESS!
That is how we are supposed to deal with strangers. The PROBLEM is, that is USUALLY how we deal with GOD, instead. And then we IGNORE the others. And don’t get me wrong, I know that most of you contribute GENEROUSLY to the work of the church.
But this is talking about sharing with STRANGERS. And where 1st John 3:17 says “Anyone who sees someone in need, and ignores him, how can the Love of God ‘LIVE’ in such a person…”, that isn’t talking about those guys you see standing on the street corner with a cardboard sign saying they are starving.
In fact, I’d caution you to NEVER give money to one of those guys. 99% of them are CONS, just too lazy to work, so they’re asking YOU to support ’em. The same thing is true of those who approach you in a parking lot of the CHURCH, before or after services.
They KNOW that in GOING to church, you’re already in a GENEROUS mood, and that AFTER services, you might have heard a message about SHARING, like THIS one, actually, and maybe you’re RIPE for sharing.
They’re all CONS, expecting YOU to support them. But then, SOMEtime, you’ll see someone like that, and the Spirit of God within you will tell you you HAVE to give them something.
That’s a whole different thing. It means you have to exercise careful JUDGEMENT in sharing with others.
So, just having wealth is no sin. Having GREAT wealth is no sin! Unless you use it to OVER-indulge your OWN senses, while ignoring the needs of those around you in desperate need.
You can see people today driving around in automobiles that cost 70 or 80 THOUSAND dollars, and driving those expensive cars right PAST people who can’t scrape together a few cents to ride the BUS!
In fact, I was talking with a friend the other day, and he was telling me how he had just BOUGHT a new car, and he said “Tom, that the first time in my LIFE that I paid that much money for something that didn’t have a LAWN, and a SIDEWALK”!
And you’re probably by now saying “What’s going on? I thought he was gonna talk about EATING too much!”
Well, too MUCH, too OFTEN, too EXPENSIVE…those are ALL words that describe GLUTTONY! It doesn’t HAVE to mean eating too much FOOD, while others are STARVING!
It could also mean wasting $10 million dollars on a house you can’t use, while others are living in cardboard shacks.
It can also mean driving an $80 thousand dollar car, past a poor minimum wage worker struggling to put together enough change to buy a gallon of gas for his old WRECK, so he can get to work.
Sure, I understand, you worked hard for your money, you SHOULD be able to SPEND it, any way you want! I just want you to remember, HAVING, without SHARING, is the fifth deadly sin, the one called GLUTTONY!
It doesn’t really have a lot to do with EATING too much! And we don’t hear much about this particular sin anymore, because the folks that might PRACTICE it, are prone to telling ME, that what I’m DOING here, is MEDDLING in THEIR business. And what I OUGHT to do, is just preach the GOSPEL, and otherwise keep my mouth shut!
But beloved, can’t you SEE that THAT is exactly what I’m DOING! It was the Words of Jesus Himself, Who said “if you have TWO of something, and see someone else that has NONE, then you should GIVE the one you aren’t using TO him”.
And it is FAILING to DO that that makes you a GLUTTON! Having a LOT is not a sin. Having a lot, without SHARING of it, IS! It’s GLUTTONY, the FIFTH ‘deadly sin’, which isn’t really about EATING at all!