Have you ever referred to another person’s weight without transgressing taboos, or creating discomfort? It’s a topic without a winning exit strategy. We’re all sensitive about our weight, and you can bet the person you’re speaking to is more conscious of it than you are. I want to suggest, however, there is a sort of fatness we all carry to which we are mostly oblivious, but which nevertheless weighs us down. I’m talking about spiritual fat. The Bible speaks to holidays and rituals of fasting and feasting which help to compose culture and identity. As human beings, and particularly as Americans, we are pretty well experts at the latter. Fasting, on the other hand, is confusing, pointless, and legalistic. Or so we think.
In Deuteronomy 32:25, we read: “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.”
The subsequent verses go on to lay a charge against Israel for their further unfaithfulness. But it all started when they ‘grew fat.’ This is spiritual fatness--and we all have a few pounds to shed in this department. Pampered, comfortable, spoiled, and entitled. Are these attributes we merely complain about seeing in Millennials? Or, can you see how we are all carrying some of that fat? The articles of satiation may differ for us now, compared to the grain, wine, and carved idols of the Israelites; but, it’s doubtful that our American society has progressed to a state of improved spiritual fitness.
We lack for nothing. When was the last time you felt needy, weak, or deprived? Try going twenty-four, or even twelve hours without food. The point is not the feeling--it's for what or to whom do you look for help. It is God who sustains the entire universe, including our every breath, through and for the glory of Jesus Christ. (Col 1:16) God delights to deliver, to bring up the needy, the downcast, the humble, the afflicted. But we, like the church in Laodicea, often think to ourselves, "I’ve prospered. I don’t need anything." In reality, we need everything. We're utterly dependent creatures; God is the all sustaining Creator. He wants us to look to Him, pray to Him, seek from Him, and thank Him constantly for our daily bread. Going without daily bread for a time reminds us that it's something we must seek from Him, and that Jesus is the only bread that will enable us to never hunger again.
Justin Poythress is the Assistant Pastor of Student Ministry at Christ Community Church in Carmel, IN. He is the author of "The Grace and Gift of Differentness," in Redeeming the Life of the Mind (Crossway, 2017).