“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.” (Deuteronomy 32:15)
Have you ever entered into a dialogue with someone about their weight and walked away feeling: “Now that was really uplifting and positive for everyone involved!” 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 certainly as Americans, we are experts at the latter. Fasting, on the other hand, is confusing, pointless, and legalistic. Or so we think.
Look at the above verse, and notice when it is that the problems start. It’s not when things are hard, when the odds are stacked against them, and the enemy is at their throats. It starts to go downhill when Jeshurun (a poetic name for Israel) “grew fat.” Complacency, ease, and comfort pose a much more formidable threat than pain and suffering in a believer’s life. We become like a well cared for animal who becomes full of himself, precisely because he is well cared for. Then we turn to bite the Hand that feeds us. The pathway toward self-satisfied destruction gets smooth and slick as we get fat and comfy.
The warning is against spiritual fatness, and we’ve all got some pounds to shed in this department. When you think of “pampered, comfortable, spoiled, and entitled,” are these words you mostly use to complain about millenials, or do you recognize how you and I carry some of that same fat? The sources 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 toward disciplined 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. The point is not that there is some intrinsic good in ascetic misery, as if the better a Christian you are, the more you will be deprived and impoverished. The point is thinking about what, or whom, you look to for help when you feel like you’re empty. It is God who sustains the entire universe, including our every breath, through and for the glory of Jesus Christ. (Col 1:16) The weak, almost instantaneous cry of our belly should remind us that our soul is just as needy, weak, and quickly depleted. It’s amazing how quickly hunger will catch up with you. This 24/7 ticking dependency clock should remind us that we are not self-sustaining, in any area of our lives. We need help and nourishment from outside.
God delights to deliver, to bring up the needy, the downcast, the humble, the afflicted. Most of the time, however, we Americans operate like the church in Laodicea: “I’ve prospered. I don’t need anything.” When in fact, we need everything. We are creatures; God is the Creator. He wants us to look to him constantly, pray to him, seek from him, and then thank Him for our daily bread. Sometimes going without our physical daily bread physically can remind us that even your breakfast bar is something God ultimately supplies. Hunger and satiation is a metaphor for our entire spiritual life: praying and asking from God, and then thanking Him. The only difference is that Jesus is the only bread that takes away our hunger forever. (Jn 6:35)
This article was originally posted on Ref21