Is biblical gluttony overeating? Part 2: The story of Nabal

An obesity epidemic plagues the world today. Some of my poorest friends are obese, and they often feel helpless to do anything about it. I have obese friends from Africa in countries where a typical salary, if one even has a job, is around $100 per month. No matter how little they eat, they have trouble losing weight. But in our minds today, even in the church, we associate gluttony with obesity and overeating. But in the Bible there are these stories in which very wealthy person feasts but refuses to share with the needy. One of these stories is 1 Sam 25, the story of Nabal.

One of the most important gluttons in the Bible, in my opinion, is Nabal. Nabal was very rich, and he had a shrewd wife. He himself wasn’t as smart as his wife. While David led a group of rebels, he asked Nabal for aid. David figured he had something coming from Nabal, since he’d protected Nabal’s life and property.  So he sent some of his men to request some food. But Nabal refused. Abigail heard and took some food to David and pleaded with David not to do something foolish by killing her stupid husband. David relented from his wrath. But when Abigail informed Nabal of what David intended and how she narrowly averted Nabal’s destruction, Nabal died, evidently of myocardial infarction.

So Nabal’s sin is not his overeating but his failure to acknowledge the service that David had done for him, and his unwillingness to share with David and his men. Even his own wife recognized his feasting in the presence of very dangerous men to be an extremely foolish thing to do.

Should we consider an obese person a glutton if that person is very willing to share and is generous towards the poor?

See also:

Is biblical gluttony overeating? Part 1

Is biblical gluttony overeating? Part 1

An African friend once told me that in his home province an elderly man learned that his son had killed a chicken and had eaten the gizzard. Now in that culture, it is a custom to offer the gizzard to the most honoured person in the family, and the father considered this act by his son to be disrespectful and so asked the constabulary to arrest his son–for eating a chicken gizzard! This seems to me to come close to the Old Testament understanding of the term “glutton”.

“Glutton” is a term that appears in the Old Testament a few times.  The Hebrew term, זלל (zalal), appears in Proverbs 23:20-21:

Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

This appears in a context of admonitions to children, telling them to obey instruction of their elders, as also Prov. 28.7:

A discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.

The Proverbs passages may depend on common understanding of the term זלל that we find also in Deut 21:18-21:

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town.  They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

Overeating may be an aspect of what it means to commit זלל, but it is very much a sin associated with rebelling against the commands of God and against the instruction of parents. Gluttony seems less a question of eating so much that it leads to obesity but rather of eating in a manner which does not honour other people, especially one’s parents.

Tendinitis: The mouth connexion

2014-04-19 07.25.12

I had a severe flare up of quadriceps tendinitis while in Kirkwall, Orkney Islands

For about seven or eight years, I’ve suffered from recurring tendinitis in multiple locations: both achilles heals, rotator cuff, neck, both quadriceps, and extensor (big toe). I’ve only received treatment from chiropractor who applied electric acupuncture to the affected site. Inflammation has been a symptom of my tendinopathy–that’s how I know it is not tendinosis (on the difference, see: Tendinopathy: Why the Difference Between Tendinitis and Tendinosis Matters). Last Fall, I had my worst bout of tendinitis while visiting the Orkney Islands. On the top floor of the Orkney Museum, I took a little rest on a couch. When I stood up, I felt a shooting pain in my knee, which I later determined was quadriceps tendinitis.

Because it is almost invariably a condition that manifests itself upon the occasion of using a tendon’s services, conventional wisdom treats tendinitis as a sports or repetitive use injury. At blame are overuse, lack of stretching, bad posture, or bad form.  The aging process also takes (see Chronic Tendonitis Causes and Treatment), so it becomes part of the popular understanding that if you have tendon problems it is a sign that you are getting old. This is a kind of bigotry of low expectations. When it comes to treatment, doctors prescribe rest, icing, non-steroidal anti-infammatory medications (NSAID), and steroids–and possibly surgery. Prevention focuses on good posture, stretching, and prevention of overuse.

It really makes one feel very old not being able to walk up and down stairs, get into the shower, or sleep normally. In my late 40s I reminded myself of my diabetic grandmother who went up and own stairs slowly and carefully. But Grandma Ruth was in her 70s. What was my problem? In 2011, I remember not being able to sleep because I couldn’t turn my head. I could barely bend my neck down to get in a car nor turn my head to look out back–not without pain.

Last Fall, my Orkney Island quadriceps injury worsened to the point that even a slight bending of my left knee was extremely painful, and so I went to see my chiropractor. He required that I get an ultra sound, and for that I had to see my doctor who offered me a powerful NSAID, but I was happy with the over-the-counter Ibuprofen that I was taking. She said to take it round the clock. The ultrasound showed nothing conclusive, but by that time my knee was improving a little and my chiropractor decided he could treat it with electric acupuncture, which led to a recovery until I tried to use the tendon again, and the pain and inflammation revived. I had at that point been on a low carbohydrate high fat diet for ten months, to the great improvement of my health. And so I decided that if I had been able to improve my health so much, then perhaps I could find a dietary solution to my tendinitis. So I began to search the internet for a solution, and I learned, not surprisingly, that a primary cause of tendinitis is the mouth.

More specifically, I learned that it is what we put in our mouth, the food we eat or fail to eat, or indeed toxins we consume, that have a profound influence on the health of tendons. The most helpful website was that of the Tendonitis Expert, Joshua Tucker, who provides a specific list of dietary supplements to heal tendons. It was Tucker from whom I first learned of a condition called “Leviquin Tendinitis” which is caused by the fluoride in fluoroquinolones like Cipro and Leviquin. Fluoride depletes the body of magnesium which is necessary for mitochondrial health and when mitochondria becomes unhealthy connective tissues becomes weak and is susceptible to damage. I’d likely taken Cipro at least six times over the last decade coinciding with my devastating bouts of tendinitis.

A few weeks earlier I had seen the amazing video by Dr. Terry Wahls, Minding your Mitochondria:

So I began to eat organ meats and take the supplements that Tucker recommended: vitamins A, C, D, E. I also took CoQ10 (Ubiquinol) and R-Lipoic Acid (R-LA), for my mitochondria, and several fish oil capsules every day. I also began to skip breakfast, having only a high fat coffee in the mornings (called “intermittent fasting”).

My bouts of tendinitis started to be further apart and less severe. Then in May, after Dr. Wahls book, The Wahls Protocol came out, because I still had recurring tendinitis (now with my right quadriceps), I decided to embrace her strictest regimen (Wahls Protocol Paleo Plus) to heal, if possible, the damage that Cipro had done. On her way to recovery from multiple sclerosis, Dr. Wahls became a specialist in functional medicine, which looks upon chronic disease as a single disease with multiple expressions, such as diabetes, cancer, and auto-immune diseases. She writes, most poignantly:

When chronic disease is the result of a deficiency, drugs aren’t going to solve the problem. As I’m sure you realize, multiple sclerosis is not a deficiency of the latest multiple-sclerosis-disease-modifying drug like Copaxone, just as fatigue is not a deficiency of wakefulness-promoting drugs like Provigil or even caffeine, and depression is not a deficiency of antidepressants like Prozac. No, these problems are not deficiencies of drugs, but they are triggered by deficiencies in your cells that lead to broken biochemistry and impaired signaling between your cells. When you look at chronic disease in this way, it’s obvious that you should treat the cellular deficiencies that cause diseases to develop in the first place instead of just treating the symptoms, which is what most conventional pharmaceutical treatments do.

In this way of thinking, tendinitis is not due to lack of NSAIDs, surgery or steroid treatment: it is instead a result of toxins and nutritional deficiencies. Conventional therapy and electric acupuncture may aid in the relieving of pain or the localized healing of specific injury, but it is not able to prevent later injuries because it doesn’t deal with the ultimate nutritional causes.

In my view, here are the causes of my tendinitis:

  1. Cipro treatments and fluoridated water were toxic to the mitochondrial health of my tendons.
  2. High blood sugars resulted in glycative (sugar) damage of capillaries so that my body was unable to nourish tendons properly.
  3. Stress to the tendons revealed weak tendons and brought out the tendinitis and inflammation. Stress could be brought on by walking, cycling, basketball, weight training or other activity.

Since adopting the Wahls Protocol, I eat organ meats regularly, especially pork heart and grass-fed beef liver and heart. I include bone broth. Eliminated are potential anti-nutrients, especially sugar and gluten, but also dairy, eggs and peanuts. I also consume Dr. Wahls’ recommended leafy greens, sulfur vegetables, and coloured berries and vegetables. I take regular seaweed and wild fish. For the last two months I’ve been taking only purified water. The Wahls Protocol Paleo Plus is a very high fat, extremely low carbohydrate diet. Mitochondria experience great oxidative damage due to glucose metabolism and they thrive particularly on a high fat, ketogenic diet.

In conclusion, I am seeing a great improvement of my tendons. I even played basketball four out of the last five days and I can still walk. The measures I’m taking to improve the nutrition to my tendons seem to be really helping, and I will plan a canoe trip next summer in Algonquin Park–the first one in over a decade. I hope my tendon testimony will encourage others who suffer from tendon problems to consider a good nutrition protocol, like the Wahls Protocol, the most important step in healing. At very least, one should be wary of Cipro, and diabetics need to get their blood sugars under control through a low carbohydrate high fat regimen.

Introducing GIGOLO, a new diet formula for fast weight loss

I am working on a new diet concept that will dispense with the application of the First Law of Thermodynamics and instead focus on the law of Conservation of Matter. Instead of CICO (Calories in Calories out) it will be GIGO (grams in grams out). I will call it the GIGOLO diet, pronounced (Gee, go low!).

Now obviously the Law of Conservation of Matter applies. Not to take it into consideration is actually very unscientific. It is also much easier to measure than CICO: no one can actually measure calories lost in the form of heat and practically no one ever measures the calories in urine and feces.

In my system, you merely have to do what can be easily done: weigh your food, drinks, and your excretions and other loss of mass (urine, sweat, tears, lost blood and feces)–and make sure more goes out than comes in and you will weight. I guarantee, or your money back, that you will lose weight.

With GIGOLO there will be no more fussing with:

(1) Inaccurate calorie counting because of bad labeling. You can actually control the grams that you put in your mouth by keeping a personal scale handy, although for hygienic reasons I would recommend a second scale for excretions.

(2) Worry about the calorie density of the item you are eating. In fact, my GIGOLO diet will favour high fat because fat is the least weighty of all foods, except perhaps rice cakes–but personally I do not find air particularly filling.

To be absolutely precise, make sure you collect lost skin (in your bed for example), and hair and nail clippings.

Biblical principles for food in the context of worship and church

Sermon delivered Sunday Morning, July 20, 2014

Scripture Readings

Psalm 104:1, 10-24

Acts 15.1-5; 22-29

Mark 7:14–23:

Romans 14:1–23:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIntroduction

In late 2012, Cathy asked me asked me to put some carriage lights up on our garage. In the evenings after doing this work, my feet were in pain which seemed disproportionate to the level of exertion. Not only so, but I fell off the ladder twice and also stumbled on the last step leading down to the garage. Now, I wondered if this lack of co-ordination could have anything to do with diabetes—a disease that runs in my family which I had been worried about getting. So I did some internet research and soon found that I had a problem called peripheral neuropathy, which is degenerative damage to peripheral nerves esp. in the hands and feet. It is a common diabetic symptom associated with uncontrolled blood sugars. Peripheral neuropathy causes loss of proprioception—and for years I stumbled going up steps because neuropathy makes you unable to sense where your feet are. Eventually peripheral neuropathy leads to amputation. So once I figured out where my diabetes was leading me, to loss of limb, I freaked out, and decided to stop eating carbohydrate laden foods—because I figured that carbs were the basis of the problem, and I found Dr. Bernsteins Diabetes Solution very early on confirming my decision to restrict carbohydrate.

Immediately, my feet and hands started getting better. As did my other diabetic symptoms—and as you may have noticed, I lost a dramatic amount of weight.

It is an interesting phenomenon to eat low carbohydrate high fat in a society which fears fat and in which the majority of “foods” are highly processed. When shopping, I spend nearly all my time in the outside aisles (meat, vegetables, high fat dairy, eggs) and only get coconut oil and coffee from the middle aisles of the grocery store. My food culture has a name: “Paleo”.

One of the chief arguments for the Paleo movement is that of Weston Price, a dentist who travelled around the world in circa 1930 to study native peoples. He noticed that the world’s aboriginal people were very healthy until they added processed flower and sugar to their diet. Thus, the Paleo movement focuses on real food, unprocessed and usually available without a food label. In addition, Paleo recommends eating good fats: butter, coconut oil, and animal fat. So while I eat all the fat from my meats, most people discard the fat—in the dread that saturated fat causes artery clogging. But the Inuit had no degenerative diseases (no cancer, no heart disease) before flour and sugar, despite eating diet very high in animal fat.

This alternate culture that I practice might cause problems for me when I travel or go out to eat at a friend’s place. Once eating at the house of an MP, the honorable Parliamentarian importuned me to eat an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, but I strayed not from my menu. I don’t see such things as food any more. This clash of culture has been even more difficult for others: I know of one diabetic lady whose mother-in-law makes a fuss whenever she comes over and refuses to eat her high carbohydrate fare: She makes a remark like, “I guess she thinks our food isn’t good enough for her.” One of my African colleague says that while he agrees with low-carb culture it clashes with his African culture—he says that his fellow African Christians become offended if you refuse to eat their high carbohydrate offerings. It does no good to explain that carbohydrate restriction is necessary for health. They will not accept refusal, says my friend. But wheat and sugar are causing new epidemics of diabetes in African countries today.

Clash of Two food cultures in our readings

Now it is interesting in three of the Bible passages that we read today that there is clearly a clash of two cultures going on: Gentile and Jewish culture. Jewish people ate a pretty strict Kosher diet then as they do today. Not only did the meat have to be of specific kind (from animals with cloven hooves and that chews their cud), but it had to be killed in a specific way, so as to drain the blood from the animal. Consequently strict Jews would refuse to eat in the houses of Gentiles. Furthermore, Gentiles would eat meat sacrificed to idols, for in antiquity, most of the meat sold in the market was sacrificed to idols. Furthermore, they often associated eating and drinking with licentious sexual practices: the Romans and Greeks, especially the noble classes, regularly took advantage of their slaves, both male and female, after having a nice evening meal with wine. This painting in Pompeii probably depicts the level of decadence of the Roman society:

Clearly, Roman dining presented a cultural clash with the Jewish standards of the day. Both food and the behaviour of the diners presented a problem.

In this context, gentiles had come to faith in Jesus Christ, and their teachers, Paul and Barnabas, did not think it was necessary to impose upon them the Jewish law. But when Jews from Jerusalem came to the church in Antioch, they began to insist that these people follow Jewish laws. So Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to discuss this with the powers that be. The result was that the council of Jerusalem in Acts ch. 15 only imposed four requirements, to abstain from:

(1) what has been sacrificed to idols
(2) blood
(3) what is strangled
(4) unchastity fornication

These instructions would have been the minimum requirements making of it possible for Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians to dine together. Why was that necessary? Because in the early church, the Lord’s Supper (i.e., Holy Communion) wasn’t just going up to take a wafer and a sip of wine, but a sacred meal that Christians ate together under one roof. The Jerusalem apostles and Paul were trying to create a single unified church which worshiped together, not a fragmented movement, which had separate Gentile and Jewish factions. The Jerusalem Council made it possible for people of two cultures to worship and dine under one roof. Both groups would have to make compromises so that neither would be overlooked or offended.

This compromise resulted in a certain tension for Paul. Paul had internalized the view that the whole of creation was the Lord’s and therefore nothing in it is evil in and of itself. So also Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark that uncleanness, sin isn’t a matter of what one eats but what comes out of the heart. So, Mark explains that Jesus thereby declared all foods clean. But this freedom to eat any food remained a problem for Jewish Christians. Paul, in his attempt to be all things to all men, would eat with Gentiles but not ask whether the food was sacrificed to an idol (1 Cor 10.23-32). All things were created by God—as the Psalmist also declares in our reading, “O LORD, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy creatures.” But knowing that food wasn’t intrinsically harmful wasn’t good enough. What if two people were eating together and one took offense or would stumble because of what was on his dinner plate? Paul says that the stronger brother must out of love cede his freedom and make concessions for the weaker brother—this is what love requires. In Romans 14, then, the weaker brother who could not partake of certain foods and for whom some days were more important than others was undoubtedly the Jewish Christians, who had very strong scruples about days (e.g., the Sabbath) and about foods. So Paul says to the Gentile Christians, make sure that you don’t offend your Jewish brothers by what you eat. So compromise was the course of the day: the Jew would compromise by eating with Gentiles, and the Gentiles would compromise by not putting anything on the menu that would offend Jews. Nor would the Gentiles continue their typical loose morals of having sex with slave woman or young slave boy—rather they would practice monogamy (a man would have one wife, a woman one husband). Through these restrictions, one church and one faith was possible. The ruling principle was one of loving one another, not putting out stumbling blocks, because that is more important than food.

Now let’s bring these readings to the 21st century and try to figure out some principles and applications that might help us to think about food in a biblical manner, particularly as it affects us as a church. Today, we have one dominant culture of food, let’s call it the Standard Western Diet, consisting largely of highly process foods with a few meats, fruits and vegetables thrown in. But there are many subcultures in our Canadian context. For example, we have many Iranians in our area, and as most are Muslims, they would typically eat no pork or alcohol; we are bordering on Thornhill with a large Jewish population, many of whom eat strictly Kosher meat; we also have a large number of vegetarians and vegans in our culture. And also now as I mentioned, I belong to a growing Paleo movement. There is also a growing number of people with severe food intolerances, such as people who go into prophylactic shock around peanuts; but there are other food intolerances: diabetics are intolerant of carbs; many others are intolerant of gluten; alcoholics are intolerant of alcohol. So in light of these Scriptures readings, how should we think about food in this multi-cultural context?

Principles of Food in the Church

1. All foods are clean because they are part of God’s creation. No one sins only because they eat a certain food. If I eat only saturated fat, and you eat wheat, and vegan abstains from every sort of animal product, no one of us sins for that that reason alone.

2. The church should be focused on unity and compromise when it comes to food. If today some Muslims and some Jews walked into church and were baptised, we wouldn’t start a separate Halal service and a separate Kosher service, but I’m sure we could find a way in which all of the Christians of differing cultures could worship together so that we could remain in fellowship and Holy Communion together. I will therefore never be the founder of Paleo church. And for that matter, our church is not a Standard Canadian Diet church, as the little sandwiches and pork sausage rolls after a funeral would suggest. We are Christ’s church and we all belong to him.

3. Love should be the guiding principle around food. So we should do nothing that would injure someone: Paul says, “If your brother is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died.”

Applications specifically at our church

1. Holy Communion: (a) I am pretty sure no one here is offended by the small amount of wine in the cup. But if we had Christians of Muslim background come to our church, we would perhaps have to discuss this with him or her. (b) The bread that we use, however, may a present a problem for those who are eating gluten free. It may seem like a small amount, but let me talk about Dr. Terry Wahls: she has secondary progressive MS and she has reversed her symptoms through eating a strict Paleo and gluten free diet. The Youtube video of her TedX talk, “Minding your mitochondria”, has gone viral with over 1.8 million hits.

Terry Wahls says that if she eats even the tiniest amount of gluten, for example in a sauce at a restaurant, her MS pain comes back in her face. We have gluten intolerant people in this congregation. So if we out of love want to make sure that we do not injure people, we would do well to have gluten free alternative. Of course, I am not picking on our church alone here—that’s not my intention. But I think that love requires that the knowledge of the negative effects of modern wheat (cf. Wheat Belly). Love would require that we rethink what communion bread should consist of.

2. Coffee Time and other occasions where we serve or consume food as a church: This is a mixed problem to me because I see our coffee time as especially important for conviviality and fellowship. I remember my first few Sundays at here and how people here were so welcoming. I am also thankful for the great and consistent effort of the people who provide the coffee and accompaniment; for I know that your hearts are in the right place.

A good effort is made to try to welcome those who have food intolerances: (1) Often I see gluten free items on the table; (2) Cheese and vegies are also often available for those who do not like or can’t tolerate sweets. I can see an attempt to provide alternatives and that is definitely within the spirit of compromise that our Scriptures mention.

However, I wonder if we put several selections of hard liquor:

What impression would we have of that. I wonder why we don’t do that? We have a lot of alcoholics in our society, so this may actually injure someone who has a problem with alcohol. Also, it may impair us on our drive home, and make it impossible for us to have a very good afternoon except to sleep off the alcohol. But what about a coffee-time table that looks like this:

Gluten to a celiac is like peanuts to a person allergic to peanuts. Carbohydrate and sugar are to a diabetic like alcohol to an alcoholic. Well, I think we all know that such food is fattening, and most of us have some weight to lose. Also it is commonly accepted that sugar often alters the behaviour of children for the worse. With such offerings, do churches put a stumbling block before weaker brothers and thus injure them? I leave you only with my own testimony: I love the coffee time, and the opportunity for fellowship. But I used also to love the sweets and I would go home often with a bag full of Tim Hortons, you know the one that someone used to bring. Well, this is what happened to me after church on Sunday: I would fix dinner, Cathy and I would eat, then I would have an afternoon nap and wake up at around 6:00 pm. Yes, the carbs regularly knocked me out—without them today, I nap most of the time only about 10-30 minutes. Furthermore, I reached a top weight of about 260 and 44 inch waist, and the hospitality of our church made its contribution, to be sure.

Well, this story isn’t about me. It isn’t about our church alone either. It is really about asking ourselves what hospitality could possibly require in our culture. The early Christians literally forbade certain cultural foods in the context of church, even though both Jesus and Paul said that they were not intrinsically sinful to eat—they did so because some people were weak, and could handle neither eating them nor being in the presence of those who did.

I don’t want to prescribe a certain action. But I believe God would have us open up a dialogue. Are we able to think through the issue of food so that our love and our concern for everyone at church, both regulars and visitors, shines out? How can we benefit as a church from dialogue: Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church has lost a collective 250,000 lbs on diet similar to mine: low carb low fat (I do low carb high fat). I am told on good authority that our church also did 3D years ago—a church weight loss program. I am hoping that we can do something here again to help folks lose weight. If Rick Warren can lose 65 lbs, and his church 250,000 lbs, that encourages us to try something as a church.