Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Some Men's Sins Precede Them - Gluttony at Church Social Hour

I cannot remember in what translation I first learned 1 Timothy 5:24, but the paraphrase that sticks in my mind from childhood goes something like this:

"The sins of some men go before them, but the sins of others follow after."

 Of course, after comparing several translations, it becomes evident that the sense of this verse is that some men's sins are so heinous and/or well-known, that they precede those men's arrival at the place of judgment.  Other men have sins that were hidden from view in this lifetime, and only come to light after this life is over, at the time of judgment.

But in my mind's eye as a child, I pictured always the sin of gluttony, and the attendant symptom of obesity.  So that, "the sins of some men go before them" meant a large belly, and "the sins of other men follow after them" meant fat buttocks.  More than one Bible teacher probably saw me staring into nothingness while contemplating the profile of an obese man, and thought I was in spiritual contemplation.  But I was just thinking about fat. 

Sometimes, though, these two meanings (the pot belly and the open sin, the overly large butt and the hidden sin) converge, and that is when I contemplate the open gluttony of some person at what many parishes like to call the Social Hour.  Granted, there is some socializing that goes on, but mostly there is the eating of delicacies:  cake, cookies, pastries, etc.  Usually, my wife is the only one standing by the vegetable tray, daintily choosing a celery stalk here, a midget tomato there.

Over the years, at various parishes, I have seen one or two extremely obese persons pile 3 or 4 desserts onto a plate and grin happily while consuming them.  I always, for a moment at least, get the not-very-Christian thought that I am glad I am not like those people, with my sins (i.e., my gut) extending out in such a manner as to arrive before me wherever I go, and my sins being practiced in the open.  In those moments of imagined self-superiority, I seem glad that my sins were all concluded by Friday night or earlier in the week (with perhaps some cursing at inanimate objects while working on old cars on Saturday).  Glad that no obvious trace of my sins clung to me bodily either at worship or at the Social Hour following.

But that is very wrong-headed, isn't it?  It may well be that my better-hidden, deeper, and more devious sins are already being shuddered at in the place of judgment, while the gastronomic and gustatory offenses of my fat fellow men are completely unknown and unmentioned there.  It certainly gives me pause, anyhow.