When the True God is abandoned, false gods rush in to take His place. One of the most treasured false gods in the Western world is the stomach. Whether through satisfying it with food or gaining pride by displaying it externally for others to admire, worshipping this hunk of human anatomy is causing many to risk their salvation.
Is my beloved stomach fed with delights? Did the last meal make me happy enough to feel that life away from God is worth living? Was I able to momentarily forget all my problems with meats and fats and sugars that produced a glorious mouthfeel of mush against my tongue and palate? For most people, every day is a feast day. Every day must have animal products and luxurious foods that excite the flesh and passions. There is no limit to our eating besides the physical size of our stomachs, but even that can be overcome by training it to distend beyond its anatomical size.
My life is far from God, my consciousness burns me, so I eat as much as I can. While chewing the sweet or savory food, there is no God but my mouth pleasure, and since food is often seen as life’s principal source of happiness, there are not two or three meals a day but one continuous meal, filled with engineered snacks and the incessant sip sip of caffeinated sugary drinks that give me the “energy” needed to compensate for my gluttony. When pleasure is sought from food, any hour is fit for eating, even if you just happened to eat. We don’t eat to live but live to eat.
If it’s not pleasure that I seek from food, it is vainglory and pride. Is my stomach flat enough? Does the opposite sex think my stomach is attractive? Is it pleasing to the eyes of those viewing pictures of my body on the internet? The gym is full of people who stare intently at their stomachs from every angle as if they were a scientist peering through a microscope. The smallest imperfection must be identified and targeted for elimination with religious fervor through strenuous workouts, diets, and intermittent fasting. The stomach has to be ironing board flat! It must look perfect in the mirror! There cannot be a blubbery bulge, a fold, or even excess hair around the belly button. YouTube experts must be sought and training programs studied so that this piece of flesh in the middle of our bodies looks perfect and sublime.
Who cares if the inside of our soul is filthy and full of darkness and demons and death as long as our stomach is flat and toned, with the muscular ripples that proclaim our bodily superiority to others? The blessed with washboard abs examine their stomachs in the mirror daily, caress them lovingly, the supple firmness, and select clothing to immodestly display it to the masses. Because of our stomachs, we are exalted, we are somebodies, we are loved by strangers who will desire us because of it alone. Even before old age arrives, we already have a bulletproof plan in place to ensure it remains the best-looking stomach around, and no expense, medical procedure, or workout regimen will be spared to ensure this end. To maintain our stomachs, we’ll starve ourselves if we have to, with a zeal that surpasses the pagans and their worship of stone idols.
“A soul moved by physical beauty reveals that it is moved only by this vain world; that it is attracted to the creation and not to the Creator, to clay and not to God. It makes no difference if this clay is pure and does not have the mire of sin in it. When the heart is drawn to earthly beauties, which though not sinful are still vain, it feels a worldly and fleeting joy. It is a joy that brings with it no divine consolation, no fluttering of the heart from spiritual exaltation. When however, we love and desire spiritual beauty, then our souls become whole and beautiful.” —Saint Paisios in Spiritual Counsels
The young fornicators make a god of the outside of their stomachs. The rest care about their hourly mouth pleasure. Both have strayed from the royal path, both have missed God and worship a part of creation instead of the Creator. Only the Orthodox Church, with its weekly practice of fasting, treats the stomach not as a god nor as a source of pride or vanity or pleasure but as a human organ that must function according to God’s plan. Its appearance is not treasured or glorified. It is not sated beyond what is needed to do one’s labors and worship Lord Jesus Christ. You don’t stare at your stomach longer than you stare into your soul. You don’t grab an extra bite if you already feel full, or eat beyond what you need for your daily duties, and to help you achieve this ideal, for approximately half the calendar year, you are told to constrain your portions and struggle against your desire for foods that contain meat and dairy, which comprise the ingredients of the tastiest, most satisfying dishes and sweets. And daily you pray to the Lord God in humility—not bodily pompousness—to recognize what a wretch you are, whether you have a six-pack or not. Outside of the Church, the royal path is impossible to achieve, and the stomach remains a god in one way or another, besides a host of other false gods empowered and promoted by Satan and his fallen angels.
“This kind [of demon] goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:14-23) If this kind goes out by the prayer and fasting of another person, then it is even less able to enter one who fasts and prays. What protection! Although there are a slew of demons and all the air is packed with them, they cannot do anything to one who is protected by prayer and fasting. Fasting is universal temperance, prayer is universal communication with God; the former defends from the outside, whereas the latter from within directs a fiery weapon against the enemies. The demons can sense a faster and man of prayer from a distance, and they run far away from him so as avoid a painful blow. Is it feasible to think that where there is no fasting and prayer, there already is a demon? Yes, it is. The demons lodging in a person, do not always reveal their presence, but lurk there, stealthily teaching their host every evil and turning him away from every good thing; so this person is certain that he is doing everything on his own, but meanwhile he is only fulfilling the will of his enemy. Just commence prayer and fasting and the enemy will immediately depart, then wait on the side for an opportunity to somehow return again. And he truly will return, as soon as prayer and fasting are abandoned.” —St. Theophan the Recluse
The stomach is not the only fleshly organ we make a god of, but it might be the most common. I insist to you that your stomach won’t save your soul, no matter how flat and toned it is. Your stomach won’t give you eternal life no matter how many delicacies you feed it. It was created by God as a way for us to digest food so that we may seamlessly live a life in Christ with Him at the center and not our appearance or the pleasure received from whatever Frankenfood laced with seed oil that titillates our taste buds. If we insist on making a god out of our bellies, putting it above Lord Jesus Christ, we will miss the reason for our existence, and have an eternity of tears to ponder our mistake.
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