The Bible says the heart is deceitful. That might explain why you and I pay so much attention to that useful pump, yet think nothing of the versatile stomach which works overtime constantly. Your heart pauses to rest after every beat. But when does the belly catch a break in an American culture where people eat constantly?
- We celebrate by eating together. We also mourn by eating together.
- We conduct business over lunch.
- We combat stress with comfort food.
- We build family bonds over the dinner table.
- We eat for fun when we’re bored.
- We set the mood for romance with candlelight meals.
- The first step in preparing for hurricanes and blizzards is a trip to the grocery store!
- When Sunday rolls around, we worship with the Lord’s Supper.
But your belly is much more than a food processor. Heartbreaking problems don’t generally bother your heart: it’s your stomach that gets tied in knots, isn’t it? That’s why the worst nightmares are called gut-wrenching. Your belly really does feel your pain! Some tragic situations are so stomach churning that they leave us unable to even think about food. But what do all our friends and relatives promise us? “You’ll feel better if you eat something.”
Long ago when the Bible was being written, people were very self-aware. No, they didn’t understand the mysteries of DNA or neuroscience. But they did realize that it’s your gut that should be trusted; not your heart! Our spiritual forefathers (and mothers) associated the deeper emotions with the digestive organs.
- In Jeremiah 4:19 the prophet mourns the destruction of Jerusalem. His cry of grief is translated, “My anguish! My anguish! I writhe in pain,” but the Hebrew literally reads, “My bowels! My bowels!”
- 1 John 3:17 asks if we can truly possess the love of God if we refuse to open up our hearts to others in need. The Greek word in question, however, means “bowels or digestive organs,” rather than “heart.”
This would explain why fasting is so commonplace in the Bible, and why reclaiming that discipline can be so helpful today. Fasting is a “gut response” to a complex and difficult situation that requires divine intervention. It is the natural cry for help from a stomach tied in knots: grieving people are not inclined to eat. It is also a confession that we are governed by the principles of God rather than the appetites of our body.
Jesus noted that your stomach doesn’t cling to things that have no lasting value. In Mark 7:19, he explains that food cannot make us unacceptable to God “because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated.” It is the mind that clings to worthless things and refuses to let them go. Our brains continue to harbor unhealthy affections, hateful emotions, proud ambitions, and useless worries. Not surprisingly, Paul compared all those to… wait for it...dung! Your stomach reminds you that when things have no eternal value you should eliminate them; bury them and put them behind you. Your heart is deceitful, but not your stomach. Trust your gut.
And lift up the Cross!