The Belly Worshiper
Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. – Philippians 3:19
In our passage above, we read a curious yet intriguing statement from the Apostle Paul. His words describe the actions of the carnal man who has an unbridled lust to satisfy every fleshy craving that comes his way. Paul’s description of this destructive behavior are words of warning to the believers at Phillippi. But his words raise a question; what does it really mean to make your belly your god?
There are many layers to this question. To begin with, in biblical times the belly referred to the appetite, but not in the way we might think of today; for it did not refer to a person’s consumption of food and drink. Instead, the idea carried a broader meaning. If one had “made their belly their god” it meant that they lived a life of self-gratification and self-indulgence. It was used to describe the person who lived to satisfy every desire that entered their heart, with no concern whatsoever of repercussions or consequences.
Though an ancient term, we understand Paul’s description and see people today who fit this description. It is the person who gives in to every whim that hits his/her fancy and never denies himself/herself in any way. They live for the moment, satisfying any and every desire of the heart. Maybe their appetite is for power, position, prominence, or possessions – or all of the above. But whatever they crave, their appetite is their deity. They do not practice self-discipline, nor do they set personal boundaries or moral parameters. They narcissistically hold to the mantra that “if it feels good, then I’m going to go ahead and do it. I will not deny myself! If it makes me happy then it can’t be bad.”
But Paul says that the one who “makes their belly their god” is guilty of setting their mind “on earthly things.” This is in direct contrast to how the believer should live. Paul instructed the believers at Colossae to “set their minds that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:1-4). Yet the belly worshiper’s focus is on earthly things. Material possessions take precedence as they demonstrate an unbridled consumer-like mentality for the things of the world – and the more they feed their appetite on the world, the hungrier for the world they become. But Paul makes it very clear that the one who fits this grave description lives a doomed life headed for permanent destruction. The belly worshiper is guilty of idol worship and (unless they repent) will perpetually burn in hell for rejecting the one true God.
Paul also says that the belly worshiper celebrates in their actions by finding “glory in their shame.” Even though their insatiable appetite for self-gratification is shameful in light of God’s Word, they still find joy in their carnality. What should be loathed is loved. What should be shunned is embraced. They are not ashamed of their shameful insatiable appetite to perpetually please themselves.
Obviously such behavior does not mark the life of God’s people. Yet even though the believer’s life will not coincide with such carnality, Christians must still be aware of the enemy’s tactics and guard against the slippery slope of self-indulgence and self-gratification. The truth is, there is no such thing as a carnal Christian; for the one who falls headfirst into worshiping their appetite and end up “making their belly a god” was never a believer in the first place.
With this stark warning before us, may we daily set our mind on the things above, and practice the spiritual discipline of “denying ourselves.” Oh that we would heed the words of our Lord when he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24)!
– Pastor Eric