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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spiritual Bulimia

Bulimia and anorexia are terrible diseases. People with bulimia tend to be binge eaters. They often eat large quantities of high calorie foods. But the bulimic person will purge the food from their system prior to its being digested. Therefore they are constantly malnourished. In its early stages, the illness is very difficult to diagnose. There are no outward signs. But if left untreated, the illness will eventually raise havoc to the body, negatively affecting the various systems and organs. The ironic fact is that although they ingest an excess of calories, it is possible for people with bulimia to starve to death. People with anorexia tend to eat very little, fearing they are grossly overweight. When they do eat, they often purge themselves similar to people with bulimia. Eventually the body shuts down and leads to death. The singer Karen Carpenter died from anorexia.

I wonder how often we find ourselves battling the same illnesses in our spiritual lives. Spiritually anorexic people do not receive spiritual food. They infrequently read and study the Bible. When they do, it has little impact on their lives. These people are fairly easy to identify. Their attendance at church is minimal. Their non-involvement is a key to be able to diagnose spiritual anorexia. But spiritually bulimic people are hard to identify because they seem to be receiving large amounts of spiritual food. These are the people who will be at church every Sunday. They often are involved in Bible studies. They usually are some of the most active church members. But they have one problem. Very little of what they hear, read, and learn is ever digested. It never becomes incorporated into their lives. God’s word has little impact upon their day to day behavior. They are, in effect, spiritually bulimic. We all deal with this problem to some degree. As a test, ask yourself the following question this coming Sunday afternoon: “What was today’s sermon about?” If you can’t answer the question, you are in danger of being spiritually bulimic.

In today’s world, we have ample sources of spiritual food. There are many Bible translations available. Christian radio stations feature Christian music, talk shows, sermons, Bible studies etc. The religious bookstores have a wealth of materials that can be read. There are a large number of churches in the area that we can attend where we can be exposed to sermons, Christian education, and Bible studies. Too often we take in all of the information that is being presented to us from the pulpit and the media. What impact does all of this spiritual nourishment have on our lives? Sadly, it may have very little. It easily can go in one ear and out the other. It can have little or no impact upon our day to day existence.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were spiritually bulimic. In Luke 11:52 he speaks of their being experts in the law who have taken away the key to knowledge. They do not have true knowledge themselves, despite all their learning. Although they knew so much about the law, they had never personally incorporated it into their lives. They were spiritually bulimic. I wonder how much we are just like them. We have so many opportunities to learn about God. But does what I am learning have an impact on my life? How am I changing due to the spiritual food I am partaking? We must each ask ourselves this important question: Am I being spiritually nourished or am I spiritually bulimic?

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