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Thanksgiving feasting among ‘rhythms of grace’

NASHVILLE (BP) — The average Thanksgiving dinner contains up to 3,000 calories, according to the Orlando Sentinel — 4,500 if you go back for more. That’s nearly three times the number of calories the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends some people consume in a day.

Can Christians indulge in such a feast — replete with fixings from potatoes to pie — without committing the sin of gluttony? Absolutely, say a seminary professor and a women’s author and speaker. Thanksgiving feasts are a biblically-justified part of celebrating God’s goodness and bounty, they say.

“When it is carried out as an expression of gratefulness to God with appreciation for His many undeserved blessings, feasting is appropriate and approved by God,” said Gregg Allison, a systematic theology professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who has taught doctoral students on the topic of gluttony for 15 years.

Eating “special food — roast turkey, special stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and lots more” recalls Old Testament fests prescribed by God, Allison said.

While God “always provided for His people’s physical needs — and no Israelite ever mistook manna for prime rib — at times the Lord called His people to feast as part of a time of thanksgiving,” Allison told Baptist Press in written comments. “Now we Christians don’t observe the Jewish feasts, as we are not under the old covenant. But they remind us that special meals like our Thanksgiving dinner, as a celebration of God’s goodness and bounty toward us, are properly part of our regular rhythms of grace in the new covenant.”

Kelly Minter, a Bible study author and speaker whose cookbook “A Place at the Table” is set for release by B&H in 2019, also cited Old Testament feasts as justification for contemporary Thanksgiving feasts. Another reason for periodic feasting, she said, is that in the Old and New Testaments, “so many important things … happened around meals”:

— Queen Esther saved the Jews from destruction over a feast in Esther 7.

— A woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears while He ate a meal in Luke 7:36-50.

— Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper during a meal.

— Jesus forgave Peter over a meal in John 21:9-19.

— The church in Acts “broke bread” to deepen its fellowship.

“A lot of times, you see God do important things, special things around meals,” Minter told BP, noting special works of God can happen over contemporary Thanksgiving feasts as well.

“When we finally sit down at the table, depending on who we’re sitting next to or who we’re sitting across from, we have the opportunity to really engage meaningfully, and not just in superficial ways,” to encourage believers and share the Gospel with nonbelievers, said Minter, whose five Bible studies published by LifeWay Christian Resources all include recipes.

Thanksgiving feasting crosses the line into gluttony, Minter said, only when it becomes “a whole lifestyle” that is “excessive all the time.”

Allison, citing a former student’s master’s thesis, defined gluttony as “the immoderate consumption of food arising from unchecked appetite for something more than, or other than, what the Lord has provided.” Eating large quantities of food alone is not gluttony, he explained. The sin of gluttony “is also a heart matter of idolizing something other than the Lord. When eating is joined with idolatry, gluttony is a deadly sin.”

Thanksgiving dinner, however — even with its 4,500 calories — often is diametrically opposed to gluttony.

“I really see it as an opportunity,” Minter said, “to open our homes and to invite people in for a really special meal and a seat at our table in the name of Jesus and really bless people.”