Full Bellies & Fat Hearts

Luke 21:34; Psalm 119:70

Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness.

Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Two things we must watch against, lest our hearts be overcharged with them: the indulging of the appetites of the body, and allowing of ourselves in the gratifications of sense to an excess.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): “Overcharged.”―Literally, be made heavy, as is generally the case with those who have eaten or drank too much.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Excessive eating and drinking, as they oppress and burden the stomach, and disorder the body, so they stupefy the senses, and make the mind dull and heavy, and unfit for spiritual and religious exercises; such as reading, meditation, and prayer.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Full bellies are fitter for rest.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): We certainly experience that after a full meal the mind does not so rise toward God as to be borne along by an earnest and fervent longing for prayer, and perseverance in prayer.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): “Their heart is as fat as grease.” Being anxious to know the medical significance of a fatty heart, I applied to an eminent gentleman, Sir James Risdon Bennett, who is well known as having been President of the Royal College of Physicians.  His reply shows that the language is rather figurative than literal.

JAMES RISDON BENNETT (1809-1891): There are two forms of a so-called “fatty heart.” In the one there is an excessive amount of fatty tissue covering the exterior of the organ, especially about the base. This may be observed in all cases where the body is throughout over fat, as in animals fattened for slaughter. It does not necessarily interfere with the action of the heart, and may not be of much importance in a medical point of view.

The second form is, however, a much more serious condition.

In this, the muscular structure of the heart, on which its all important function as the central propelling power depends, undergoes a degenerative change. The contractile fibres of the muscles are converted into a structure having none of the properties of the natural fibres, in which are found a number of fatty, oily globules, which can be readily seen by means of the microscope. This condition, if at all extensive, renders the action of the heart feeble and irregular, and is very perilous, not infrequently causing sudden death. It is found in connection with a general unhealthy condition, and is evidence of general malnutrition. It is brought about by an indolent, luxurious mode of living, or by neglect of bodily exercise and those hygienic rules which are essential for healthy nutrition…The heart, in this form of the disease, is literally, “greasy,” and may be truly described as “fat as grease.” So much for physiology and pathology.

May I venture on the sacred territory of biblical exegesis? Is not the Psalmist contrasting those who lead an animal, self indulgent, vicious life, by which body and mind are incapacitated for their proper uses, and those who can run in the way of God’s commandments, delight to do His will, and meditate on His precepts? Sloth, fatness and stupidity―versus activity, firm muscles, and mental rigour.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Fatness in the heart makes it dull and heavy. Thus this phrase is used in Psalm 119:70.

MATTHEW HENRY: The immoderate use of meat and drink burden the heart, not only with the guilt thereby contracted, but by the ill influence which such disorders of the body have upon the mind; they make men dull and lifeless to their duty, dead and listless in their duty; they stupify the conscience, and cause the mind to be unaffected with things that are most affecting.

JOHN TRAPP: Of such a fat heart beware―a full belly makes a foul heart: the rankest weeds grow out of the fattest soil.

MATTHEW HENRY: Fullness of bread was fuel to the fire of Sodom’s lusts. Luxurious living feeds the flames of lust, (Jeremiah 5:8). “This was the iniquity of Sodom: pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness, Ezekiel 16:49. Their “going after strange flesh,” which was Sodom’s most flagrant wickedness, is not mentioned, because notoriously known, but those sins which did not look so black opened the door and led the way to these more enormous crimes, and began to fill that measure of her sins, which was filled up at length by their unnatural filthiness.

SAMUEL MILLER (1769-1850): Hence it will always be found that habitual luxury, in direct proportion to the degree in which it is indulged, is unfavourable to deep spirituality.

MATTHEW HENRY: Fasting would help to tame the unruly evil that is so full of deadly poison, and bring the body into subjection.

HENRY SCUDDER (died 1659): Fasting is contrary to that fullness of bread, which maketh both body and soul more disposed to vice, and indisposed to religious duties, through drowsiness of head, heaviness of heart, dullness and deadness of spirit. Now these being removed, and the dominion of the flesh subdued by fasting, the body will be brought into subjection to the soul, and both body and soul to the will of God, more readily than otherwise they would be. A day of fasting is a great assistance to the soul, and for the better performing of holy duties, such as meditation, reading, and hearing the word, prayer, examining, judging, and reforming a person’s self; both because his spirits are better disposed when he is fasting to serious devotion; and the mind being so long taken wholly off from the thoughts, cares, and pleasures of this life, he may be more intent and earnest in seeking of God.

JOHN TRAPP: Not the body so much as the soul is more active with emptiness…Fasting days are soul fatting days: prayer is edged and winged thereby―it is good so to diet the body, that the soul may be fattened.

C. H. SPURGEON: I believe, literally, that some of you would be a great deal the better if you did occasionally have a whole day of fasting and prayer. There is a lightness that comes over the frame, especially of bulky people like myself; we begin to feel ourselves quite light and ethereal―an elevation of the spirit above the flesh, that will come over you after some hours of waiting upon God in fasting and prayer. I can advise brethren sometimes to try it; it will be good for their health, and it certainly will not harm them. If we only ate about half what is ordinarily eaten, we should probably all of us be in better health; and if, occasionally, we put ourselves on short commons, not because there is any virtue in that, but in order to get our brains more clear, and to help our hearts to rest more fully upon the Saviour, we should find that prayer and fasting have great power.


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