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Aiding and Abetting

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A few days ago TLC showed another of their near-exploitive specials, this one being about obese people. In those fifteen or thirty minutes between being too tired to read but not tired enough to go to bed, I watched with a strange fascination. The show was not about people who are just a little bit chubby, but people who are unbelievably, morbidly obese–people who consume 35,000 calories a day and have grown so fat that they can do little more than lie on their backs and eat some more. These are people who have long since lost the ability to walk, to wash or, in some cases, to even wear clothes. Their obesity is clearly far more than biology, but is in the realm of addiction and both mental and physical affliction. Some may have a constitution that somehow predisposes them to obesity, but in this special, at least, all of the people were committed to a lifestyle that exacerbated what may have been an existing problem. Some were absolutely consumed with the need to consume. Eating was their only pleasure.

It is amazing to see these people who have been reduced to (probably not quite the right phrase!) sedentary mountains of fat. Some of them tip the scales at more than 1000 pounds (and the occasional one at well over 1000 pounds). They spend their lives mostly naked lying on their backs with their enormous legs splayed out in nearly opposite directions. They are covered in bedsores and apparently often stink as they cannot be adequately cleaned. They grow entirely dependent on others for their every need, from providing food to cleaning up the inevitable waste their bodies must produce in vast quantities. It is both sad and pathetic to see what they have become. It is sad to consider that they have largely brought this upon themselves and, having done that, are unable or unwilling to change.

One thing struck me as I saw how these people live and it is this: they are always aided and abetted by others. The defining mark of these people, apart from their vast size, was their ability to manipulate others. After all, a man who weighs 1000 pounds, who has not risen from his bed in six years, and who consumes tens of thousands of calories every day relies on other people to buy his food, to prepare his food, and to bring it to him. Somehow these people manage to manipulate others so they continue to care for them and to feed them. A person who can do nothing but eat and watch television is able to convince his wife or mother or someone else to work in order to cover food bills that can measure in the hundreds of dollars per day and then to slave endlessly to prepare this food for him. Despite weighing 1000 pounds, he can convince others that he needs more food and feels no remorse about keeping several people working day and night to meet his every need.

I spoke to my wife shortly after I saw this program and related to her this strange ability these people have to manipulate others. And as I thought about it more I saw that much sin relies on the ability to manipulate others. A person who goes through life in a morass of self-pity seems to have the ability to make others feel her sorrow and her bitterness and, as they pity her, they join in her sorrow, feeding her addiction to attention and pity. A person with any addiction often receives support, sometimes pronounced and sometimes tacit, from his friends or family. Unsure how to help him, they soon become part of the problem rather than the solution.

This required that I take a moment of reflection. I love the words of Proverbs 24:30-34, words which reveal how Solomon came up with his proverbs. It has often challenged me to do what Solomon often did: to see, consider, and receive instruction.

I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.

So I had to ask myself: how do I manipulate others so they can assist me in my sin? I may not make my wife cook me six meals every day while I lie in bed watching television, but surely there are ways where I use temper, pity or some form of cajoling to have her feed my sin. At times I love my sin so much that I must draw her in and have her help me sin more. And then I had to ask whether I allow others to manipulate me so that I assist them in their sin? In what way am I allowing myself to further the sin of my wife when I should be lovingly helping her to avoid and escape it? How do I feed the sin of my children or my friends instead of helping them see their sin and take responsibility for it? Somewhere and somehow I’m certain that I aid and abet them in their sin.

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