Pudgy, one of our three little pigs, is caught again rooting around for midnight snacks in the garden. His brothers have been working with him at mealtimes to keep his portions under control, but Pudgy, his nickname, kept growing more rotund until they realized where his extra calories were coming from. He has long known that gluttony is a sin, even for a pig, but neither prayer and fasting nor the Bacon Watchers program has been able to limit his pig-outs.
One pig brother comforts him that his over-eating is not a sin, but just his “e-pig-enetics”*. His family history provides ample excuse for blaming the food desire on past generations of overeaters. The other pig brother shakes his head in disappointment. He argues that the Bible leaves no room for nature or nurture as an excuse. He thinks it is time for Matthew 18 and possible excommunication. The two brothers debate in front of their ashamed brother almost forgetting his presence. Their debate only ends when the Big Bad Wolf walks by their home and overhears the raised squeals. Once he realizes what they are arguing about, he chimes in with “Don’t we all pig out occasionally? What’s so bad about it?”
Realizing that he wouldn’t be the one “pigging out” that day, the Big Bad Wolf moves on. The three brothers sit around staring at each other until Papa Pig arrives. “What’s up with the sad snouts?” he asks.
After hearing their story, Papa Pig tells the brothers to gather round and listen. He recounts a time in his youth when he struggled with gluttony. Yes, it was an almost universal affliction for pigs, even Papa Pigs, but that doesn’t make it right. He explained that ethics are not up for a majority vote.
Pudgy asked, “So its just a sin that we all deal with?”
Papa Pig responded with an arm on Pudgy’s shoulder, “Yes, its a sin and yes, we all deal with it. But no, its not “just” a sin.”
His brother’s synchronized a, “What does that mean?”
Papa Pig continued his own story. His father had been a wise pig. After realizing the pattern of gluttony that his son was following, Grandpa Pig did not just excuse it as a universal sin or fact of nature. Grandpa Pig taught him God’s law about gluttony, but did not condemn him. Grandpa Pig simply held him accountable to obey God’s Word while climbing into the pigpen of struggle with him. Grandpa Pig walked with him with both challenge and encouragement till Papa Pig was strong enough to resist the temptation.
Each brother apologized to Pudgy for not loving him like Grandpa Pig had done for their father. They asked Pudgy if they could be a true brother like Grandpa Pig. Each confessed that they shared the struggles of gluttony, but had been hiding it better. “Maybe we can hold each other accountable and walk through this together” said Pudgy.
Papa Pig smiled at his boys. They were beginning to recognize their own weakness while edifying one another. He offered this final advice. “Never excuse the sin, but be very slow to excommunicate the sinning brother. Do all you can to walk him out of the mire and back to the Father while recognizing your own weakness.”
May we also walk between the extreme of excusing sin as simply a disease like much of the world does and the extreme of casting out the weaker brother whose sickness predisposed him to sin. Let us lock arms with our brothers and sisters and overcome our sinful natures together by the grace of God in the power of his Spirit.
* “e-pig-enetics” is the “Pig-Latin” version of saying epigenetics, the science of how your genetics and your environment interact to influence your health and that of the next generation.