“Abba Pombo asked Abba Anthony, “What ought I to do?” and the old man said to him, “Do not trust in your own righteousness; do not worry about the past, but control your tongue and your stomach.”
Abba Anthony of Egypt doesn’t mince words and gets right to the point. I wonder how many of us even think in terms of our own righteousness. Do we realise what this means?
Last night I ate dinner with my mother at her assisted living facility. Two people sat at our table while I visited the salad bar. I had assumed that since it was a communal dining room that we would be sharing a table. Mom’s expectation was that we would eat privately. I wish I had known this was her desire because one of the people who ate with us was certainly full of her own righteousness and did not hesitate to let us all know it as her monologues told us she was a very patient person who did not complain and always gave compliments to the staff while all the time wondering where her dinner was, commenting on how slow the service was and speaking to our wait person in somewhat less than respectful terms.
Which is a nice segue into the next point. Jesus tells us that it is not what goes into a person’s mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out. In other words, we can be defiled by our speech. Cursing is an obvious way we could defile ourselves, but so is any harsh words, judgmental language, boasting, speaking disrespectfully to others. I am sure there are others.
Controlling the stomach might be words that surprise people who are familiar with the Desert Christians because they barely ate at all and certainly did not eat what we would call a balanced, nutritional diet. But the importance of the words remain. One might also say that where our stomachs go the rest if us follow. Over or under eating opens the door to a multitude of woes.