The Trap of Tolerated Transgressions: Gluttony

Some Food for Thought… But Not Too Much

Of all of the sins involving the body, gluttony is probably addressed the least from public platforms and in the printed page. Drunkenness, sexual sins, and the fiery tongue are rightly condemned and given significant attention in sermons and articles. When did you last hear a message about gluttony? The lack of attention paid to the subject is somewhat understandable. We all have to eat. And while eating, we all would likely admit to occasionally crossing the line from merely satisfying our hunger into the sinful realm of over-indulgence.

Enjoyment, Not Excess

In the Bible, gluttony is often mentioned with drunkenness (Deut 21:10; Prov 23:20-21; Luke 7:34). A glutton, therefore, is someone who eats more than is healthy, or eats excessively. It is perfectly fine to enjoy good food. Scripture says, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (Ecc 2:24-25, ESV). Yet the same writer states, “That land is blessed whose king is of noble birth, whose princes feast at the right time, for strength, and not to become drunk.” (Ecc 10:17, ISV) The enjoyment of food is a gift from God, but there is the accompanying warning against excess. Many of the Lord Jesus’ parables were about eating, banquets, and feasts. He even attended such events. He said, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking” (Matt 11:19). He also gave us the promise of eating with Him at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9), yet, we know that His opponents’ accusation that He was a glutton (Matt 11:19) was false. Why? Because He enjoyed eating? No. The sinless Son of God refused to indulge Himself (Rom 15:3).

Gluttony, Not Obesity

Obesity is not a synonym for gluttony. Nor is it a fair assessment to brand an overweight person as a glutton. There are all kinds of reasons why a person might weigh too much or too little (e.g. family history, medical conditions, age, lack of sleep). We tend to look at overweight people and immediately conclude that they spend too much time at the dinner table, which they might. But the man who wolfs down three heaping helpings and then “burns it off” at the gym for two hours draws no criticism. The doctor may even tell him he is at his “target weight,” but his actions are gluttonous.

Eat to Live, Not Live to Eat

It is obvious to many North Americans that we are living in a food-obsessed culture. The Food Network continues to experience incredible viewership, with over 1.1 million people tuning in per night, making it a top 10 cable network for the fourth year in a row (2009-2012). We are constantly looking for new restaurants, new flavors, new cookbooks, new recipes, and new all-inclusive vacations. The search for newness may even be for “healthy options.” But the young woman standing in the checkout line with a cart full of organic, non-GMO, low-fat, high-fiber foods can be just as food-obsessed as the young woman standing in the buffet line waiting to fill her three plates. We need to ensure that we are not violating the principle of 1 Corinthians 6:12 – “Everything is permissible for me, but I will not allow anything to control me” (ISV). This can occur whether the food I’m eating has high saturated fat, or no fat at all.

The Heart, Not the Stomach

Anytime we make the belly a god (Phil 3:19) by eating too much or by eating too little, we stand guilty. Gluttony is not really a stomach issue, but a heart issue. John Piper said, “A lot of gluttony is born of boredom. Life is not satisfying or stimulating, relationships feel empty, and work is boring, but food is always there and tastes so good.” Food will not judge us, evaluate us, condemn us, nor manipulate us. We can spend as much time as we like with food, with no fear of rejection or heartache. But that’s because it’s food; and food it can only ever be. Only God, with His good gifts and His Spirit, satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness (Psa 107:9).

Count Blessings, Not Carbs

In order to avoid gluttony, we must approach eating differently. One thing we can do is to begin each meal with thankfulness to God for His provision (1Tim 4:4). While many in this world are impoverished, we can count our blessings from God. There are plenty of believers praying earnestly today, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It would be very hard to overindulge with these dear fellow believers on our hearts.

Practically, another thing we can do is to set definite meal times. It is far better to be controlled by the clock than to be controlled by our urges.

If you struggle with gluttony, avoid all-you-can-eat buffets. Putting yourself in this situation would be like an alcoholic taking a seat on a barstool.

Try not to eat alone. It’s much easier to eat excessively when no one is around to watch you.

Above all else, we can develop self-control in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). This self-control covers all areas of life, including the realm of eating.

As I’m writing this, I’m looking at a text hanging on our kitchen wall. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1Cor.10:31, ESV).

This is a little food for thought … hopefully just enough.