In his 9:15 Q&A session on Sunday, Pastor Paul mentioned gluttony as one of those sins we never think about as sin. Though it’s talked about in Scripture as something that God hates, we usually make jokes about being gluttons even as we’re pointing fingers at those practicing hot button sins like homosexuality.
But the Bible doesn’t refer to gluttony as a laughing matter. Ezekiel warns the people of Israel against gluttony by explaining that it was one of the sins for which Sodom was destroyed:
Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (16:49)
The apostle Paul also included gluttony in his unflattering description of his cultural surroundings:
Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. (Phil. 3:19)
In Proverbs, gluttony is mentioned several times as a cause of laziness, poverty, and disgrace (23:20-21, 28:7). Proverbs 23:2 takes the strongest stance against gluttony by saying you should “put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.” Wow.
So perhaps this is a sin we should take more seriously. But what is gluttony? Gluttony is defined in the dictionary as habitual greed or excess in eating. Most of us bring up gluttony or being gluttons when we talk about how much we love food, how much we ate at Thanksgiving, or perhaps how we shouldn’t have finished off the leftover birthday cake in the refrigerator last night.
But is that all it is? Does God just not want us to be overweight and unhealthy, or is it something more? Look again at those verses previously mentioned. In the Bible, gluttony is usually included side-by-side with other sins like pride, lack of compassion, and drunkenness. When grouped with these other sins, gluttony takes on a new weight (no pun intended). Instead of just being about eating, it becomes about the heart.
In this light, gluttony isn’t a sin just because it’s physically unhealthy, but because it comes out of a heart that worships pleasure and the self rather than God.
But, you might argue, doesn’t God want us to enjoy food? It’s one of the good gifts He’s given us. I mean, if He didn’t want us to like to eat, why did He give us taste buds? Similar arguments are made about extramarital sex and alcohol. If it’s bad, why did God make it good?
Allow me a personal segue. I’m a foodie, a baker, and someone who grew up Southern Baptist (think after-church potlucks and “nothing says love like a casserole”). After a diagnosis of high cholesterol at my annual physical last year, I began the process of losing some weight and increasing my cardiovascular exercise routine.
I had to start thinking about what and when I would eat. It was immediately evident that I ate more than I needed to on a daily basis. But my more interesting discovery was about WHY I would eat and drink: often not because I was hungry or thirsty, but to soothe other issues. Like, I’m bored, I’ll have a bowl of cereal. Or, I had a long day, I’ll bake some cupcakes and have a glass of wine (or two). The kids were difficult at bath time, I think I’ll have a cookie. I feel awkward at this party, I’ll just keep filling my plate so I don’t look weird standing around.
As soon as I started paying attention, I realized that food was not nourishment for my body, but a crutch for my heart. I turned to it when my heart was hungry.
At first, it was really hard to dethrone food as a source of comfort in my life; I felt like I had nothing that could replace it. But then (you’re going to think I’m really cheeseball, or holier-than-thou, but here goes) I started to pray more. And as I started to talk to God about my heart needs and paid more attention to what types of foods I was eating to nourish my bodily needs, a funny thing happened: I actually started appreciating food for what it was meant to be. I didn’t mindlessly inhale it for momentary pleasure anymore, I savored and I thought about the good ingredients and I thanked God for making food good. My alcohol and sugar intake decreased along with my anxiety and grumbling. My heart and body are both healthier.
That personal story to say: no good thing can be as good as God meant it to be when we put it in the place of God. Or more simply, healthy things made idols become unhealthy things.
The pursuit of personal pleasure through worldly things can never satisfy us. And if taken far enough, our obsession with that pleasure can make us slaves to it, self-centered, and blind to anyone’s needs besides our own.
You might not be a food glutton, and that’s good. But is there anything else in your life to which you consistently turn to fill the needs of your heart? Alcohol is an obvious one, but a gluttony that is becoming more socially acceptable all the time. And what about entertainment? When you’re feeling overwhelmed or lonely, do you check out with hours of screen time?
This blog wasn’t written to bring the hammer or point the finger or cause unnecessary guilt. Think of it as a check-up. Gluttony is as much, if not more, unhealthy for our spirits as it is for our bodies. True satisfaction, life, peace, and contentment are found only in our bountiful God. The more we can turn to Him to heal our souls rather than these temporary pleasures, the healthier we’ll be. And the more these worldly pleasures serve in their rightful place as reminders of His goodness, the better they will taste.