For the past month, we’ve been in a four-part series called THE PARDONABLE SINS: the sins some people, including Christians, don’t really think are sins. In fact, sometimes they even encourage others and offer comfort when they commit them.
The first three are: WORRY, UNFORGIVENESS and GOSSIP.
Today, I want to focus on the fourth:
Joe McKeever, in an article titled: “5 Reasons Why Pastors Don’t Preach on Gluttony” said, “A cartoon shows a sign in front of a cafe: ‘Specializing in meals that leave you bloated and lethargic, followed by self-loathing.’ A man says to his wife, ‘I liked it better when they called it comfort food.’” 1
I rather suspect there’s not going to be much comfort in what you read in this blog, except:
- The realization most people in our world struggle with this issue, and …
- We can get victory over it.
It’s not my desire to add guilt, embarrassment, discouragement or shame to anyone. I, too, struggle in this area and am determined to battle it until the day I die. Fellow strugglers can help each other win the battle if they help each other. That’s my desire. I also don’t want to avoid a sin or subject just because it’s hard or it hits too close to home.
John Piper said, “There are a lot of reasons for obesity in our culture. It’s not just that we eat a lot of bad food. We’re also pretty inactive and don’t do a lot of walking, running, biking, etc. Oftentimes obesity issues are connected as much to activity issues as they are to what goes into our mouths. Muscles are designed to burn food, but if they aren’t being used then any amount of food is going to result in obesity.
But ‘gluttony’ is a better word to use in this context rather than ‘obesity,’ because overeating is where the problem is, not how much you weigh. There are all kinds of reasons why a person might weigh too much or too little that is not a result of gluttony.
Gluttony is "having a craving for food that conquers you.” 2
Proverbs 23:2 warns us to “put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.”
Proverbs 23:20-21 warns us, “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”
Proverbs 28:7 says, “A companion of gluttons shames his father.”
Paul warned Timothy that in the last days, “People will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:2-5a). (Emphasis added. Notice the bold words.)
Gluttony is one of those sins people like to ignore in themselves and others. “Part of the problem is that gluttony is frequently mistaken for obesity. Not all who are fat are gluttons, just as not all gluttons are fat. Gluttony – a term derived from the Latin word meaning to ‘gulp down’ – is usually used in reference to over-consumption of food or drink. But from a Christian perspective, it applies more broadly. Thomas Aquinas said that, ‘Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire … leaving the order of reason, wherein the good of moral virtue consists.
Chris Donato explains, two mistakes accompany most discussion on gluttony. The first is that it only pertains to those with a less than shapely waistline; the second is that it always involves food. In reality, it can apply to toys, television, sex or relationships. It is about an excess of anything.
The true danger of gluttony is not that it will lead to flabby waistlines but that it will lead to flabby souls.” 3
Overindulgence has become a way of life for too many in today’s world. The acronym YOLO shouts, “Go for it. YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE!” So people go all out when it comes to trips, toys, treasures and “top that” experiences. Social media compounds the problem, fueling jealousy and envy, as we watch others seemingly go wherever they want and do whatever they want with no downside. Some purposefully and intentionally post only the best pictures and best experiences as if to say, “Look where we are! Look what we’re doing. Don’t you wish you were us?” The overindulgence switch is flipped in our brain and, if we’re not careful, off we go. Not to get in line, but to get to the head of the line.
James Faris has a helpful commentary on gluttony:
“But the fact that we giggle about gluttony might reveal it as a most pernicious sin. The English word comes from the Latin and means 'to gulp.' Gluttony idolizes food to feed our own self-love. The holidays being upon us, it’s a good time to ask the question. Is gluttony really that serious? Consider the following:
Gluttony plunged the whole human race into a state of sin and misery with the first transgression (Genesis 3:6).
Gluttony, or 'excess of food,' helped earn a curse of utter destruction upon Sodom, the standard example of God’s wrath and judgment (Ezekiel 16:49).
In Moses’ day, when Israel craved meat in the wilderness, the Lord sent quail. 'While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague.' Strikingly, the name of the place was called 'Kibroth-hattaavah' which means 'Graves of Craving' (Numbers 11:18-34; Psalm 78:26-31).
Drunkards (liquid-based gluttons) will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10).
So, yes! Even a quick glance at Scripture shows us that gluttony is a big deal. It is no laughing matter; it earns eternal judgment. But there are also more immediate consequences:
Gluttony is often connected with idolatry (Philippians 3:19; 1 Corinthians 10:7), and leads to deadness of heart (Psalm 115:4-8, 119:70).
Gluttony and hopelessness go hand in hand (1 Corinthians 15:32).
Devotion to food for Christians gives birth to legalism and judgmental-ism in Christians (Romans 14:13-17).
Gluttony induces laziness (Titus 1:12) that brings forth poverty (Proverbs 23:21).
Gluttony is a visible expression of rebellion against God and man that destroys life (Deuteronomy 21:20).” 4
I don’t want to avoid a sin or subject just because it’s hard or it hits too close to home.
What can we do about this sin?
- Stop ignoring it.
- Don’t just talk about it, do something about it.
When it comes to gluttony, or any other sin for that matter, we don’t need to find someone or something that works for us. We need to do the work. Because if we don’t work at this, this isn’t going to work.
John MacArthur says, “But sin cannot be annihilated through legalism, monasticism, pietism, asceticism, pharisaism, celibacy, self‑flagellation, confessional booths, rosary beads, Hail Marys, or any other external means. The instrument of mortification is the Holy Spirit, and His power is the energy that works in us to carry out the process. All the means of mortification are simple commands of Scripture that we are to obey.” He went on to say, “If you struggle with gluttony, don’t load up on junk food when you shop at the market … If you don’t want to fall, don’t walk where it is slippery. Refuse to furnish your mind with the means to entertain evil thoughts. Make no preparations for the possibility of sin. Thus you can slay sin before it breeds.” 5
Here’s a good plan for all of us:
- Make no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14).
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
- Determine not to be mastered by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12).
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.”
- Use the power God has given you (2 Timothy 1:7).
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
- Focus on the right things (Colossians 3:2).
"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
- Focus on the return of Christ and the life to come (1 John 3:2-3).
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
- Realize your health is vitally important to everything else you do.
One of the greatest things we can do is make our health and the health of our family members a high priority. Paul encouraged the Romans to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
On a recent flight I asked one of the flight attendants, “Are people getting bigger or are planes getting smaller?” She answered, “Both!” In Romans 12:2, Paul said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind …” When it comes to your health and your habits, don’t follow the crowd.
- Spend more time in God’s Word (Psalm 119:11).
If you have a tendency to overindulge, direct your tendencies not to the delicacies of this world but rather to the Word of God. The Psalmist said, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
GLUTTONY is not The UNPARDONABLE SIN. We can receive forgiveness. But the Bible says the only way we can be pardoned is if we confess it and repent of it.
© 2017. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Today, more than 8,000 people call Crossroads their church home. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.