This is a guest post by Brad Hambrick (M.Div., Th.M., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary). Brad is the Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church and serves as the Chief Editor for The Journal of Counseling & Discipleship.
- You can purchase The Gospel Project study on The God Who Saves here.
- You can see the entire blog series on The Seven Daily Sins here.
Are we really going to talk about gluttony? Do we have to? No one wants to see the end of church pot lucks or tailgating rituals, right? I mean, what’s the point? Isn’t gluttony one of those bad habits (not really a sin) that’s its own punishment? Isn’t talking about it in church just a form of emotional-moral double jeopardy?
Yes, we need to talk about and, if your instinct is to think this discussion can only be a “guilt trip,” then we need to talk about it all the more. When we only talk about “bad sins,” meaning the kind that no one in our “in group” admits to committing, then we relegate the power of the gospel to salvation and crises; meaning, after we’ve “walked the aisle,” the gospel is just for others or when life’s falling apart.
Let’s stop and ask the question, “What might a struggle with gluttony reveal about us?” It could reveal any number of things.
- An unhealthy, overscheduled lifestyle where we consider the care of our body, the temple of God (I Cor 6:19-20), an afterthought as we over eat (or eat poorly) in an effort to keep up with our out-of-whack priorities.
- Sleep deprivation, based on an unhealthy, overscheduled life, as our body tries to supplement the energy from food – especially carbohydrates – to make up for the energy that is not being restored via sleep.
- Comfort seeking behavior, as we seek to take refuge in the distraction and satisfaction of eating instead of casting our concerns on the one who cares for us (I Pet 5:7).
- Pleasure-based living, as we atrophy our cognitive self-control muscles to choose wisdom over indulgence at least three times a day with a few snacks thrown in for good measure.
- Pride, even if we’re not trying to rank #1 in a competitive eating contest or win a “I conquered the mammoth burger t-shirt” at a local restaurant, it is easy to mistake the large quantities of food we can provide for ourselves as an accomplishment denoting our self-sufficiency.
Let’s ask the question another way, “Do you have a good relationship with food?” Allow this awkward excerpt from Mere Christianity to help you grasp the implications for this question.
“You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease – that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you come to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that is contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?” (C.S. Lewis, pg. 96)
When we stop to consider it, we can quickly see that in a culture simultaneously marked by obesity and obsessed with thinness, we have an unhealthy relationship with food. Whether we over-indulge or punitively-avoid, few of us simply-enjoy food as God intended.
Before we get to the gospel-corrective, let’s establish a few key points about food.
- God made food and wants us to enjoy it (Acts 10:9-16).
- Heaven will contain a bountiful feast, but no one will feel compelled to gluttony (Rev 19:6-9).
- God takes no delight in you feeling bad about your struggle with food (John 10:10).
- God takes great joy in seeing his children grow into maturity in every area of their life (III John 4).
- An unhealthy relationship with food detracts from our enjoyment of life (I Cor 6:12-13).
- God is most glorified in your eating when you enjoy his gift of food as he intended (I Cor 10:31).
In order to overcome gluttony you must be able to face the realities depicted in the first part of this post while maintaining the perspective represented by these six truths.
The “mechanics” of overcoming gluttony are relatively simple – eat only as much as is necessary to maintain a healthy body and fully enjoy every bite as a gift from God; allowing for periodic, guilt-free indulgences on special occasions (i.e., birthday, state fair, Thanksgiving, etc…). But let’s go back to five motives in the bullet points above and see what it looks like overcome gluttony through the gospel.
- Busyness – Learn to be content as you steward the 168 hour week God provides. Rest in the knowledge that God’s will fits in God’s provision. Resist whatever drivers are compelling you to over-schedule. Invest in the parts of your life that really matter so you don’t feel like you’re always catching up and forcing to your eating habits to compensate.
- Sleep Deprivation – Sleep is an act of faith. To spend 1/3 of your life in an unconscious state is an indication you trust God enough to go “off duty.” Wake up with a sense that the last 8 hours have honored God and allow that to shape your attitude towards the next 16 hours. Faith in God to sleep will impact honoring God as you eat.
- Comfort – Pray. Don’t just “bless your meals” as if God wanted to be acknowledged as Provider more than he wanted to be trusted as Father. Whatever concerns tempt you to comfort eat, don’t cast them on a pint of ice cream, but on the One who promises to listen, be present, and walk with you (I Peter 5:7).
- Pleasure – Enjoy food, but enjoy God more. If eating is one of your primary sensory pleasures, that’s great. God loves foodies! Allow your elevated pleasure in taste to become the baseline from which you begin to explore the joy available in God. This doesn’t mean trying to extend the Lord’s Supper from two courses to seven. But becoming mindful of what you enjoy about food (taste) and meals (social) and see how those pleasures can be ways to delight in God or make God known more than mere ends in themselves.
- Pride – Acknowledging the sin of gluttony is humbling, but it is only shameful if we still want to be prideful or independent. Rightly understood, however, humility is a gift; not an insult. God’s main point in the gospel is to free us from dispositions like pride that would make his freedom seem like constricting. Accept the gift of God’s humble freedom as being better than food.
Hopefully with this post you can better see how freedom from gluttony is not anorexia and is worth pursuing. I hope you can engage this struggle to enjoy God’s gift of food in a balanced way, like we must battle for a balanced enjoyment of all God’s blessings. I hope you can appreciate how this is a fitting admonition to close this post, “Bon appetite to the glory and enjoyment of God!”