Many people use food for the same purpose that others use drugs and pornography: to self-medicate and make themselves feel better. ‘Comfort foods’ are marketed to us on a daily basis. Our nation’s gluttony is evident in the rising obesity and heart disease rates across America. Christians are not immune to this trend. And unlike the ‘lucky’ folks who can sin in private with prescription drug addictions and greed, people who struggle with gluttony do so very publicly.
This is by far my favorite “acceptable” sin because the problem is so obvious, yet we all pretend that there is no problem…try to imagine a church full of people flipping through adult magazines or statues of Shiva and Buddha on stage next to your pastor.
But I’m just another sinner, and I do not want to “preach” and make you feel bad. I am praying for open eyes and changed lives.
1. What does God’s Word have to say?
- Derivatives of the word “gluttony”only appear 7 times in the NIV translation; 2 of those instances are in reference to Jesus Himself
- Note: The Pharisees called Jesus a ‘glutton’ because he did not observe their many ritual fasts, not because he actually was a ‘glutton’ as we would understand it
- Gluttons are associated with drunkards, causing family disgrace, becoming poor, liars, evil brutes, and the lazy
- The Hebrew word for ‘glutton’ in the NASB translation of Proverbs 23:21 is “zalal”, which in the original language means: “to make light of, squander, be lavish with”
- The Greek word for ‘glutton’ in Matthew 11:19 is “phagos” and translates as: “a voracious man, a glutton”
- The sense I get from the original language is a person who squanders food or who is overly lavish with food, a ‘voracious’ person; someone who really over-does it with food (like me at a Chinese buffet)
- Wikipedia says that gluttony, “means over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink, or wealth items to the point of extravagance or waste”
2. Is the church misaligned with Scripture?
- Are religious organizations over-indulgent with their members when it comes to food and drink? Supplying free coffee and a donut probably doesn’t qualify as gluttony, but what about an extravagant Christmas dinner? What about giving out gift cards to restaurants?
- Are obese Christians ‘gluttons’? WebMD says that only 1% of obese people have a medical condition that causes obesity (Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s Disease); the rest just overeat…so it would appear the answer is ‘yes’
- Instead of trying to find the line where “baby fat” ends and “gluttony” begins, I’ll just say this: If you’re a glutton, you probably already know it. And you know that you know it because you have a warehouse full of rationalizations and justifications for your current diet and lifestyle
- I also wonder about the Hebrew translation “to make light of” as it relates to food. I often rip open a bag of chips and start munching away without so much as a “Thanks, God” before doing so. This would also seem to stand in contrast to Jesus’ command that we thank the Father for our daily bread…in other words, don’t take your food “lightly”
3. What can we do about it?
- Organizations should examine the way they handle any meals they serve and any other food-related business to determine if they are being overly lavish or wasteful. If you’re not sure, give it the old ‘headline’ test: If the headline of your local newspaper published a story about how your church put on a fabulous seniors dinner, would you be comfortable with that? What if they criticized your use of funds to stuff your members while the poor and needy sat outside hungry…would you be comfortable with that?
- Individuals who suspect they might be gluttons should reach out for help, the same way the rest of us with self-medication problems have done. No, it’s not easy or fun; yes, it is the best thing you can do for yourself
- Imagine if we considered gluttony in the same light that we do addictions. Self-medicating with food is no different that doing so with drugs, alcohol, or pornography, because the state of your spiritual heart is suffering tremendously in all cases. Do you think people might change if the pressure gets turned up?
What are your thoughts?