Respectable Sins: Gluttony

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We are continuing our series on “Respectable Sins”, and we are going to cover one today that, just when looking at the title slide for the sermon, may make all of us shift in our seats. The sin of gluttony. This is an uncomfortable subject because we like to eat. Eating is an enjoyable thing. Food is such an important part of our lives. Every day we have it. It is part of just about every celebration that we have; birthdays, holidays, weddings, etc. It is something Christians often do when they get together in each other’s homes. But it is amazing how Satan has a way of taking what God creating as a good thing that we are to receive with thanksgiving, and turn it into a weapon to ensnare souls. Just think about this for a moment. The first sin ever committed had food involved, and since then, Satan has done a lot of work in using food to keep millions of souls away from God and to cause even God’s people to stumble. In regards to the sin of gluttony, many people believe that it is perhaps “the most tolerated sin in American Christianity.” I don’t know if this is true or not. What I do know is that this is a subject that you don’t often hear about in the pulpit or hear God’s people talk about. I think I have only heard one sermon on this subject during worship since I became a Christian 11yrs ago. That is one of the reasons why I decided to put it in this series of lessons.
We all need to be reminded of what God’s word says about this sin so that we can be pleasing to God in every area of our lives. Paul says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (). If we desire to glorify God and to be fruitful in His kingdom, we need to, even in the subject of food, need to make sure that we are thinking and acting in a godly way.
Defining Gluttony
Let’s for a moment begin by looking at some different definitions of gluttony. Webster’s defines gluttony as “excess in eating or drinking; greedy or excessive indulgence”. We see something in the first part of this definition that the word that gluttony is what we commonly think of when we hear the word (overeating). But you also see that gluttony includes other things as well. It also includes drink in this definition. Based on this definition, it would include over-indulging in pretty much anything that would be in our diets. The second part of the definition shows more of a general principle of being given over to excess in almost anything. We hear the word used in this kind of way often, like when we may say someone is a “glutton for punishment.” But this more general definition could also include an excess or addiction to things like drugs, shopping, video games, watching television, sexual sin, money, etc., etc. This is pretty much the definition you get no matter the dictionary you look at.
The question is though, what do we see in scripture regarding the sin of gluttony. I believe as we look at the 7-10 main passages that deal with this sin, we come away with something pretty similar to what we see in dictionary definitions. Bringing our passages together, I would personally define gluttony in this way:
Gluttony is a failure to show self control by over-indulging in food/drink. It also includes having an insatiable craving for or an addiction to food, and at times this sin may also be a sign of a bigger problem: of a life-style that in general lacks self-control, is wasteful, or rejects authority.”
This is the definition that I think we will see as we go through scripture. Let’s go through this definition.
First, gluttony begins with a failure in showing self-control. One very important thing we see as we go through the passages that deal with gluttony is that this sin is not a sin that happens by itself. There are often many other sins that one is guilty of at the same time. This has been the case with many of the sins we have been talking about in this series, they are hardly ever committed alone. Immodesty usually is fueled by pride or ignorance. Gossip is usually fueled by pride, bitterness, impatience, and hatred towards others. Gluttony is fueled mainly by a lack of self control.
We see this idea regarding gluttony in a passage such as
“Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way. 20 Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, 21 for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”
There are a couple things in this passage that show this idea of a lack of self control. First, there is a contrast between “being wise and directing your heart” and what happens if you surround yourself with drunkards and gluttons: you can become like them. There is such a loss of control within them that you end up broke. You spend all the money you needed to sustain yourself to binge on food and drink. We also see that gluttony is a lack of self control in eating because it is coupled here, and in other passages, with drunkenness. Drunkenness is characterized as a loss of self-control or a failure to control the amount of alcohol one drinks. Gluttony is the same in regards to food.
But just think about this for a moment… This is pretty sobering: because of food, we can be unfruitful for the Lord! Because we are giving ourselves to the works of the flesh, we make it so we no longer are giving ourselves to the Lord so we can bear the fruit of the Spirit.
We have been influenced by the world around us to have hearts of excess, hearts that do not desire to be controlled. We find a way to appease our appetites for more of everything! We want more clothes, we buy them. We want more toys and fancy electronic gadgets; we indulge ourselves with them. And if we don't have the money to get them, we spend more than we have by charging it on the credit card. Instead of being trained by God's spirit to show self-control, we have been trained by the spirit of this age to fulfilling every desire of our flesh. We have allowed our desire for the things of this life, including food, to severely limit, or even at times quench the fruit that God’s Spirit can bring to our lives!
Another passage to consider: . I believe this passage shows this idea of not being one to over-indulge yourself as you sit at a feast:
When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, 2 and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.
This verse does not mention the word gluttony in the ESV. I think the NIV may be the only translation that translates the Hebrew word in this verse as “gluttony.” That is fine, because I do believe this verse does show us in part how the Bible would define the term. Just imagine sitting at a king’s banquet table. This would be a difficult situation. You have the finest foods sitting before you. You have quite the spread… It would probably remind you of some good church pot-lucks at Larry’s shed! The proverbs writer gives a very sobering warning whenever you are in this situation. It is at this kind of time that it is dangerous for your soul to be a person who will be given to excess. When there are such delicacies before you, this would be when one would be tempted to over-do it! The instruction here is alarming… In other words, it is better to put a knife to your throat than to the steak on the table if you are someone given to appetite! This is similar to what Jesus says in where it is better to have a heavy millstone tied around your neck and to be thrown into the sea than it is to cause one of His little ones to stumble. Same kind of “shock and awe” kind of warning here in Proverbs. For one who is given over to appetite; one who will lose control and focus on fulfilling the desire of the flesh and end up eating too much, this is a dangerous situation worth staying away from so that you 1) don’t make a fool of yourself before those who let you sit at their table, and 2) so that you don’t fall under the judgment of God for gluttony.
And this idea of being “given over to appetite” also includes in it, I believe, the idea of having insatiable cravings for food that cannot be controlled. Another way of putting this idea would be, in my judgment, having an addiction to certain foods. This seems to be the picture that is painted in . One who is unable to control themselves whenever they are before the delicacies, and are consumed and enslaved to their cravings. Whenever our craving for different foods and drinks gets out of hand, to the point where it is an addiction, it becomes, not just a self-control issue as we have already seen, but an idolatry issue! We will talk about idolatry more in a later lesson, but it is worth bringing up here also.
There are some commentators that define gluttony from these passages in this way: A glutton is “one who is held hostage by food or has a craving for food that conquers them. They use food as a way to “escape.” Another way of putting it is a glutton is “One who, instead of eating to live, lives to eat.” This definition shows how we can at times have a dysfunctional relationship with food; how we can corrupt its purpose for being given to us by God, and how it can become our master; how it can become an ultimate thing, an idol. This definition mentions the idea of using food as an escape. I think an example of this is stress-eating. many people stress eat thinking that it will give them fulfillment or make their problems go away. The more they eat when they are sad, the better they feel. For many who stress eat like this, it becomes a big problem. Every emotional time brings about desires to eat, and gluttony is a common occurrence.
We need to be careful to make sure food is not something that consumes our thinking and our lives so it does not become something we are enslaved to. Food is a blessing, a unique creation that God provides to nourish our bodies so that we’re physically equipped to serve Him and advance His kingdom. It is not something that we “love” or that we devote ourselves to. It is not what we live for! When we elevate food to a place of importance to meet needs that it was not designed to meet, it can become an idol. Do you eat to live, or do you live to eat? Has food become too important to you?
This brings us to our final point regarding our definition of gluttony:
at times this sin may also be a sign of a bigger problem: of a life-style that in general lacks self-control, is wasteful, or rejects authority.”
There are a couple passages that show us this kind of idea about gluttony. First, in . This passage is in the context of dealing with a stubborn and rebellious child as an Israelite. Moses says, “And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious… he is a glutton and a drunkard.’” ()
When Moses wanted to pick two sins that characterized a child who in general was disobedient to their parents and rebellious and stubborn in nature, what sins did he pick? He picked gluttony and drunkenness, two sins that show a lack of self-control. These two sins characterized the life of the child, one that was unwilling to listen to those things that set boundaries for him, such as his parents and God’s law.
One author notes, “Physical appetites are an analogy of our ability to control ourselves. If we are unable to control our eating habits, we are probably also unable to control other habits, such as those of the mind (lust, covetousness, anger) and unable to keep our mouths from gossip or strife” (among other things) …
Let’s also consider for a moment the parable of the prodigal son in . Many would characterize how he “squandered his property in reckless living” as a gluttonous lifestyle, one in which he fed all of his fleshly appetites, not just for food, but also for drinking and for entertainment, for sexual pleasure, and so forth. This young man, because he wanted to flee all controlling influences, and not show self control, lived in a way that put him in poverty as the passage in Proverbs said would happen to drunkards and gluttons.
If the sin of gluttony is one that you have often struggled with, I would encourage you to do some self-evaluation. May it be the case that gluttony is just one area that you are having an issue with self-control? May it be a sign of other spiritual problems that you have?
Before we bring this lesson to a close, I would like to deal with some common misconceptions regarding gluttony:
1. If you are overweight, you are a glutton
This is probably the biggest misconception regarding this sin. Someone may see a brother or sister in Christ who is a little overweight, or even a lot overweight and think, “that person obviously eats way too much! They are a glutton.” It is not wise to make such assumptions. Gluttony is just as much of a sin for those who are overweight and for those who are as skinny as a rail.
2. If I am a glutton, or if this is a sin that I struggle with, dieting will solve the problem...
The cure for gluttony is not diets, eating plans, and exercise. These things can be helpful in learning self-control, but alone using them is like putting a Band-Aid on cancer. It just doesn’t work. God gives us the way to combat gluttony in His word.
1. Repentance. Change your mindset about food. Learn to look at its purpose the way God wants us to. Also, look at the sin of gluttony as you should. See it for what it is. It is rebellion against God over food! See that it is just as terrible of a sin as sexual immorality, drunkenness, immodesty, etc. Hate this sin and submit to Jesus as Lord. that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” We need to make the decision now that food is not going to control us. We are not going to feed the flesh any longer and I am putting it to death so I can be fruitful for the Lord Jesus.
2. After doing this, part of repentance must be to find something that is much better to crave. Paul, in says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Gluttony is not in the list of the works of the flesh in , but I sure do believe it is included when Paul does say, “and things like these” in verse 21. As we have seen that in essence gluttony is a lot like drunkenness. But what Paul is saying in this passage is that if you do not want to do the works of the flesh, if you don’t want to give yourself over to your fleshly appetites, with the Spirit’s help, do good things. Seek to fill your life with the fruits of the Spirit, and you will find it a lot harder to do evil. Paul says in
We need to crave the things of God. We should strive to have the attitude that Jesus had when He said to His disciples in , “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (4:34). How much better off would we and the church here be if we looked at doing God’s will as the thing that sustains us and nourishes us? May we have a better, more Biblical view of food and why God has given it to us?
We need to have, as God’s people, a much higher craving, and my encouragement to you is that you, as the Psalmist says in , “taste and see that the Lord is good.” If we crave the Lord; if we crave His word and feed upon it, He will equip us in our battle against gluttony or against any sin or temptation that we face in this life.
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