(By: Nick Kennicott)
It seems to me that everyone is fine to talk about the sins of drunkenness and sexual immorality, but nobody wants to talk about gluttony. I’ve heard plenty of jokes about how a proper Baptist church has a lot of desserts at the fellowship meal and proper Baptist preachers have 40” waistlines. I’ve even heard people comment that exercise is overrated and unnecessary because, after all, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way” (1 Timothy 4:8). Apparently “some” has a different meaning when we’re justifying our sin.
I’m no physical trainer trying to sell my services, or a fat camp instructor trying to motivate you to put down the donuts and do more stair-climbers. I am a man who, six months ago, realized he was a glutton, repented of it, and by the grace of God, has been able to do something about it. This morning I saw something I haven’t seen in eight years: The first number on my scale was a 1 instead of a 2. I had a little party in my head and rejoiced that, by God’s grace, I’ve been able to lose 31 pounds over the past six months. Lord willing, the trend will continue. I used to be in extremely good shape. One year I was in three competitive marathons, a few 5ks and 10ks, a sprint triathlon, and an 70.3 Ironman triathlon. But that was then, and this is now. Life happens and we get comfortable with the things that can so easily ensnare us. It seems ironic that the Bible reminds us, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He can devour us when we so easily devour food without addressing the sin in our hearts.
There is a reality that many people live with every day that, because of physical problems or necessary medication use, no matter how healthy they eat or how much they exercise, they may never take off excess weight. It’s important to remember that gluttony is not so much about weight and size as it is about a lack of self-control and overindulging. In other words, if a person is large, they may not be a glutton and it’s never safe to immediately assume they are. However, most people aren’t the exception to the rule. Americans in particular are susceptible to the sin of gluttony, and by the looks of things, it’s only getting worse.
God hasn’t given us a height and weight chart to measure ourselves by so that we can determine a healthy size for our bodies. However, God has given us the common grace of medical research and practice to be able to show us what’s ideal if we are to take advantage of the value the Apostle Paul mentions. Being physically healthy prepares us to more readily fulfill whatever ministry God has given. According to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, more than 2 in 3 adults are considered overweight, and more than 1 in 3 adults are obese. 1 in 20 adults are “extremely obese.” Unfortunately, the statistics for children are on the rise as well, as nearly 1 in 6 children are obese. These numbers are shocking, and reveal a lot about our spiritual health right alongside our physical. Overweight and obese people are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, alongside various other health problems. There’s a reason why heart disease remains the number one cause of death in America each year.
American culture seems inundated with health and wellness products, workout routines, and gyms, but the Christian community seems reluctant to say anything about gluttony. There is undoubtedly a lot of pressure on women especially to look skinny, and even those who are healthy and thin often don’t think they are. However, a biblical perspective on food isn’t about how we look, it’s about what’s in our heart and what we are seeking our joy in. There’s a loving and gracious way to talk to our brothers and sisters about the mountains of food we shovel on our plates from the sea of slow-cookers and casserole dishes at church functions, without calling on one another to be obsessed with how we look. Vanity is as sinful as gluttony, so there’s a real danger on both sides of the issue. But I do know that even though I never wanted to hear a person tell me to consider slowing down on my eating, it certainly would’ve gotten my attention.
Food is a gift from God, and I am the first to tell you it’s one of my favorite gifts that He has given. I prefer my meals gourmet, and cooking is my daily hobby. I’ve taken cooking classes, I subscribe to food podcasts and vodcasts, and I’m always trying to improve my craft. I like to use fresh ingredients, and make everything from scratch. I’ve often wondered in my culinary adventures why it seems as though the best tasting foods also happen to be those that are the least healthy. But the Lord didn’t design things haphazardly. Many of the things we are most likely to turn into idols are the things God has graciously limited. It’s possible to enjoy sweet and savory delights to the glory of God without being excessive, but if we are, the results will show. In my case, the results showed with each successive pant size.
The ways in which we eat and drink, use entertainment and media, search the internet, watch sports, etc. all say something about what we find to be most valuable and serve to prove what we’re seeking our hope and enjoyment in most ultimately.
God’s people have the Holy Spirit within them, and the fruit of His presence is self-control. Just like we can enjoy a drink without being drunkards and sex in its proper context without being sexually immoral, we can enjoy food without being gluttons. It’s not easy in a world of processed foods, fast food restaurants, and butter, but it’s possible. The Apostle Paul identifies that in the last days, people will be “without self-control” and will be “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:3, 4). The Proverbs offer several warnings against gluttony, revealing that the tendencies of a glutton are excess in various other areas of life as well (Proverbs 23:20-21, 28:7). In fact, the remedy to resist gluttonous temptation is given in strong hyperbole to, “Put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite” (Proverbs 23:2). Self-control is essential if believers are to live free of gluttony.
The more we have conscious communion with God, the more we are able to use His gifts in a healthy and fruitful manner. Food is one of the best ways to build community and create opportunities for fellowship. Jesus and the Apostles were regularly sitting at a table with one another (Luke 9:10-17; 10:38-42; 22:14-38; 24:28-32, 36-43), eating with sinners (Luke 5:27-32; 7:36-50; 11:37-52; 14:1-24; 19:1-10), or breaking bread from house-to-house (Acts 2:42). One of the most important things the Church does as she gathers is enjoy a meal, namely the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). There are purposes for food beyond our bellies: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). One day we will enjoy the heavenly feast that awaits us, free from the temptation to sin and overindulge (Revelation 19:6-9). And I have to believe the menu will include bacon wrapped bacon. Until then, may God be pleased to help His people enjoy His gifts as He has designed them, and may we enjoy them more than we ever have because they are turning our eyes heavenward toward Him. Bon Apétit!