It is heartbreaking to witness what is happening across the country in American churches today. Many of God’s people have been suffering from spiritual bondage as never before. Christians are ignoring their heart issues and disconnecting from their families and the body of Christ. People deal with stress in many unhealthy ways, such as sexual immorality, drugs, and alcohol.
Although there are Christians who find they struggle with such bondages, the more acceptable and less discussed struggle is overindulgence in food, or the sin of gluttony.
Many believers in the Christian church struggle with excessive eating. They consume their favorite foods in response to their feelings and circumstances instead of hunger. People used to eat to live but now it seems that people live to eat. They run to comfort foods, which were once called junk food, for self-medication to escape from the stresses and pressures of daily life. It is human nature to want to feel better or detach from negative feelings, but sometimes they use comfort foods just for pleasure or even out of habit.
Overindulgence in food is so subtle and deceiving that it is one of the greatest threats to Christians today. It is a false comfort, a temporary means to emotional satisfaction. It is like any other sin Satan uses to destroy God’s people. They believe the lies they tell themselves. They say to themselves, “I deserve a treat for having such a hard day.” They convince themselves that one more bite will not hurt. They believe they have the will power to stop eating whenever they want. They sometimes feel that they are having an affair with a chocolate chip cookie! They hide from others and eat alone. They lie and deceive themselves.
Eating for comfort is a false god. More and more of their time and thoughts are devoted to food. It seems to have this irresistible power over them, and they give in to it time and time again. A large part of the household budget is sacrificed at its altar due to the quantity of junk food the glutton consumes. This should stand out as a bright red flag to Christians who seek comfort in eating food. Something has gone terribly wrong in their thinking that comes from deep within the heart. There are underlining heart issues feeding the lies that must be brought to the surface. Mark 7:21-23 states, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Difficult circumstances are not causing their emotional problems, but revealing what is in the heart.
Gluttony is a sin (Prov 23:21). If you say that in the middle of a group of Christians, you might be stoned to death or at least have piercing eyes stabbing you in the heart like laser beams. In the Christian church today, gluttony is accepted or at least tolerated from the pulpit to the pew. Christians have no qualms about gorging themselves at a church “fellowship” event. Proverbs 23:2 states, “And put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite.” The sin of gluttony has devastating consequences. It defiles the temple of the Holy Spirit and leads to laziness and poverty, both physically and spiritually. Christians need to take a closer look at the sin of gluttony and choose to glorify God when they eat. The emphasis is not on losing weight, but rather on glorifying God the Father through Jesus Christ and developing the biblical motive and discipline in the area of eating. We are created for God’s glory.
Gluttony is a practicing sin in the church. First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This passage is one of the most nonpracticed passages in the Bible. It sounds good to say, but many Christians have difficulty living it. Most Christians have no idea what it means or even looks like to “glorify God” when they eat. Sadly, many in the church do not glorify God when they eat.
Church fellowships are convivial gatherings often associated with food. There is superfluous concern about food. Churchgoers preoccupy themselves too much with what is on the plate! Christian fellowship is secondary to what Mrs. Brown brought for the potluck. Matter of fact, fellowship is now defined as feasting with the church. At Bible studies, prayer requests are about the physical ailments mostly due to not feeding the body God’s way. No one ever makes a request to be free from gluttony, although it is obvious that many in the church suffer from this sin. They are in bondage to the sin of gluttony (Prov 23:21).
Gluttony is a word not used in our culture today. Our society has moved from primarily a Christian world-view to a psychological one in particular to gluttony. The word gluttony as a sin has been replaced by overeating as an illness. There are Christians who cannot define gluttony enough to know that it is a sin. In 1702, Samuel Cradock defined gluttony as “…a voluntary excess in eating for the meer pleasing of the appetite or some other carnal end.” Believers in the church have become blinded to this sin. It is rarely talked or preached about in the pulpit. It is the most acceptable and silent sin in American churches today.
The glutton has three forces against her: the world (1 John 2:16), the flesh (Rom 8:7-8) and the devil (John 8:44). The enticements of the world, the stubbornness of the flesh, and the deceitfulness and craftiness of the evil one play major roles in the sin of gluttony. The glutton must go to God’s Word to know and understand that it is a sin against a holy God. She must know what the Bible says are the causes and the dangerous spiritual consequences of this sin. The glutton must use God’s remedies to fight against the world, the flesh and the devil.
The Church is in great need of hope. The Word of God holds the key that will set the gluttonous captive free. There must be conviction, confession, godly sorrow or repentance, and complete surrender. The glutton must have the proper motivation to eat to God’s glory. The glutton must fight against the evil trinity against her and change her attitude toward food. The believer’s motive for anything is to glorify God, and that includes eating.
New American Standard Bible. (LaHabra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977. Unless otherwise identified, all Scripture quotations are from this translation.
Samuel Cradock, B.D. Knowledge and Practice Together With The Supplement: Or, A Plain Discourse Of The Chief Things Necessary To Be Known, Believ’d, and Practis’d In Order To Salvation. The Fourth Edition. (London: Henry Mortlock and John Hartley, 1702), 177.