What does the Bible say about food and gluttony?
A good gift from God can quickly become our god.
A fervr reader recently asked us this question:
"What does the Bible say about gluttony? Where do you draw the line? And im talking specifically about food as it seems obesity is so prevelant in western society.”
Great question! When we grow up in a society, we can easily assume that just because something is the “normal” pattern, it must be OK. Like driving a car, or shopping at a supermarket, or what and how we eat.
Food is a great gift from God, and it is necessary for us to stay breathing. God has even given us a sense of pleasure in eating and being satisfied. However, food can sometimes become a problem in our lives.
Gluttony can be greed
Colossians 3:5 tells us that greed is a form of idolatry. If we’re obsessed about food, we’re can be putting our stomachs before God. In fact, we can make food our god (more on that, below).
In Australia, we have so many programs about food on tv, so many restaurants and cafes, that it can be easy to give food a more prominent place in our life than God.
- Do you spend more time reading food magazines and watching Masterchef than hearing from God’s word?
- Is your main goal in life to find the perfect cup of coffee/ be allowed into a Michelin-starred restaurant/bake the world’s best meal?
If you are obsessed by food, it might be time to seek God's help getting your obsession under control.
Eating food requires self control
Sometimes we eat too much out of habit. It’s not that we are obsessed by food, it’s just that we keep on nibbling and nibbling, and... well, it becomes hard to stop.
Have a look at Galatians 5:23. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. If we are following Jesus with our lives, we will be demonstrating self control in all areas of our life - including what we do with food. It’s not something that comes naturally to us. But the self-control muscle is like the other muscles in our body. If you give it a good workout, it will get stronger. ;)
The other problem we can hit is that we overwork the self-control muscle with food, and our lack of eating becomes a problem. Anorexia and bulimia are major issues in our society, and they’re kind of the opposite side of the gluttony coin. These illnesses aren’t about eating too much, but about obsessing about and battling for control over the god of food (either by refusing it, or by going through destructive binge-purge cycles). Food is a wonderful blessing from God, not a tool for control. If you (or someone you know) finds that you’re spending a large amount of time counting calories, obsessing about weight gain, or spending every waking moment thinking about food (as in how to avoid it), then you need to see someone who can help you deal with this problem (visit the Butterfly Foundation for more).
We’re stuck in an indulgent culture
You don’t have to cross the world to see that our western culture is saturated in food. Fast food restaurants hand us meals out the window before our car has even travelled from the “place your order here” speakers. One of the most popular shows on TV is all about new and weird ways to prepare and serve food. Entire pay TV channels are devoted to food.
The fact is, we eat far more than our fair share of the world’s food. But when you’re soaking in a culture, you don’t always notice how its influencing you. Is our Western culture influencing you to indulge yourself, or to help others less fortunate?
In Philippians 3, Paul compares two groups of people: those who are trapped by their human natures, and those who have been set free by our saviour Jesus Christ.
When he talks about a group people who don’t follow Jesus: “Their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame” (Phil 3:19). Satisfying their hunger has become their religion. That’s not really honouring the one who created us, is it?
But what are Jesus’ followers to remember? “Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Saviour from there ... who ... will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Food is good, but we have something much better to look forward to.
Eat just enough & do everything for God’s glory
Proverbs 25:16: "If you find honey, eat just enough — too much of it, and you will vomit." (NIV)
If you’ve ever had a sugar overdose headache, you’ll know what this proverb is on about. The “just enough” principle is a good one to remember - not just with sweet food, but with all food. If you’re like me, you were probably brought up on the “finish every morsel on your plate” principle, and you’re not listening to your body’s signals that it’s full.
The final thing to remember is that we are living for God’s glory, not our own satisfaction. We should look after our bodies by feeding them healthy foods. However, these bodies of ours don’t exist to satisfy our indulgences, but to serve and honour the God who made us.
1 Corinthians 10 23-33 isn’t about gluttony, but it still has some helpful principles to remember: "'I have the right to do anything' you say - but not everything is beneficial". (1 Cor 10:23)
Think about your own attitude to food. Are you using your Christian freedom to indulge yourself, or to help others see Jesus?
Food is not evil. It’s a good gift of God. We can use shared meals to show God’s love to others. We can share food with those who have none. Going out for coffee can be a great way to catch up with friends and talk about important stuff. Food is not the bad guy here!
Gluttony, however, is putting our stomachs in front of our desire to follow God. That’s a dangerous way to go, isn’t it? Our stomach can be our god either by eating too much or by not eating enough.
"So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God". (1 Cor 10:31)