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The Sin of Gluttony

Surveys and statistics tell us that Americans have a serious problem with being overweight.  Obesity rates in this nation are dangerously unhealthy and have increased dramatically in recent years.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has published reports showing that in virtually all demographics, whether categorized by age, race, region, income level, etc., the percentage of obese people has risen significantly since 1991.  In some cases, the rate of obese people has nearly doubled in that time.

As we examine this topic from a spiritual standpoint, let it be emphasized that obesity is not a sin.  No one will be condemned by God for being overweight.  Some scientists have declared that many people are genetically disposed to be overweight so that it is beyond their ability to prevent their obesity.  Others have claimed that obesity can result from health and emotional problems, stress, or chemical imbalances.  The measure of obesity itself is arbitrary and varies from culture to culture and era to era.  These are not issues for which God will judge souls, but instead souls will be judged for such characteristics as love, faith, and obedience according to the Scriptures.

While obesity is not a sin, one of the main factors that causes obesity is gluttony, which is a sin.  Gluttony is what we now term as over-eating.  A glutton is one who is habitually given to excessive eating and drinking.  Gluttons are always spoken of in a negative way in the Bible.  Proverbs 23:20-21 says, “Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; for the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty…”  The way of gluttony is self-destructive, just as any overindulgence in the pleasures of this life tends to destroy the one who so indulges.  Thus, we see that obesity with its related health problems is one of the self-destructive results of gluttony.

The root cause of gluttony is a lack of self-control regarding the consumption of food.  Self-control means that man willfully limits himself against selfish excess and abuse.  Self-control is a fundamental characteristic that is required of every Christian (Gal. 5:23; 2Pet. 1:6), but all souls are accountable to God for how they have used God’s blessings (2Cor. 5:10).  Regarding the blessing of food, God has given it to us as a pleasant way to satisfy our physical needs, but a glutton greedily exceeds his need and selfishly abuses God’s blessing.  Rather than having self-control, his desire for food controls him, and he is mastered by his appetite.  The glutton violates the principle of 1Corinthians 6:12: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.  All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”

For some reason, gluttony is a sin that we tend to ignore.  Christians would never go out on a drinking binge with an alcoholic, but we think nothing of feasting with others until we are all about to burst.  Both drunkenness and gluttony involve selfish excess, yet we do not see them in the same way.  Perhaps we are reluctant to recognize gluttony because we are hypersensitive about the issue of obesity.  Maybe it is because there is no standard measure for how much food is too much food.  Maybe it is because we like to indulge in too much food ourselves.

Regardless of our previous failures, it is time for us to address the sin of gluttony.  It is not simply a bad habit, but rather it is a serious spiritual problem.  Gluttony is just as sinful as addiction to tobacco, alcohol, or drugs.  The problem of obesity in our nation is a troublesome sign that we are badly afflicted with the sin of gluttony.  It seems that in our great prosperity, we have chosen to live in excess, and our obesity rates are telling our sin.  Notice Ecclesiastes 10:17 – “Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time – for strength, and not for drunkenness.”  As a people, we have become as wealthy as kings and princes, but we lack the nobility to restrain ourselves.  As a result, we eat for pleasure rather than for strength.  This is not a blessing for our land, but it may be the forerunner of a curse.

What shall we do about the sin of gluttony?  Like any other sin, the sin of gluttony requires confession and repentance by those who have sinned.  Therefore, let us admit that gluttony is a spiritual problem, and let us begin to exercise self-control toward food and all things.  Henceforth, let us accept the blessings of God in the measure that God intended and not overindulge for our own selfish pleasures.  Perhaps even a fast would be appropriate as a sign of our faithfulness toward God and our priority for the spirit over the flesh.  In all things, let us be grateful to God for His rich blessings, and let us prove to be good stewards over His wonderful bounty.

Stacey E. Durham




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