Gluttony Pt I: The Overlooked Sin of Overindulgence

As I sit down to write this, I acknowledge that talking about gluttony as a sin is a taboo topic.

I think the initial thought is that gluttony means condemning someone for being overweight. This is not what God means nor is that what this article is about. So before you roll your eyes and pass up this post, I ask you to look at these following questions. If you can answer yes to any of them, then I encourage you to keep on reading:


Is there any area of your life in which you have the tendency to overindulge?

Have you ever felt sick to your stomach from eating too much after a meal?

Is there any area of your life where you are habitually in want of more?

Is there something in your life that you can't stop from having or doing?

Don’t just think food. Think shopping, sex, time spent on social media, working, partying, exercise, etc.


WHAT IS GLUTTONY?

New Webster’s dictionary defines Gluttony as, “excess in eating or drinking; greedy or excessive indulgence.”


The idea of being gluttonous doesn’t just apply to just food. Gluttony is excessive indulgence in anything. The Bible typically focuses on overeating when talking about gluttony, which will be the main focus of this post, but it applies to many other areas of life.


NOTHING TO DO WITH WEIGHT

I want to make clear that the issue here is not being overweight. We all know the bean pole who can down burritos and burgers and milkshakes and not put on a single pound. We can’t equate gluttony to weight.

When looking at gluttony, we have to look at the deeper, root issue, which is lack of self-control.


Being gluttonous is a sin because it means we are being conquered and ruled by cravings for something. We have idolized something to the point of we "can't not have it." This doesn’t please Christ, and if we claim to be a Christian, it is our job to take a serious look at the areas in our lives that we habitually overindulge in and look at how to take back control over those areas.


YOU’RE NOT ALONE!

As a personal trainer and nutrition coach, people often assume that I only eat healthy food. Hah! I love pizza and burritos and grilled cheese just as much as the next person. It makes me giggle when people make comments that they didn’t want to offer me a treat because they didn’t know if I ate “that stuff.” Or when people feel self-conscious for eating something not-so-healthy in front of me…so silly.


But even being a nutrition coach, I struggle with overeating too! Now don’t get me wrong, I eat pretty well most of the time. But I can struggle when it comes to savory and sweet foods.


I have the propensity to eat a whole box of mac-n-cheese in one sitting, or to down four large pieces of pizza pretty easily. I don’t buy much junk food, because if it is in the house, I WILL eat it within days.


Sometimes, if I am out eating an amazing meal, I will eat past the point of fullness to where I feel sick after eating. And occasionally, I may have one or two more glasses of wine than I probably should.


And I don’t want that for myself. I'm human, as we all are, but I want to have control over my appetite in order to glorify God with my body.


So you are not alone. This is something many of us struggle with when it comes to eating.


BUT IS OVEREATING REALLY A SIN?

I attended a Christian school through 8th grade and have gone to church most of my life. In all that time, I don’t remember there ever being more than one discussion on the topic of gluttony. It seems that we are quick to condemn those who are alcoholics or indulging in pre-marital sex, but we shrug off gluttonous tendencies when it comes to eating.


Why? I’m not sure. Maybe it is because it is uncomfortable for pastors to talk about eating too much when there are usually people who are overweight in the room. Maybe since eating is something we typically do three times a day and is necessary for life, it is easy to overlook overeating. I’m not sure.


But the Bible is very clear in stating that we are not to be a gluttonous people:


“Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.” –Proverbs 23:20-21 (ESV)


“Put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.” – Proverbs 23:2 (ESV)


“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” – Philippians 3:19 (ESV)


And it is even clearer in stating that we should be taking care of our bodies in a way that honors Christ:


“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)


“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31(NIV)


FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

I have a love-hate relationship with Galations 5:22-23. This verse tells us of the traits that should be evident in our lives if we are living our life in a relationship with Christ:


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”


I love this verse because it is easy to look at and see how we should be living our lives as Christians. I also don't like this verse because it’s easy to look at and see where I am not living my life out well as a Christian. It really reveals my fleshly nature and my propensity to sin.


The last trait listed is self-control. As a follower of Jesus Christ, God calls us to live out self-control in our lives.


If we are overindulging, habitually craving, or overdoing it in any area of our life, we are not bringing glory to God.


THE MAKING OF AN IDOL

Gluttony makes whatever we are longing for into an idol. It becomes something we serve and can't say no to. God tells us that idolatry is a sin:


“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness or anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” (Exodus 20:3–5)


We have a God that is jealous, but this is a loving jealousy. He desires for Him to be our number one desire, because when he is, he is able to help us lead fulfilling, purposeful lives. Food or shopping or exercise may not be a physical idol, but when they become so excessive that we can't say no to them, then they can turn into one.


When talking specifically about food, I love this statement by Jonathan Bowers, a professor of theology at Bethlehem College & Seminar:


“Gluttony, after all, is food worship. It’s table idolatry. It’s more about the direction of our loves than it is about the contents of our cupboards.”


It isn't necessarily about what we are eating, but the condition of our heart. Lindsey Carlson, the wife of a church planter in Baltimore, Maryland puts it this way:


“When I decide to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, I crown food and place it on a throne meant only for Jesus.”


When we put our desires for something, like food, over what God desires for us and asks of us, then that something turns into an idol.


CONQUERING GLUTTONY

So the real question is how we overcome this tendency to “overdo” in these areas of our life? How do we improve our self-control, especially when it comes to food. In Part II of this post series, I will discuss some Biblical and practical tips for overcoming gluttonous tendencies.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, as it is not often discussed. It is something many of us struggle with at some level in our lives, whether it has to do with food or not, so please comment below!