I have the spiritual gift of inviting myself over to your place for dinner and not bringing or paying for anything. At least I did in college. In undergraduate school, like most college students, money was tight. Making ends meet was tough, especially because I didn’t want to accrue debt. So I had to adjust. One of the things I quickly jumped on was free (or cheap) food opportunities.
On Mondays, it was the Baptist Student Union’s dollar dinner. On Tuesdays, a professor had a bunch of students over for a free meal. Then we get to Wednesday, where I enjoyed the free food at community group. And so on and so forth. You get the gist. I constantly had free food in my midst. College was fun and exciting, and I enjoyed all the free food. But I quickly developed a bad habit: gluttony.
On multiple occasions after eating a meal, I almost threw up because I ate too much. If I didn’t feel overly stuffed, I didn’t eat enough. This is what I told myself. I had my reasons, you know: I’m in college, and I don’t have that much money, I have a fast metabolism, and I can get away with it, I’ll never get free food in abundance like this after college, etc. Because I didn’t know where my next meal would come from (a ridiculous thought) — I better eat as much as I can. It took me several years to break this pattern of thinking.
What is Gluttony?
The definition that is provided if you Google “gluttony” is: “habitual greed” or “excess in eating.” This is true. But from a Christian’s perspective, there’s more. At its core, gluttony is a satisfaction issue. Not a money issue. But a fulfillment issue, a pleasure issue. It’s about your desires. A working definition of gluttony can go like this: gluttony is purposely consuming more food than needed to satisfy a dissatisfaction in one’s soul.
In his book, Seven Daily Sins, Jared C. Wilson writes, “Essentially, gluttony is making food a drug. When we engage in gluttony, we expect food to provide a pleasure beyond its design. We expect it to help us avoid the problems of life. Or we treat it like an entitlement or as a cure for anxiety. . . we seek to find in food what can only be found in God.”
The gluttonous Christian says, “I’m not happy. I’m dissatisfied with life. Instead of looking to Christ for satisfaction, I’m going to try to find it in food.”
Food is a terrific gift, but a terrible god. Like sex, power, and money, it can only do so much for your soul. It has a specific design. God created things in a certain way. You have to play by God’s rules. If you follow God’s rules, you’ll have tons of joy and pleasure and even be able to see how some of these pleasures relate to foretastes of heaven. If you break them, though, and consume too much, or steward it poorly, they will bring much heartache.
Gluttony, however, is more than just consuming too much food. It’s whenever we consume too much of anything — social media exposure, food, drink, whatever. Usually, the aim is to fulfill a longing that only Christ can fulfill.
How do we overcome gluttony? There are no quick fixes. When we eat poorly for five years, we can’t expect to fix it overnight. I’m tempted, at this point in the article, to give you a list of things to do. But I know overcoming sin is more complex than obliging to bullet-points. Sometimes these sorts of sins take a while to break. But by God’s sustaining grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit, you can break it.
The more you’re distraught over your sin, the more you rely on God’s Spirit to help, the more you understand the gospel and how it affects all of Christian living, the more you develop the fruit of self-control, the more you are conscious about what you’re putting into your body and how much— the more you do these things, slowly over time, you’ll put gluttony to death.
I know because I’m a living example. But it’s not easy. In fact, it’s still hard after all these years. It’s gotten better, for sure. But it’s not like the temptation goes away. You can make great improvements in defeating the sin of gluttony, but it’s a sin you must always remain active about defeating.
You have few cheerleaders on your side to help. The world not only promotes gluttony but actively celebrates it. Even amongst Christian circles we sometimes laugh at gluttony and don’t take it seriously. But it’s time that we do.
Defeating gluttony — like pursuing holiness — is not about the one big decision you make on Sunday night to start eating better on Monday morning. It’s about the hundreds of little decisions you make every day to reject finding joy in food and instead find joy in Christ, all in constant reliance on the Spirit.
Your Gluttony Sent Christ to the Tree
Years ago I read a piece online from a Christian perspective on gluttony. It really helped. I can’t remember the author, and I can’t recall the exact quote (even though I’ve tried a million Google searches), but the quote went something like this: “Your gluttony sent the Savior to the tree.” That hit me hard. I still remember reading that quote and feeling the weight of my sin and my desire to overcome this overlooked sin. Gluttony is a sin. And like all sins, it sent Christ to the cross. The more I reflect on Christ dying for my gluttony, the more I want to defeat gluttony for Christ’s glory.
Food is a good thing. Enjoy it. Get dessert after dinner and don’t feel guilty. Feel free to get seconds, if need be. But guard your heart. Watch what you eat. Don’t overdo it. It’s not worth it. And by God’s grace, seek to defeat the sin of gluttony. If you’re struggling with motivation, remember that it sent your Savior to the tree.