I love food. I love to cook, I love to go out to eat, I love to look at pictures of food, and I spend a fair chunk of time thinking about what I'm going to eat next.
When my husband and I were dating (care and debt free) we went out to eat nearly every weekend, and a lot of our favourite memories revolve around food. The meals I make now are a lot more simple (funnily enough having a one year old doesn't quite go with a ten page, three hour recipe), but I still love creating meals for my family, and sitting down to eat.
Food brings people together, it creates atmosphere and conversation, it gives nourishment and joy. Of course, that's a great thing. In my research for this article, I read something along the lines of, “Jesus ate his way through the gospels”. In other words, all of the gospels include accounts of Jesus eating, and sharing meals. Let me be clear: food is necessary, but more than that, it is good.
Lately, however, I've been wondering about this rarely used word: gluttony. It even sounds unpleasant. It conjures up images of Augustus Gloop getting sucked up the pipe at the chocolate river, or Bruce Bogtrotter defying Miss Trunchbull as he scoffs down a whole cake. On a more sinister note, King Eglon of Moab was described as a very fat man, who was killed by a sword to the stomach which sunk into his big tummy, even covering the handle (Judges chapter 3 verses 16 - 22)!
As a Christian, can I have my cake and eat it too?
Gluttony is defined as “habitual greed or excess in eating”. If you take out the word “eating”, it could easily be a definition of hedonism.
I believe gluttony is an issue for two reasons:
1. It affects us spiritually.
2. It affects us physically.
Proverbs chapter twenty-three is a lesson in self-control in various aspects of life (sexuality, discipline, alcohol, parenting), including eating. The writer warns against “gorging on meat” (verse 20), which results in laziness. Paul says that those who follow their stomach like a god are “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians chapter 3 verse 19).
Psalm chapter 78 retells the story of the Israelites, stating that they “wilfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved” (verse 18), and even after God gave them what they asked for (more than enough for them to eat), they ate “till they were gorged” (verse 29).
Like I said, food is both necessary and to be enjoyed, but when it crosses the line and becomes a case of over indulgence, when we lose control over what we eat, when we eat, and how much we eat; it's a problem.
Let's be honest, this is an awkward topic to discuss. No one wants to call someone out for overeating. No one wants to tell someone they're concerned about their weight. But, at the risk of sounding cliché, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians chapter 6 verses 19-20), bought at a price, and we ought to give them the care they deserve.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul commands that we honour God in the way we use and treat our bodies. He is referring mainly to sexual desires and acts, but the reason I've chosen to narrow down on the way Christians treat our bodies in regards to food, is because I can't remember if, let alone when, I ever heard anyone talk about it from a pulpit or in a classroom. We talk about the effects of smoking, drinking, healthy ways to engage in sexual activity, but rarely, if ever, do we talk about our eating or exercise habits (unless we're proud of them).
Robert Murray McCheyne, a preacher in Scotland in the 1800's, had a large and vibrant ministry, but died at the age of twenty-nine. Before dying he wrote, “God gave me a message to deliver and a horse to ride. Alas, I have killed the horse and now I cannot deliver the message.” McCheyne died from poor health, which many have said was due to over work and extreme tiredness. Although not quite the same as gluttony, the sentiment is.
I know myself that when I eat rubbish and don't exercise, I feel lethargic, I don't sleep well, it affects my mental health, and I just don't have the energy to get done all the things that I need to get done. Research clearly shows that being overweight and unfit can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnoea, stress on joints, fertility issues, kidney disease and more. There are real, physical consequences when we lose control to food.
Paul's whole point in 1 Corinthians is that God created human beings with care and dignity, and to be in intimate relationship with him. Unfortunately, we often don't treat ourselves with the same care and dignity, and it drives us way from our creator. We can do this in many ways, including sex, porn, drugs, video games, and food.
If we use food as a Band-Aid (so called 'comfort food'), then we may never deal with the real problem. If we eat because we're bored, we're probably going to miss out on life. If we eat because we have no self-control, then maybe Jesus is not Lord over all of our life and we won't experience complete intimacy with him.
Gluttony: “habitual greed or excess in eating”. God desires that we have healthy habits, ones that bring us life and joy, and ultimately closer to him. Food can do that! Gluttony, however, cannot.
Jess is a wife and mum who loves God and loves people. The only reality TV she watches is Masterchef, often while eating some form of baked good. She also enjoys yoga, a walk around the dam, and chasing after her one year old daughter who is now on the move!
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