Article by Christopher Asmus, Guest Contributor via Desiring God
Feeling utterly frustrated, I crawled up the stairs and headed to bed full, but empty; bloated, but deflated — again. After another self-made promise to “eat better today,” I had just spent the last twenty minutes binge eating pizza, Oreos, peanut butter, and a few other snacks.
I had such a good day, but as the sun went down, so did my guard. These junk foods called out to me like seductive sirens from the cupboards. I gave in — again.
I have ended my day with that scene more times than I can count. In fact, overeating is not an occasional incident for me; it has become part of my normal diet. Such eating habits have led me to the stark realization that my most habitual, persistent, and pervasive sin is gluttony.
Johnathon Bowers succinctly defines gluttony as “food worship” and “table idolatry.” He says it’s “more about the direction of our loves than it is about the contents of our cupboards.” Gluttony is not about what we eat, but what we exalt — food or God.
Gluttony occurs when we go to food to satisfy our God-cravings. The glutton seeks satisfaction, or comfort, or fulfillment in food, while tossing God aside like decorative parsley on top of a sizzling steak. In short, habitual overeating is about our worship, not just our waistline.
It has taken me years to learn that my hunger is often not only signaling an empty stomach but pointing to an empty soul. And when I indulge in food without indulging in God, I have committed the sin of gluttony. Here are three questions to ask to help you gauge whether your eating is gluttonous or worshipful.
1. Will this food serve my mission?
Christian, as those called and commissioned by Jesus, eat to fulfill their mission. As military soldiers on the battlefield eat nutrient-rich, calorie-dense meals, specifically designed to help them stay alert and have energy to complete their mission, we should eat in such a way as to fulfill ours.
Jonathan Edwards modeled this well. On top of making several resolutions to maintain a strict diet, Edwards’s early biographer, Sereno Dwight, noted how Edwards “carefully observed the effects of the different sorts of food, and selected those which best suited his constitution, and rendered him most fit for mental labour” (Works I, xxxviii).
Edwards thought that when we finish a meal, we should leave the table feeling more alert and more energetic to do what God has called us to do. He saw food as a gift from God to energize and empower us for our mission.
One of the most destructive consequences of gluttony is that it renders us ineffective for our mission. Instead of leaving the table invigorated to do what God has called us to do, we feel lethargic, sluggish, and in need of a nap.
But in place of overeating, we can lay aside every snack and food option that will slow us down and cause us to be ineffective for Christ. May every meal help us “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
So before you reach for the cupboard, ask yourself: Will eating this make me feel more or less energized to do what God has called me to do today?
2. Will this food help me fellowship?
One of the primary reasons we eat is to experience the gift of community. Across every culture and throughout every generation, food has brought people together. In the Bible, God’s people feast often, and almost always in community.
The glutton’s issue is not that he feasts, for food is a God-given gift to be fully and freely enjoyed (1 Timothy 4:3). The glutton’s sin is that he feasts in the wrong way: devoid of worship and apart from community.
Feasting is a good gift from God to be enjoyed at specific times and in the togetherness of community. The time to feast is not late at night when you’re all alone. Sin thrives in secret, so it’s no surprise that gluttony prefers the dark. But special occasions like Thanksgiving, potlucks, birthdays, and Sundays with church family provide great opportunities to enjoy Jesus through feasting with family and friends.
Before you reach into the cupboard, ask: Who will enjoy this with me? If the answer is no one, the time to feast is probably not now.
3. Will this food help me savor God?
Food is a gracious gift from God for us to experience God’s goodness on the most natural, everyday level. The ultimate reason we eat is to taste and see his goodness (Psalm 34:8). Therefore, mindless snacking is not Christian eating; it’s cheapening the good gift of food as we disconnect the blessing from its Giver.
The Christian’s diet should aim at one primary target: the enjoyment of God. While the glutton eats to taste pizza, the Christian eats to taste God’s goodness in and through the textures, the aromas, and the flavors. Gluttony stands helpless against mindful, thankful, worshipful eating.
As you reach for your next snack or meal, ask: Will this food help me enjoy the One who created the snack (Genesis 1:29), the One who provided the snack (Matthew 6:25–34; Psalm 136:25), the One who sustains my life with the snack (Acts 17:28), and the bread of life and living water (John 6:35;John 4:10–14)?
Taste His Goodness
This week, most of us will eat about twenty-one meals, and probably several snacks. More important than what you eat or how much you eat, is why you eat. Eat to fulfill your mission, eat to enjoy the gift of food within the blessing of community, and eat to taste the very goodness of God.
“Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). And you’ll find that more than filling an empty stomach or tickling your taste buds, your next meal might just satisfy your soul.