SE7EN: Gluttony

Part Two in a series on The Seven Deadly Sins How often do we hear sermons on the sin of gluttony? Have we ever passed a resolution on this prevalent sin? Gluttony's obvious presence in our country and Convention, and its absence from our private and corporate confession is the mark of hypocrisy and careless Christian living. The Bible names gluttony as a sin associated with wastefulness, stubbornness, rebellion and disobedience. It exists on the same level of drunkenness (Deut. 21:20; Pr. 23:20, 21). In fact, gluttony is more dangerous than drunkenness because it goes on with no one taking notice.

We all know that gluttony is eating without restraint. But we can open it up to get to the center of the sin by considering it as the abuse of God's earthly gifts. It is not the indulgence of sinful things, but the over-indulgence of things lawful. In food, drink, even recreation and work - gluttony, in principle, involves the mistreatment of the good things that God has given us.

Gluttony is seldom, if ever, admitted to, confessed and repented of because it is the norm. We stuff our faces and boast about how sick we feel and no one is offended. I have sat with Christian leaders who will not only over-indulge, but mock those who eat more temperately. Richard Baxter said that when gluttony becomes the common custom no one is offended "unless men eat til they spew." Even then, I’m not sure it would produce more than some laughs. He wrote,

And so every man is an example of evil to another, and encourages one another in the sin. If gluttony were but in as much disgrace as whoredom, yea, or as drunkenness is, and as easily known, and as commonly taken notice of, it would contribute much to a common reformation. (A Christian Directory, pg. 311)

And so gluttony continues on in the church, and we do little about it. It not only destroys the body, but it reinforces the American value of instant and excessive gratification.

If gluttony is the abuse of God's gifts, if it is self-centered overindulgence, what would repentance look like? Since many (most?) Baptists cannot control their appetites, should we pass a resolution against eating? Ok, maybe that’s a little over the top. How about forbidding tasty food, or agreeing to eat no more than one small meal a day? Sound crazy? This is how we’ve handled similar problems.

repentance would look like the proper enjoyment of God’s gifts, not the ascetic refusal of themThe cure for gluttony is not abstinence from the gift, but understanding the gift itself. Gluttony misses the greater good of the gift and focuses on the lesser good - if any good at all. For example, food is a gift of God given for us to enjoy while being refreshed and strengthened for the tasks he has given us to do. Gluttony only sees the gift as something to be enjoyed. In fact, gluttony hardly recognizes food as a gift, for if it did we would be thankful for it, and gratitude would restrain abuse. In this case repentance would look like the proper enjoyment of God's gifts, not the ascetic refusal of them. Speaking to this issue John Calvin said,

First of all if we want to curb our [ungodly] passions we must remember that all things are made for us, with the purpose that we may know and acknowledge their Author. We should praise his kindness toward us in earthly matters by giving him thanks.

But, what will become of our thanksgiving, if we indulge in danties, or wine, in such a way that we are too dull to carry out the duties of devotion or of our business?

Where is our acknowledgment of God, if the excesses of our body drive us to the vilest passions, and infect our mind with impurity, so that we can no longer distinguish between right and wrong? (Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, pg. 89)

The key for Calvin is to “enjoy abundance with moderation.” Spend some time with 1 Cor. 7:25-31. I was blessed by it today in a new way.

In essence we let faith work. We acknowledge God as the author of good gifts (food, drink, pipe tobacco - whatever), and from this recognition emerges gratitude which produces enjoyment and moderation. This is the path to mortifying the sin of gluttony, drunkeness and similar sins.

Resources I have found helpful concerning gluttony:

General Directions for a Comfortable Walking with God, Robert Bolton Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, John Calvin Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis Supersize Me, Documentary by Morgon Spurlock

(Artwork by D'Serge "Gluttony" for Fingertips issue #9