Gluttony Kills Joy
Eve didn’t eat the forbidden fruit because she was hungry.
She ate the fruit because it held out a promise to her. It was a big, fat lie; but prompted by the serpent, it offered a promise, nonetheless . The promise was that by eating the fruit, she would gain pleasure, wisdom, and fulfillment.
Though the most perfect and whole foods were available to her in Eden, she sought the thing that was forbidden.
Why do we too — the daughters of Eve, want the things that are forbidden? the big, fat lies that pose as promises? the very things that leave us empty and unfulfilled rather than truly satisfied?
This chapter of Killjoys calls for a heart examination surrounding issues of food. This is not a post to help one stick to her diet as spring comes around. This post is about the sin of gluttony. I always considered gluttony to be simply gorging on food — overeating. But under closer examination in Chapter 7, we learn gluttony is less about food than it is about unruly appetites.
Food was given by God to sustain us, offering us at least three times daily to rest from our labor and be refreshed and refueled. Our need for it is a constant reminder that we are not self-contained organisms. We depend on things outside of ourselves to live. The Christian learns that this daily bread and provision ultimately comes from God and it is a tool to drive us to him. But just like with any thing we were created to do, sin has perverted the scene.
Gluttony is the wrong use of food to satisfy some deeper craving: comfort, pleasure, acceptance, peace. We may readily accept that there can be an abuse of food — eating too much. But the author of this chapter draws out another important side of gluttony — the meticulous avoidance of foods as well. I found this chapter to be so helpful!
Gluttony is when we seek our satisfaction either in the foods we consume, or the foods we avoid. Here are some example with overeating. You may have waited till all of the kids were served their pie to have yours. You finally sit down to enjoy it, when the baby comes crying for a bite, someone spilled their milk, and the dog needs let out — so now you are interrupted and you had to share. Clearly, you deserve another piece so that you can enjoy it in peace, right? Or maybe you have worked all day and you do deserve a break today, so you super-size your meal and add a chocolate shake at the drive thru as a reward. You earned it!
In each of these examples, the second piece of pie or a super-sized meal is not wrong. But under closer examination, what is the motivation of the heart? The mom is looking for peace and rest. She is driven to food to find it. The hard-working woman is looking for a reward to a long day. She upgrades her calories to tell her she did a good job. But the thing about looking for peace and worth in food is that they come up empty. The peace is momentary if at all, and the reward ends up making you feel sluggish and guilty. And doing this regularly adds to the waistline.
On the flipside of that coin, gluttony can be the avoidance of food, whereas we become defined by what we will not eat. This might include being militant with a diet, naming foods as morally suspect, finding a sense of righteousness in where you shop or what you will/will not eat. Anorexia and bulimia would fall along the distorted extremes of this continuum. On this side of coin, there is a sense of control or worth that the avoidance of food gives a person. It too is gluttony.
So gluttony makes a god of food — either in excess or in abstinence. Food becomes the god that brings comfort or worth. But what a terrible master! It leaves you either filled up on emptiness or it makes you hungry for more, but elusive control.
“Gluttony is food worship. It directs the appetite toward improper ends — looking to our taste buds for the satisfaction that God offers us in his fellowship through Christ.*”
So what is the remedy for these distorted appetites? As with all sin, the remedy is Jesus Christ. Rather than finding our peace and worth in food, we need to be driven in our hunger and need to our true Daily Bread, Christ. This may sound like a spiritual platitude: don’t turn to food, turn to God.
But what the author says is that we are to find our worth and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we go to our Lord rather than “eating our emotions”, or we find our worth in the promises of Scripture rather than in the righteousness we think our eating habits offer, we are able to control our appetites and bring them under right submission. Food takes its rightful place.
The author gives 10 practical steps to fight gluttony. I will summarize three:
1. Self-control is freedom and gluttony is bondage.
It can feel as though removing restraints offers the greatest freedom in life. But in the end, in due time, sin leaves a lot of wreckage. True freedom is found in Christ and one fruit of the Spirit is self-control. This is a gift of God, not a matter will-power. Self-control offers you the ability to rightly delight in the good gifts God gives, including food.
2. Set aside time for occasional feasting. Set aside time for occasional fasting.
God is not a god of deprivation. Reading through the Old Testament reveals how he is a god of great celebration and feasting. He built many times into the Israelite’s yearly calendar to celebrate and rejoice. God is not a killjoy! We too can enjoy times of celebration and feasting with a heart of thanks to God. When we have the occasional feast, the author says we should do so without guilt and give thanks to God.
The author challenges us to also set aside times for fasting. Fasting — abstaining from food for a time of prayer, intensifies our desire for the Bread of Life, Christ himself. Refusing physical food for a set time in order to consume spiritual food drives us to Christ. Fasting is a way to keep worldly appetites in check and create a greater hunger for godly appetites.
3. Give thanks to God before eating.
Such a simple but significant practice: praying before each meal. Offering prayers of thanks to God for each meal put before us helps us remember that we are reliant on him for our very life. Asking God to help us control our appetites even as we eat and to appreciate the food itself strengthens self-control and also our joy in eating it.
May we continue to press in to Christ as we search each area of our heart and give thanks knowing that though none of us is righteous, he is! and he offers us salvation under his cross.
Thank you, Jesus!
*Killjoys, Chapter 7 Gluttony by Jonathan Bowers
Originally published at www.reflect-i.com.