My Favorite Sin: Gluttony

By Joe McKeever

How ironic that the season during which we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus provides us the perfect excuse to overindulge.

Like the megalopolis that now stretches from Washington to Boston or from Dallas to Fort Worth, this eating holiday dominates our calendar from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.

Walk through any modern large-box store, and study the edibles they’re offering during this season. It’s not just turkey, dressing, yams and eggnog any longer. It’s chocolates like you would not believe, in every kind of assortment and combination. It’s cookies, cakes and pies coming out your ears.

Books pour off the shelves telling homemakers of new recipes for the latest taste sensations for these holidays. Restaurants offer special smorgasbords for the holidays with prices approaching $100 per person.

What position should the disciple of the Lord Jesus take regarding this little crime-against-one’s-body we call gluttony?

Here are 10 thoughts on this subject that the people in our pews have never heard a sermon about.

1. Jesus was called a glutton (Luke 7:33-35). So, maybe we overeaters have good company. However, I expect that the charge was as bogus as most of the attacks on the character and ministry of our Lord.

2. Most of us think of gluttony the way we do of cancer: It is someone else’s problem, not mine. That was exactly my reaction in November of 2004 when the lab reports confirmed that I had cancer. “No. Other people do, but not me.” Wrong. We tend to think of a glutton as a 400-pounder, not someone just slightly overweight, like myself. And I weigh a lot less, so I’m okay.

3. Our gluttony is seasonal and sporadic. We go for days eating well, then splurge at various times. Surely that doesn’t qualify as historic, classic gluttony, the kind that produces gout and early death. Does it?

4. We think of gluttony, not as a spiritual issue, not as a sin against the Lord, but more as something not real smart, maybe unwise, a momentary indulgence that we will compensate for tomorrowAnd, if sin is defined only as the transgression of the law, and there is no specific law in either Testament proscribing overeating, then perhaps it isn’t.

However, it bears all the marks of a sin —

5. Consider the effects of overeating on our inner-selves (as opposed to the effects simply on our poor bodies, which struggle trying to figure out where to store all we have deposited within it!).

  • * When we overeat, we have no energy for anything.
  • * Overeating discourages spirituality because of how lethargic it makes us feel.
  • * Overeating seems to create additional hunger for more food within us. Perhaps it’s simply that we are fatter than we were  previously and a larger machine requires extra fuel.

6. The health factor is a big issue. Clogged arteries, heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, strokes, and a thousand other conditions stem from (or are related to) obesity. Hospitals are adding wings to deal with health issues related to obesity.

7. And the social aspect is a real phenomenon. When I asked a friend why a relative whom I always adored never shows up at our gatherings, she reluctantly confided, “She’s put on a lot of weight and doesn’t want anyone to see how big she’s gotten.”

8. It’s easy to get legalistic on this subject. Those early church fathers not only identified gluttony as a deadly sin, but went on to spell out precisely what constituted gluttony. It included ….

* Eating before the time of meals to satisfy the palate

* Seeking delicacies to gratify “the vile sense of taste”

* Seeking sauces and seasonings to make food more enjoyable

* Too much intake

* Eating too eagerly

With definitions like that, few of us, if any, would escape a full conviction.

9. The word “gluttony” is derived from the Latin gluttire meaning “to gulp down,” “to swallow.” But as with so many other words in our tongue, the derivation tells little of its actual meaning. The usage of the word is consistent in making it mean over-indulging, a voraciousness in appetite. And, we need to add, the word can apply to things other than food. “He’s a glutton for punishment,” we say. The one over-consumption of alcohol or any other substance is being gluttonous.

10. What to do about our gluttonous ways? Here are some thoughts on the subject.

* Advance planning can head off much of it. If we have fruits in our house, I’m less likely to get into the ice cream.

* Praying about it in advance will work wonders. Actually, just thinking about it in advance will help. Praying will strengthen the resolve.

* Make self-control with food one aspect of a balanced and healthy life. Exercise, work, play, worship, sufficient sleep, and proper eating are all important areas of a good life.

Well, I was going to write more on the subject, but it’s lunchtime.

Graphic by Matt Gruber.

Joe McKeever

Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and retired Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.