Feasting versus Gluttony

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You can’t commit the sin of gluttony in community. 

Now that I have your attention, let me caveat this statement. 

The sin of gluttony is commonly defined as overeating, gorging oneself with food, selfishly consuming too much food, etc. Ultimately, gluttony is an “insatiable desire that produces an unbalanced pattern of living; it defiles the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit with excess consumption” (Timpe, R. L. Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling). 

Surprisingly, gluttony is often overlooked as a sin in our culture, which is kind of interesting considering we live in the most affluent period in recorded history where most of us have more food than we could ever consume by the “best by” date. Maybe it isn’t talked about because most pastors and leaders, myself included, have been guilty of it and justify our actions by diminishing the sinfulness of it. “I’ve had a tough day and I was really hungry,” is the explanation when I go to food for a feeling of comfort I can only truly get from God. My gluttony dishonors God and is a statement that I don’t trust him to meet my spiritual and emotional needs.

This idea is what I think the writer of Proverbs 28 was getting at when he penned these words:

The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father. - Proverbs 28:7

Honoring God, in this case presented as keeping the law, is the exact opposite of being in the company of gluttons, which the writer tells us brings shame to the family. In an honor/shame culture, defiling yourself by seeking comfort in consuming food, a form of idolatry, was one of the worsts thing a child could do to their family. 

Idolatry in all its forms fails to deliver what it promises. Because just like being drunk, you sober up, being high you come down, and being full you get hungry again, leaving your attempt to fix your inward desires temporary and full of bad consequences. Idolatry is unable to fill the desires of life.

So what does honoring God with our consumption of food look like? Do we not eat out of fear of sinning? By no means! We were given food by God, not just to sustain us, but to enjoy (Is 55:2). God established feasts for his people to remember his great work in their redemption all through the biblical story. Jesus’ earthly ministry was full of eating and drinking (Luke 7:34). Additionally, the imagery used to describe our reunion with Christ is centered around a big meal with God’s people and with God himself (Rev 19:9). 

From this we see that eating, drinking, and feasting are good simply because when Jesus’ work is the reason we gather, we should celebrate. And just so you know, “feast” is not some upside down code word in Hebrew for not eating a lot, it means exactly what it says: eating, drinking and celebrating!

When we feast, we eat, we drink, and we share stories of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and provision. The feast is a time of celebratory reflection and anticipation of the coming joy we will experience in eternity.

So what are a couple of practical guidelines to follow when eating to help us discern if we are feasting versus idolizing? Consider these questions:

·    Am I eating this food to satisfy or quench an emotion or desire that only God can fill?

·    Am I honoring God in my consumption of this food? (praying before a meal is a good way to honor God)

·    Would I eat like this if I were around my Christian community?

If you first look inward to yourself, upward to God, and outward to your community, there is a beautiful freedom in what we consume, which leads me back to my original statement: you can’t commit the sin of gluttony in community! 

We feast instead of idolize by setting our hearts in a place of thanksgiving. Fixing our minds on the coming joy and our eyes on the glimpse of the New Creation that we experience when we, as God’s people, in God’s redeemed community, eat and drink together. When your heart is set on this, you are rightly worshipping God, and enjoying his gifts. In that posture there is no space for the idol of gluttony to live, only worship of the fullness of the glory of God and the gifts he gives.