June 22, 2015

Fat Secret: The Invisible Sin of Gluttony

by Clint Archer

Augustus GloopOliver Twist could hardly be accused of gluttony when he voiced his politely audacious request, “Please sir, I want some more.” But an identical demand from the overstuffed mouth of young Augustus Gloop, the obese candy addict in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, would elicit a call for temperance from any dietician worth her salt.

Gluttony is not that peckish sensation of wanting seconds when you haven’t had enough food to satisfy your hunger; it’s the sin of unrestrained overconsumption. Gluttony is thus the kissing cousin of drunkenness.

Proverbs 23:20-21 Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.

A temperate enjoyment of food and fermented beverage is heartily commended in Scripture (see Deut 14:26; Eccl 9:7; 1 Tim 4:3-4). However, Scripture decries dissolute overindulgence of any sort as a sub-Christian, feckless deficiency in self-control (Eph 5:18; 1 Tim 3:8; Titus 1:12).

What makes gluttony such a difficult topic to fit into our theology, is that identifying the sin is not as obvious as one might expect. It seems axiomatic that the corpulence of a person’s waistline is inversely proportional to their self-control—the less you can curb your appetite the more holes on your belt you’ll need to bypass. And it likewise seems as plain as a pikestaff that a thin person must possess unwavering gastronomic discipline. But this rudimentary “eyeballing it” assessment can actually prove quite misleading.

A metabolically fortunate individual may imbibe calories like a vacuum cleaner, while a person endowed with the metabolism of a hibernating bear turns asparagus into cellulite without breaking a sweat. Thyroid malfunction is another common cause of unavoidable weight gain, while myriad diseases incite unwanted weight loss. There simply is no universal visible indicator of the sin of overindulgence. Or you might say, there is no test that’s one-size-fits-all.

A glutton could be thin, and a nil-per-mouth could be portly. The people of Jesus’ day understood this. The Pharisees accused him of being a glutton and a drunkard (Matt 11:19), presumably despite his physical appearance, not because of it. It is highly doubtful that Jesus was a man of girth—it would have taken a long while to simply recover from his emaciating forty day fast, especially in light of his exceedingly ambulant itinerary.

That said, there is also a hefty probability that many Christians in our churches are succumbing to the temptation of intemperance in their eating habits. Pastor Rick Warren recently admitted that the idea for his enormously popular dieting program, The Daniel Diet, came to him while baptizing an exhaustingly long line of inordinately corpulent congregants. (We’ll overlook that Daniel’s diet made him fatter, not thinner. See Dan 1:15).

The sin of gluttony is invisible in our churches in that we intentionally ignore it.

Here are five possible reasons why:

  1. Most of us are not at our fighting weight, so we feel like hypocrites calling out someone on their overconsumption, because we know we don’t have self-control either.
  2. Those who are at a healthy weight, and who understand the struggle to get there, have sincere sympathy for those who aren’t, and so perhaps are loath to add to their emotional burden by confronting them on sin.
  3. The pastor of the church is overweight and who wants the unenviable task of confronting him? Not me. He is, after all,more godly than I am in many other areas of his life.
  4. We don’t think of overeating as a serious sin because there are so many more pernicious sins that hurt other people.
  5. We don’t know if the person has a genuine medical reason for their appearance, and who wants to ask? It’s easier to assume the best of them.pie eater

As one who has been larger than is healthy, I can testify that a loving, concerned conversation from a close Christian friend was enough to make me realize my eating was a spiritual issue.

My immediate and immature reaction was to point out to my friend that there were many others within our circle of acquaintances who were way, way “more guilty” than I was. His reply was encouraging and convincing: “Yes, but you invited me to help you grow spiritually, and a victory for you will equip you to help others.”

I took my health more seriously, got more committed to a balanced, moderate diet, and made it a matter of prayer and worship to the Lord. What happened? My struggle with gluttony has gone underground.

Now that I am in better shape and fitness, no one bats an eye when I scarf down more than I should. So, I want to emphasize again: gluttony is not about weight gain/loss and exercise, it’s about spiritual growth and your walk with the Lord (1 Tim 4:8).

Physical health is an internal battle more than an external one. But it is a matter that Christians should help each other address. We don’t need more diet books, we need grace from God. We need support from friends. And we need the fruit of the Spirit.

And when you are hungry for grace from God just pray, “Please Lord, I want some more.”


Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Johnny

    Very interesting to hear this particular topic addressed, as it isn’t one you hear very often from the pulpit. Very informative

    • Thanks Johnny. I hope to open more discussion about this so we become more aware of the debilitating tendency to over-consume in many areas of our lives (food, drink, shopping, entertainment, etc.)

  • Fred Butler

    Good grief. The sin of gluttony has to do with open rebellion against God that is manifested in a lifestyle of emperor decadence. It’s not Bubba the deacon who is 50 pounds overweight and enjoys eating pancakes at Bob Evans with his family.

    By identifying a heavy set person who may lack discipline with eating properly with the real sin of gluttony, you are suggesting that that person is in violation of the law of God. That means the person is in danger of judgment from God. I think of sin, I am thinking factious behavior like gossip, pugnaciousness, fornication. That is sin that is brought before the elders to deal with in potential church discipline issue.

    Are we prepared to identify the heavy set people in our churches who may eat 4 slices of pizza instead of just 2 and exercise Matthew 18 on them? Can a heavy set pastor be disqualified because he has a 42 inch waist and is categorized as “obese” according to the good ole government standards?

    This whole gluttony thing seriously needs to be thought through more carefully.

    • Hi Fred. I appreciate your challenge to think through the issue carefully. My hope with this post is to encourage just that. And I admit to not having it all figured out; the Bible simply doesn’t have a ton to say about gluttony (though it is clearly disparaged (e.g. Prov 23:20-21). Also, let me clarify that I totally agree, and said so, that the weight of a person is not always a true indicator of the presence or absence of gluttony. However, your definition seems rather arbitrary (“The sin of gluttony has to do with open rebellion against God that is manifested in a lifestyle of emperor decadence.”) Why is gluttony not as serious as a factious sin like gossip? And yes, if the pastor is truly overweight because of lack of self-control at the buffet table, then perhaps he lacks self-control in other areas too. 1 Tim 3:2 lists self-control as a necessary qualification for pastors. Am I reading too much into it?

      • Fred Butler

        Look, I am not trying to be contentious, but when you write, “Also, let me clarify that I totally agree, and said so, that the weight
        of a person is not always a true indicator of the presence or absence of
        gluttony,” I didn’t get that distinction from your article. In my mind, the use of the word “gluttony” shouldn’t even be used in this context. An overweight person is not a glutton, period.

        The fact that the Bible doesn’t say a whole lot about gluttony, especially in the manner you are applying the concept, should tell us that you shouldn’t be using the concept in the manner you are applying it with this article.

        But what little the Bible does say about gluttony is that it is identified with serious sin. For example, in Deuteronomy 21:20, the gluttonous son is brought by the parents to the town elders for judgment to determine WHETHER OR NOT HE WILL BE PUT TO DEATH! That sounds pretty serious to me. He is identified as a drunk and a rebel, which is easily understood to mean in that context one who flaunts God’s law.

        In the NT, Jesus was identified with the gluttons and winebibbers, not because he was fat, or over ate, or had a discipline problem with eating too much, but because he was with sinners, individuals who lived lives against God and His law. They were not people who ate an entire large Papa John’s pizza by themselves. Hence, when I identify gluttony with sin that is equal to other sins that can bring church discipline down upon a person, I think there is enough Scriptural precedent for me draw that conclusion. Which in turn prompts me to ask if you would bring church discipline down upon a guy or gal who may fill their plate up too much at a church buffet at Christmas.

        Self-control is probably the area where you want to focus your study on this matter, but a lack of self-control is not gluttony per se. Self-control is also individual, at least in my mind. What you may think is over doing it may not be so for another person.

        My concern is that this article is going to put a burden of guilt upon a person who may fall into your various categories of “gluttony” and give them the mind set that they are in unrepentant sin. They are not in “sin,” at least not the sin of gluttony. They may need to learn self-discipline, but everyone needs that in areas of their life. We just don’t label it as a sin that could potentially bring judgment down upon a person.

        • Jason

          Gluttony is habitual overindulgence. Food is certainly something that can easily be abused as a luxury today on a fairly small budget.

          People can get overweight (even without a medical condition) in today’s environment without gluttonous eating. A large percent of the workforce finds themselves behind a desk nearly 40 hours a week at their job and most processed foods aren’t exactly easy on the waistline (and are generally the cheapest).

          However, if a person’s life is consumed (no pun intended) with food as a luxury than they are gluttonous in the matter of food just as much as a drunkard is a glutton of alcohol.

          I think you hit the nail on the head when using the word “decadence”. I don’t think it’s safe to say that an overweight person is not a glutton. It would be more safe to say “It’s possible that an overweight person is so as a result of gluttony, but that isn’t a certainty.”

          • Fred Butler

            My only problem w/ the definition of gluttony being “habitual overindulgence” is that is not how the Bible defines the sin. That may be a modern American/English definition, but it’s not what I find in the handful of instances the sin is recorded in Scripture.

            How exactly is a person’s life “consumed” with food as a luxury? I love coffee. I go out of my way to purchase fresh roasted beans, grind them in a specific fashion, brew them in a particular way. I’m extremely particular about it. It’s a whole process for me. It is time consuming, but worth it for me. I know cooks who are the same way when the cook. Goodness, the Food Network is filled with these people. Would those habits fall into your category of being “gluttonous in the matter of food?”

            Again, I am not intending on being unnecessarily contentious with my responses. My desire is that we think precisely with our biblical terminology, especially if we throw around the idea of “sin” along with that terminology.

          • ispeakout

            Gluttony I should think can be displaying greed, selfishness, lack of self control, and even idolatry. Even liking special food or coffee could lead to snobbishly insulting someone who offers you a cheaper coffee. It could show a lack of love.

          • Sylvia Peck

            Doing that is wrong, but is it what the Bible means by gluttony? There can be a lot of food-related sins, but they don’t seem to fit easily with Scripture’s usage of that term.

          • See the excerpt above from the Word Study Dictionary of the NT.

          • ispeakout

            I wasn’t trying to change the meaning of the word gluttony, but I was describing sins involved in it (overeating). The coffee comment was another issue brought up by someone else….though people can be gluttonous with coffee I should think (especially a dessert coffee).

          • A words study of “gluttony” limits the definition in the NT to intemperate (unbalanced) eating.

          • ispeakout

            What I said actually was meant to describe gluttonous behavior (overindulging in food). I only added an additional comment about coffee in response to another comment (though I realize it is not the same – though it could be over-consumed as well). All of those other sins can be involved in overeating (gluttony).

          • The Word study Dictionary of the New testament defines the word glutton this way: φάγος phágos; gen. phágou, masc. noun from phágō (5315), to eat. A glutton, an excessive or intemperate eater.

          • Fred Butler

            I am not disputing that it doesn’t mean excessive, intemperate eater. But all words, either OT or NT will be clarified in context. Of the times that the word is used in the NT, a couple of times in the Gospels, the concept of gluttony is connected to drunkenness, extortion by tax collectors, and even something demonic. A cursory reading of those passages makes it clear that gluttony was understood as opposed to godly behavior and was worthy of condemnation.

            Billy Bob deacon 50 pounds overweight who loves a big helping of slaw with his pulled pork sandwich is not being gluttonous according to these uses. He has a personal health issue, not a sin issue.

          • Ok, thanks for your input. I should point out that your conclusion of the meaning of the word is not the same as the standard definition in word study dictionaries and Greek lexicons.

          • Fred Butler

            I guess I don’t see how. I have the exact same resource you have. Are you saying the context where this word is used is irrelevant to how we understand the word?

            That gluttony can have the modern equivalent to the idea of a fat pastor or church member that we are scared to confront? Or that the guy eating in a food contest? I seriously want to know.

          • I suppose what I am saying is that the word “gluttony” in its modern context (intemperate, excessive indulgence in eating) is the same as the word in the NT context. The Greek word is defined as intemperate eating, which is the word the Pharisees used to describe Jesus because he was not fasting/abstaining the way they did. The word “drunkard” refers to intemperate consumption of alcohol, and “glutton” to intemperate consumption of food. I really don’t see how the context you are referring to negates the lexical meaning of the word in Greek or in English. A glutton is someone who eats too much. In modern vernacular and in ancient Greek. So, yes deacon Bob who eats too many pancakes to the point that it in jeopardising his health, is sinning. I hope that makes sense.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            But if gluttony is listed among those other ungodly behaviors and is defined as an excessive, intemperate eater, how can you conclude that Billy Bob’s behavior is a personal health issue and not a sin? Just because gluttony is connected to other sins does not imply it is not a sin in and of itself and to be viewed as an ungodly behavior.

          • Fred Butler

            So are you both prepared to go Matthew 18 on the church member who eats what in your opinion is too many pancakes because you think it is unhealthy? Why or why not? Or maybe I should ask how you are defining “sin” in the context? That would go for the cigarette smoker too, I guess, seeing that was raised in a previous post.

          • Fred Butler

            And again, the definition for gluttony is not limited to just the NT. The pharisees would have had in mind Deut. 21:20 when they accused Jesus of gluttony and winebibbery. And in that account, the punishment was death of the incorrigible, gluttonous son.

          • Yup, it is a serious sin. All of them are.

          • ditzydame

            Hello there Clint. I have been looking for someplace to jump in on this conversation and it seems as great a place as any. As someone who was formerly 312 pounds I couldn’t agree more with you in your above statement. Its as serious a sin as adultery or murder or any sin Christians would turn up their noses. Just because someone is thin doesn’t mean they don’t fall into the category as well. It’s a multi layered issue. It goes beyond gluttony. I could go into all the things God taught me over the five years of wading through this issue to bring me 125 pounds down, but you’ve talked about the tip of the iceberg. Suffice it to say, I am turning everything I learned into a book. Im thankful when I read these articles, especially when its talked about from the pulpit and yes I believe that leaders who don’t exhibit self control in regards to food are guilty of sinning because one of the qualifications of an elder is that he be self controlled (Titus 1:6-8) but there are plenty of portly leaders or skinny ones who eat far more than they should. I’ve seen other articles written on this and it often gets the same response of indignation. But please don’t be discouraged. Keep lovingly proclaiming the truth.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            I guess my hope would be that issues like these could be addressed from the pulpit, along with the encouragement to the congregation to come alongside and pray for those who struggle with excessive behaviors, be it with cigarettes, alcohol or food. Perhaps Pastors could encourage an effort to take the funds that would be used for our excessive pleasures and donate them to a food pantry, cancer research or rehab centers.

            I guess I just don’t see how encouraging people to exercise self control in all areas is a bad thing. And who better to lead the way than Deacon Bob?

          • Fred Butler

            Sure. But this article is specifically calling this excessive behavior a sin. I take it that cigarette smoking is a sin too? You don’t just encourage someone to “just do it” or “hang in theire” and “I’ll come along side” if it is a sin. You confront them, you call them to repentance and if worse comes to worse, the person may have to face church discipline. Are you prepared to do that with what is maybe 75 percent of all congregations and leadership depending on whose charts we use to determine unhealthy weight?

            I suppose we can go on a Daniel Plan diet and have Dr. Oz come in for some health seminars like Rick Warren’s church did.

          • I believe the post addresses this directly, see paragraph beginning “What makes gluttony such a difficult topic to fit into our theology, is that identifying the sin is not as obvious as one might expect…” and the few following and few preceding paragraphs.

            Thanks again for your input and continuing the discussion.

            I’m not calling time-out on this part of the thread, as its 10pm my time and I’m going to bed!

          • Fred Butler

            Lookit, let me just tell you that I appreciate you and your writing and what you are doing there in South Africa. On this issue I think you are misdirecting your fire. Thanks for letting me give you the push back that I did.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            Yes, this article is calling this excessive behavior a sin because the BIBLE says it’s a sin. The question isn’t if we are prepared to confront it, it’s why we don’t? Why is this discipline ignored, but we preach against getting drunk or stoned? So what if 75% of all congregations and leadership were alcoholics, would we avoid preaching on it and holding them accountable?

          • Fred Butler

            We don’t confront the alleged glutton (which I still believe is an utterly inappropriate description) like we confront the fornicator or adulterer or slanderer or whatever genuine sin we have to confront.

            The reason why it is difficult is because people realize that it is patently absurd to categorize a fat person as a sinner in need of repentance from gross sin.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            If gluttony (whether one is fat or not) is not a genuine sin, then why did Paul list it as one of the sins that would keep people from inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven? Why even put it in with the others if it’s something not requiring repentance?

          • Fred Butler

            Which sin list are you referring to, because I can’t find where Paul listed gluttony alongside of homosexuals and fornicators (1 Cor. 6:9,10). Unless you equate gluttony with revilers, which is entirely appropriate.

            But to your question, yes unrepentant gluttony will keep a person out of the Kingdom of Heaven. My problem, as I have maintained in our back and forth is with definitions. The fat pastor with poor eating habits is not a glutton according to the biblical sense of the word. He’s a fat guy who needs to change his eating habits. He isn’t wallowing in gross sin as this article suggests.

          • As a pastor my priority isn’t to discipline but to shepherd toward repentance. In my experience a Christian glutton lovingly confronted on the sin of overindulgence usually does not say “I refuse to stop over-eating!!” Usually, they want to stop (i.e. are repentant) and need help. Just like a smoker, a fornicator, or any other sin that a genuine believer may commit and repent of.

          • hsi

            “I love coffee. I go out of my way to purchase fresh roasted beans, grind them in a specific fashion, brew them in a particular way. I’m extremely particular about it. It’s a whole process for me. It is time consuming, but worth it for me.”

            I know this was written to make a point, but I wonder what our brothers and sisters in places like China might think of such of a sentiment?

          • Fred Butler

            Some of them would agree with me. Depends on where they are from in China.

        • Karl Heitman

          Freddy, so, after reading all your responses to Clint, then are you saying that a true Christian can’t be a glutton, according to how you define gluttony?

          • Fred Butler

            Yes. Just like a true Christian cannot be a habitual fornicator, or liar, or slanderer, or drunkard. Christians, however, can have poor eating habits that cause them to put on weight. Poor eating habits are not sinful, at least in the way gluttony or fornication or lying is sinful.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            Okay, now that makes sense. Our back and forth was focused on definitions when it should have been prefaced with this distinction. Thanks for clarifying that. I get it.

          • Karl Heitman

            I see where you’re coming from. I think the spirit of the issue here is not necessarily to dub a man who overindulges on food a glutton in the sense he’s under divine condemnation in a 1 Cor. 6 sense (“such WERE some of you”). What I’m saying, and what I think Clint is saying, is that a true Christian can still commit the sin of gluttony just like a brother can still commit the sin of drunkenness or adultery. In other words, a believer can wrestle with drinking one-too-many glasses of wine, or even shots of whiskey (ghasp!), and still be genuinely saved. In our culture (you know this being a former fundy), alcohol is considered really really bad, but eating just for the sake of eating is a cultural norm and therefore, as Clint said, is totally ignored in the church. Therein lies the problem. The sin of gluttony is no different than the sin of drunkenness. I think the tendency is for us to create a false dichotomy (i.e., getting drunk is on a whole different level than eating too much.)

          • Mamaof6

            Getting drunk IS on a whole different level. Men don’t beat their wives and kids just because they overeat at supper. A person who overeats at a buffet does not have trouble driving and kill someone as he drives home as a drunken drive does. I have seen the results of drunkenness and you cannot compare it to gluttony even though both are a sin. Just as killing someone is on a whole different level from punching someone in the nose. Sin is sin, but the consequences and repercussions of some sins is far worse than for others.

      • Dan Phillips

        “…doesn’t have a ton to say about gluttony …”

        • Glad to see someone’s paying attention, Dan!

  • Michelle Dacus Lesley

    Great article, and very timely. Wow, I was just writing about this and discussing it with someone a couple of days ago.

    • Glad to be of assistance.

  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    I find it interesting that if we ever heard someone say, “Man, I wish I could drink as much alcohol as I want and not be hungover the next day,” or “I wish I could smoke as many cigarettes as I want and not get cancer,” we would immediately look at them as weak and undisciplined. But, if someone says, “I wish I could eat all I want and not gain weight,” we heartily agree.

    • Good point Jane.

    • Mamaof6

      Maybe part of the difference is that we CAN live without alcohol and tobacco but we CANNOT live without food.

      • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

        Understood. However, over indulgence in any area leads to problems physically, emotionally and even spiritually if we carry anger and resentment towards others. And please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that being overweight is always a symptom of over eating, but if it is, that is something to begin to moderate for your sake and the ones you love.

  • Art Martinez

    thanks for the post. been thinking about this topic lately on a personal level.

    • You’re welcome. Thanks for reading.

  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    Howard Hendricks once said, “If I come into your fellowship drunk, you will dismiss me immediately. If I come in 40 pounds overweight, you’ll offer me a doughnut.”

    • lol. True.

    • Kay

      Right. Because although the doughnut is equally unhealthy for the skinny or “normal” sized person, it’s only a problem if eaten by a fat person (who may or may not be fat due to gluttony – as the article points out, how can we know?). That seems fair and unbiased.

      • raina3

        Similarly, a beer is a problem for an alcoholic, but not to someone who doesn’t suffer from that particular sin.

  • tovlogos

    Thanks, Clint — another good post.
    “I want to emphasize again: gluttony is not about weight gain/loss and exercise, it’s about spiritual growth and your walk with the Lord (1 Tim 4:8)…Physical health is an internal battle more than an external one…And we need the fruit of the Spirit.”

    When I see a minister weighing 300 pounds, I will admit it is distracting, despite the reality that I am always conscious of my shortcomings.

    Friends that you trust can be invaluable, though pride may not let them in. I remember hearing someone say to another person who was giving excellent advice; the response was to point out that that the advisor should take the forest out of his own eye. That was highly inappropriate; since the advisor gave him very pertinent information.

    The simplicity is in the fact that the word of God actually works more effectively than people can imagine. I noticed that God doesn’t apply magic bullets; He wants the believer to walk in the Spirit, and all things godly will be added unto his life.

    • Well said.

    • His Alone

      As the wife of a pastor who weighs “300 pounds”, this is a multifaceted issue. I watch my husband struggle with his weight, he always has, he is one who is “endowed with the metabolism of a hibernating bear turns asparagus into cellulite without breaking a sweat”. He eats salad every lunch and dinner and exercises every day except Sunday. He rarely indulges in sweets and his snacks tend to be nuts, cheese, or popcorn. He has always struggled with his weight and has always been judged for it, especially harshly by those who

      “may imbibe calories like a vacuum cleaner” or at least don’t have any concern about what they eat. All this to say, yes, he could spend all his time consumed by every bite that goes into his mouth and exercising hours a day, but would that make him more spiritual, or is it better for him to be content with the physical constraints he has and focus on the study of God’s Word, serving the body, and growing in godliness? I can tell you, everyone who is overweight, is well aware of it, and those that can’t reasonably do anything about it feel the burden of proof resting very heavily on their shoulders. Should they have to wear a sign or hand out disclaimers with their medical history and their daily habits to prove their authenticity as a believer? They know they are being judged by their appearance and that someone will judge them for that piece of cake they ate at their kids birthday (even though it was the only dessert they had all month), but in the end, difficult as it is, they must remember that the only Judge who counts is the one who knows their heart.

      • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

        In fairness, this article began with the definition of gluttony as the sin of “unrestrained over consumption”, which is clearly not the case with your husband. The point was also made that “eyeballing” another regarding their weight is often misleading in that you can be thin and still a glutton.

        I like your point that in the end there is only one Judge who knows the heart, and it sounds like your husband is a self-controlled, Godly man, so ignore what other people think!

      • Sir Aaron

        As a certified physical fitness trainer for the government, I have several problems here. Being grossly overweight raises a significant eyebrow from me especially from those who would be my leader because, with few exceptions, it means that the person has not learned how to successfully master their own body. That doesn’t mean it is a issue of gluttony but it is an issue of self-discipline. And yes, some people have it harder than others in this regard. So it is with a great many things in life.

        I also appreciate that people are extremely uniformed about weight loss. This contributes to being overweight. You mentioned “nuts, popcorn, and cheese.” These are terrible for anybody dieting. Nuts are particularly high in calories. That could ruin your diet for two weeks.
        Exercising is also a great thing. But you could run one mile everyday and that wouldn’t reduce your caloric intake by much more than two slice of bread. That slice of cake? You would need to be running more than a 5K per day to have any significant effect on one’s diet. The bottom line is that if you need counseling you don’t try to do it yourself. If you can’t master your body (because you can’t or you don’t know how) you don’t try to do it yourself.

        And yes, I think somebody who is better disciplined with their body is more spiritual than somebody who prays all day and “grows in godliness” (whatever that means.)

        • Matthew

          1 Timothy 4:8
          for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

          • Sir Aaron

            You make the mistake of believing you can be godly without mastering your body. You cannot.
            Lack of self discipline is the opposite of godliness.

          • Matthew

            “The physical body is part of our stewardship of life, but is not the priority. Godliness is priority! This could refer to
            1. physical exercise
            2. physical discipline
            3. asceticism
            That which affects the body is significant, but that which affects the spirit is eternal! True exercise is the “labor” and “strive” of 1 Tim. 4:10! Ministry affects the result of the gospel, but asceticism emphasizes the individual.”

            From Dr Robert Utley’s NT commentary.

          • Sir Aaron

            Uh-huh. So as long as we memorize verses, pray, and read the Bible a lot, it’s totally ok to ignore physical discipline. Like refraining from drunkenness, gluttony, sexual sin, or taming the tongue.

          • Matthew

            Who said ignore? We are talking about priorities.

          • Kay

            And you make the mistake of believing that not “mastering your body” (which to you apparently means not weighing more than is considered healthy at this particular point in human history) is automatically due to a “lack of self discipline.” Without knowing a person you aren’t qualified to comment or judge their level of self-discipline, no matter how much education and experience you have in personal training. Assuming that a fat person is lazy/over-indulgent/lacking in self-discipline is offensive, uncalled for, and totally unhelpful and unloving to that person. Focus on behaviour, not appearances.

          • Sir Aaron

            You know what is unloving? Allowing your brothers and sisters, whom you claim to love, to continue to engage in unhealthy behavior that will have long term health consequences to themselves, their families, and their ministry.
            I’d much rather somebody come to me and ask me about my weight than to go along their merry way and say nothing.

          • Karl Heitman

            I really hope you don’t take Paul’s words here to mean that it’s OK, or even better, to become obese as a trade off for godly training?

          • Matthew

            Not at all. Just a reply to Sir Aaron’s statement of, “And yes, I think somebody who is better disciplined with their body is more spiritual than somebody who prays all day and “grows in godliness” (whatever that means.)”

          • Sir Aaron

            Yes, the response here seems to be that people are too busy training for godliness to be physically fit or to even maintain a healthy weight for that matter.
            Then I get the odd post about this time in human history. You know, this time when people live longer, have access to unprecedented health care, etc.

        • His Alone

          My example of nuts and cheese was not meant to indicate bags of them every afternoon, it was meant to be in contrast to other snacks. He doesn’t eat chips, crackers, cookies, or really any baked goods or processed foods. For example, if we’re at VBS all morning and there are doughnuts and bagels for the workers, he’ll eat a hardboiled egg or some nuts instead. If you have better snack suggestions, please share. That hypothetical slice of cake? If we had a dozen kids (which we don’t) that would be one SMALL (because even when he “indulges” he practices self-control) piece per month.

          Sometimes, being “better disciplined with their body” doesn’t show physically. As the example was used of someone who could be thin and still be a glutton. In your eyes, just determining by what you can see, you would think the thin person was the one who was honoring God.

          • Sir Aaron

            Oh no, please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t equate thin with necessarily honoring God. Just because somebody is thin doesn’t mean anything. For all I know a person is thin because they smoke crack. What I do know is that the overweight person has a problem. A problem that needs remediation. A thin person’s problems just aren’t as visibly obvious (and we all have personal discipline issues…every single one of us).
            As to better snack suggestions, let me say this. It’s not the food you eat. It is the amount. You could lose weight eating nothing but cake and Twinkies. (I don’t recommend that btw.) If you and your husband would like my assistance, I’m willing to sacrifice my time to be personally involved in helping him lose weight. Meals, exercise, accountability, tracking, the works. We’d get the weight off (well the fat anyways), but it’s going to take work (and a long term commitment). So if you want, you can email me or tweet me and we’ll get the ball rolling.
            In other words, I’m not merely critical for its own sake. I’m saying I’m willing to help.

          • His Alone

            Thank you for your desire to offer help, rather than offering criticism. I agree that the amount of food matters (and probably not eating cake and Twinkies 🙂 ) but at less than a thousand calories, there’s still something wrong. I’m hoping that some allergy tests may help, but I will talk to my husband and see about sending you an email. I know he says “I just need more self-control”, but I watch him eat less than I do or the kids do and still not loose a pound.

          • Sir Aaron

            I normally insist on people that report such problems to, at a minimum, have a visit with their personal physician to check blood, thyroid, etc before I will work with them. The purpose of that is to eliminate any medical conditions as the root cause. Sometimes we have to elicit the help of a clinical dietician as well. There are people who have weird medical issues. They are a small minority of the population but they are there.
            After that, we would need to make sure calories are being counted accurately (and honestly, which I hate to say is usually the cause I discover). After that we’d discuss exercise. Some people learn that they are going to have to spend a lot more time devoted to physical fitness. Fortunately, I tell them that there is nothing preventing them from podcasting sermons during their workouts.

          • Kay

            What is the moral problem the overweight person has, which needs remediation? Or do you mean just a health problem?

      • tovlogos

        Thanks for your feedback, Sonya. You used the word ‘judged’ three times in your response. I’m afraid you’ve got me all wrong.
        I said it was distracting, I know very well that ministers do carry the burden of having to be above reproach. All believers continue on and strive to conform to the Lord’s image as best we can; walk in the Spirit; and all godly things will be added unto us.

        I also said I am always aware of my shortcomings (acutely) — it’s the reality we all live with in the flesh, in a cursed world. Paul, as illustrated in 2 Corinthians 12, had both unspeakable blessings, and significant torment. We as believers are conscious of the two natures — the new nature in Christ, and the old nature which doesn’t disappear once we are born form heaven as in John 3:3 — our old nature struggles with the new nature, always competing for control; and there’s the devil always seeking an opportunity to “attack” us. (Ephesians 6:16)
        When we are “spiritually” weighted down it is even more cumbersome than physical difficulties.
        I see the pain coming through your script; and I certainly understand. God be with you sister.

        • His Alone

          Thank you for your kind response. When you use the word “distracting”, it does imply there is a determination (judgement) being made based on what you see. My point was, as Clint stated in the article, we can’t always know what is going on spiritually with someone based on what we can or cannot see. Blessings.

          • tovlogos

            One thing I should have clarified, the distraction came from my compassion for him — I know how cruel people can be in this world. Any sensitive person feels for other people; even moreso when they are true believers in Jesus. Yet, I can see how you have battled this attack of God;s enemy.
            Ephesians 6:16, not only tells us of the attacks of the devil; the NASB, being a better translation than the KJV in this case, tells us the level of intensity of those attacks. It is our job , through faith, “to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one,” in contrast to “fiery darts.” We are often tested intensely, which is believable when we discern the psychosis, and hate in this world — its intensity reflects the intensity of the curse.
            Jesus countered these tendencies by His main point of emphasis — every time He gave us a “command” it had to do with Love; for example, John 15:12, 17. Every time He used the word, “command” or commandment, He was emphasizing “Love” for one another. John 21:15-17 clearly indicates that without agape love, specifically, none of God Sheep will be properly fed (look at the greek contrast between agape and phileo love). The world doesn’t do that, period; and Christians have not done that on a large scale. The results speak for themselves.
            Your husband, and the rest of us, can not run from the trials — however, we do have the Spirit to help us weather the storms. Thanks, Sonja.

      • Karl Heitman

        Sonya, my whole childhood I was the fat kid and tipped the scales at 250+ before high school. It was all because ate what I wanted when I wanted. I hasn’t the kid who could do that and not gain an ounce. It took years of hard work to lose the weight. When I started playing football and later joined the military, I got down to a healthy weight, but now as a 30-year-old pastor, I really have to watch myself. I eat light during the day to try to compensate for my significantly reduced exercise routine. But that’s not enough. I also have to have smaller portions at meal times than some men so that I don’t have to buy bigger pants every year. My point is this: even though fat (being 10-20 lbs “overweight” according to appearance) doesn’t always = glutton, but obesity it another issue. As a former obese person, I find it hard to chalk it all up to a thyroid issue or whatever. It’s likely for obesity to be the fruit of a lack of self-control, personal discipline, and stewardship. In other words, obesity tends to be a fruit of a spiritual issue and I don’t think it’s wise nor godly to make excuses for it. As Clint alluded to, an obese man should be blessed when kept accountable about his health; just like a man struggling with alcohol should welcome accountability to refrain from too much wine. I know it’s tough because the result continuous gluttony is out there for everyone to see and many people are harsh in their manner, but he shouldn’t feel judged and get defensive when confronted.

        • His Alone

          Karl, Thank you for sharing about your experience as a child. I’m glad you were able to change your sinful patterns by the grace of God. I am not intending to be “making excuses”, nor am I saying he’s “defensive when confronted”. I’m happy for you that your struggles with weight weren’t medical issues and they were able to be resolved with self-control. I’m simply saying, before confronting someone you presume to be in sin, based on only what you can see, consider there is more to know.

          • Karl Heitman

            I agree that there should be sufficient information before
            rendering a judgment, but when you say things like, “He eats salad every lunch and dinner and exercises every day except Sunday. He rarely indulges in sweets and his snacks tend to be nuts, cheese, or popcorn” and is still “300 lbs.,” it sounds a lot like an excuse to me. Being a little overweight is one thing, as I said, but is it possible that your husband’s condition is at least partly due to a lack of self-control or are you saying that his weight is all due to a medical condition? Can you see how it is a stretch to believe that a man can get to 300 lbs. without any overindulgence occurring?

            You also said, “They know they are being judged by their appearance….” I took this as a reference to you and your husband feeling judged because of someone’s genuine concern about obesity and the tone and content of your comment came across as a little defensive. Forgive me if I took that wrongly.

            I think you have helped identify more clearly why the sin of
            gluttony is totally off our radar. In our interaction, I see all 5 reasons Clint listed to help us think about why the sin of gluttony in the church is ignored. The only reason I continue to interact on this thread is because I believe we Evangelicals have to stop every now and again and do some policing. The fact is that we (generally speaking) tend to completely overlook obesity and while at the same time may be quick to have an word re: a brother who drinks too much, swears too much, lies too much, and so on, but not only are we silent re: gluttony, we deceive ourselves by being gluttons ourselves. Preaching against fornication and alcohol, while being obese tells the church and the world, “Look, I’m a hypocrite!” I type these words in love out of care for you, your husband, and my brothers and sisters who may need to rethink their position on gluttony. The Bible reveals is as a serious sin and I think we, in practice, don’t believe it is. That’s a concern.

          • His Alone

            I’m sorry you assume I am merely making excuses and he is a hypocrite. I see what and how he eats and he is not a glutton. Has he ever had a piece of cake? Yes. Does he eat two or three pieces? No. He does not, as Clint clarified it, practice “unrestrained over consumption”. I agree that gluttony is as sinful as any other lack of self control. My point, from the beginning, was to be mindful that what we see doesn’t always give us all the information.

          • Karl Heitman

            Please tell me: how does one reach 300 pounds (or more) if there isn’t a hint of “unrestrained over consumption?” I sincerely would like to hear the sound argument.

            And you don’t think an obese pastor is a hypocrite?

          • His Alone

            I never said that he had never put a single bite in his mouth that was not USDA / food police approved, I said he is not a glutton and practices self-control. It is not his usual practice to eat unhealthy, processed, or excessive amounts of food.

            A comment by “Lori” in the comment section, says it better than I can, although, I will add the disclaimer that her example of alcoholism and certain things are “hard to change” is a little muddy. I think the point is contrasting a past choice and the remaining physical ramifications. If you spend too much time on the internet (a lack of self-control), it’s not obvious and it doesn’t stay with you forever. If you eat a slice of pizza, for some people, that pound or two refuses to go away, staying there to mock you and shout to the world what a “glutton” you are.

            “I’m troubled by so many comments equating obesity with gluttony/lack of self control. Saying that a fat pastor is unqualified because they lack self-control is like saying that a pastor with liver disease is unfit because they are an alcoholic. Even if gluttony or alcoholism did cause the problem, you can’t conclude that it’s still part of a person’s
            behavior, because certain things are very hard to change.

            There are many reasons why a person might gain weight: medications, illnesses, pregnancy, aging, and, yes, gluttony. The issue is that, oncea person gains weight, it can be very hard to lose and keep off long-term. A person who at one point gained a lot of weight–perhaps
            through their own bad choices, perhaps because of circumstances outside their control–may currently be eating a balanced, moderate diet and remain overweight, because losing significant amounts of weight is difficult and time-consuming. (One study found that people who kept
            significant amounts of weight off for 5 years or more exercised, on average, two hours a day. That kind of time commitment may be neither desirable or possible for many people.)

            I will use my father as a case in point. He’s a large man. He was very thin growing up, and got used to being able to eat whatever he wanted and staying thin (and it’s still gluttony if you’re thin!). As he aged, his metabolism slowed down, and eating the same amount of food he’d eaten while younger caused him, over a couple of decades, to gain a
            lot of weight. At 60, he was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. He has, since then, gone on medication, changed his diet, and begun to exercise regularly. He lost about 20 pounds but then his weight loss stalled (not uncommon in people with Type II diabetes, as both the disease and the
            medication can make it hard to lose weight). He remains significantly overweight even though his blood sugar and overall weight have improved, he follows the doctor-recommended diet, and he eats better than he did
            20 years ago.

            So should my father, or other people in his situation, be judged as if his weight reflects his current behavior? Should a woman who gained 60 pounds during a pregnancy and is still struggling to lose it even though her baby is one be judged as if her weight reflects current bad behavioral choices?

            I’m not saying that habits don’t affect weight: they do.
            Unfortunately, for most people it is much easier to gain weight than to lose it, and people who have gained weight (whether through bad habits or other factors) can often change their habits to healthier ones and not see a significant reduction in body size, because of how metabolism works.

            So we should make judgments about a person’s behaviors by their behaviors, not their size. Just like we shouldn’t assume that a person with yellow teeth is a smoker (they may be, or they may have quit five years ago, or they may have yellow teeth for another reason), we shouldn’t assume that a fat person is a glutton. Because, while gluttony is a sin, having a large body is not, and it’s very important to make that distinction.

            Just like it would be wrong to assume that a very thin pastor is vain and self-obsessed (while they might stay thin because they focus obsessively on their body and spend many hours a day exercising, they may just be naturally thin, or they may be ill, or they may be slim for many other reasons), it’s wrong to assume that a fat pastor is a glutton. They may be, but they may not be. We should not think we can determine a person’s behaviors by the way they look.”

          • Karl Heitman

            Sonya (why did you change your name to a pseudonym?), this will be my last comment. Every one of your comments are just showing how there’s a widespread problem with identifying gluttony as a serious sin in Evangelicalism (the point of the article). In response to my questions, you make a passive aggressive statements (e.g., “I never said that he had never put a single bite in his mouth that was not USDA / food police approved…” “Has he ever had a piece of cake? Yes.”). Instead of just admitting that he has battled gluttony and is now doing his best to change with God’s help, you just make make sarcastic remarks. If he doesn’t overindulge now then praise the Lord! But the fact of the matter is that the “reap what you sow” principle is physical as well as spiritual for the obese man. There’s the health consequences and the consequence of it being in the light for all to see. Unceasingly bring up metabolism is blameshifting. The 300 lb. man, may indeed have repented, so we should be slow to judge. Point taken. However, obese men and women still should not be become defensive and take it personal when confronted about his/her weight, especially if it’s done in a manner of genuine love; rather he/she should display fruit in keeping with repentance. Confess the sin in a spirit of humility and change. This is especially important for a pastor. I say this, again, as a former obese person. Here’s where the true pursuit of change comes in: loosing weight. It’s not that hard. It simply boils down to good ole’ fashion discipline and self-control. There’s no secret diet. No secret exercise routine. I don’t need a physical trainer. You don’t need a gym. Eating “healthier” snacks won’t cut it and going for a walk isn’t going to shed the extra 100 lbs. Changing the whole lifestyle is necessary and involves sacrifice. In the end, regardless of medical status, one does not live a lifetime weighing 300+ lbs. unless he has not repented. Repentance doesn’t just mean you stop doing what’s wrong; you also start doing what’s right and correct the problem. Looks aside, like the example you yourself have, being 300 lbs. put’s a man’s longterm health at risk. That’s why the sin of gluttony is also a stewardship issues—a topic for another discussion.

          • His Alone

            Since you asked, I will answer, I am not extremely computer savvy and I feel that it is not wise to give out personal information on the internet, thus the use of a pseudonym.
            As to the “It’s not that hard”, as I said before, I’m glad you did not have any health issues that prevented you from loosing weight once you decided to.
            As to the “he has battled gluttony”, that is not what I said. I said he has on occasion had something that was not the healthiest food you can think of (since USDA/food police approved was too passive agressive [which I used because it was a short way of saying it]). The problem is, his body doesn’t process food the same way most peoples does, so when he finds something he is not able to eat, he tries to avoid it, but the damage is done.
            He has not given up, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation, he continues to try, but as I implied in the beginning, he is not willing to spend every waking moment obsessing about it, but continues to trust that God will continue to be faithful.

      • Austin Burgard

        On a purely physical note, have your husband try a low-carb diet. In my undergrad I have studied exercise science and have done a lot of research on nutrition. I don’t mean Atkins when I say low-carb but rather what Dr. Peter Attia talks about. I hope his website can be of great use to you!


        In Christ,


        • His Alone

          Thank you for the suggestion. He rarely eats carbs, and tries to eat extremely small portions, but we are always doing research to see if there is any information that will help.

          • Sir Aaron

            a low carb diet requires a fundamental life long eating change that is extremely difficult to keep up.
            Ideally you’d like to see diet and exercise changes. Exercise will make life a whole lot easier in the long term.

  • Danny Barea

    Sometimes we become so over analytical that we miss the simplicity of the scripture. I thought you handled the topic well and the article was well written. Over eating or the chronic overeater can be identified and be lovingly confronted especially when it comes to leadership. it takes discernment and also being spiritually gentle to confront and restore one who, yes, suffers from this particular sin. I am a little concerned by the low view of this particular sin or at least some of the comments below who have decided to water down the significance of this sin. Listen, bottom line the Lord doesn’t care for it and that’s our precedence, period. We don’t set precedence we submit to it as describes in God’s word. The reason I believe I think church members would find it awkward to address gluttony in comparison to other sins is because in America, or the West in general, so many individuals are tremendously overweight. The question you are struggling with is this: “What? Do we really Matthew 18 over seventy people at our church for being identified as gluttons? dude that’s sound crazy”. Which I would reply “are we to be pragmatically incorrect as a group rather biblically correct potentially even as an individual?”…Praise the Lord Martin Luther chose the latter. This is obviously best addressed from the pulpit through preaching. However, if you have a friend who is overweight and is unhealthy and you are in that persons life and can visibly see the effects his or her overeating is having on his body then address it. Lovingly.

    • Good insight. It may also be worth mentioning that many (most?) Christians who are overeaters would repent if confronted lovingly; its just that we never get confronted. Maybe that’s where we need to start. It’s not about punishment, its about shepherding toward growth in holiness. And I am especially emphasizing that I admit this is a nebulous, tricky, difficult to identify sin pattern.

      • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

        Well said.

      • Matthew

        It’s easy to pick on the fat kid. If you are not biased in your view of what gluttony is, it’s interesting that you chose the graphic of the stereotypical fat kid. That image might be hurtful to those struggling with obesity whether gluttony or not.

        • Hey Matthew. So that graphic is of Augustus Gloop from the latest Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie. I included him in case you didn’t know who Gloop was.

          • Matthew

            Yes, I know exactly who Augustus Gloop is,
            the stereotypical fat kid stuffing his face. I’m just saying that if we are going to assume that obesity isn’t always from over eating, your use of Augustus is an interesting window into the human heart. We all make judgments on others solely upon their appearance; if my particular sin struggles were visible I’m sure that I would be judged harshly as well. And while we are talking about it, the Gene Wilder version is far superior.

      • Sir Aaron

        I think that is also because the sin is not necessarily self-control. Many people are unable to master their bodies because of ignorance. They feel they did well to ride their bike to work and eat nuts completely ignorant that nuts are high in calories and riding a bike to work resulted in minimal caloric loss.
        Many are also completely unaware of how being overweight can cause problems in ministry and therefore, don’t truly attempt to conquer it. That isn’t to say they don’t buy zone diet bars and have them for breakfast. But they don’t invest themselves into truly learning and doing what it takes.

        • Pam

          Aaron, I wasn’t able to click on your name to find your email address. How do I find your address so I can contact you about helping me?

          • Sir Aaron

            send me a tweet at @SirAaron_
            We can direct message to exchange info.

  • hsi

    Boy you’re not kidding on this one. In my youth, I was quite athletic, even being described as a “highly trained athlete”. I felt invincible, and part of that was being able to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, all with no seeming consequences.

    Fast forward to my middle age, and it appears all of that has gone away. I’m no longer the athlete I once was, and I struggle to keep the pounds off; I can still eat the same amount, but when I eat a nice, sweet delicacy, it seems to instantly appear around my waistline.

    Now I wonder if in my pursuit of physical fitness all those years I wasn’t at the same
    time training myself to be a glutton in my later years, and the root was my wanton self-indulgence at the expense of a greater concern for the things of God. Lord help me!

    • Sir Aaron

      Yes, in some ways. But at the same time a young athlete needs those calories. Swimmers can need as much as 6-8K calories per day. Training to be a glutton?

      • In fact, when I have been training hard, it requires discipline to eat enough calories to sustain good health. That’s why you can’t simplify gluttony to an amount of food, it’s a heart issue and has a lot to do with being in control of one’s appetite, not giving into sensual pleasure for its own sake, and being able to exercise the fruit of the Spirit: self-control.

    • I know the feeling. Age and metabolism shifts can play nasty tricks on your waistline!

  • Still Waters

    You are entirely correct that the size of the waistline is not proof that someone is a glutton. I remember as a child, there were three people in my church that were noticeably heavy. I confess, as a rather judgemental child, I regarded those people as somewhat lacking in self control. They also tended to be moody. Years later, I found out that all three people had serious health conditions which required taking a powerful drug which caused water retention, weight gain, and irritability. Did I ever feel convicted about my judgemental attitude!
    I wonder if gluttony is sometimes not the amount of food you eat, but the fact that food is more important to you than other things? For example, an organic vegetarian who not only spends a great deal of time and money to obtain the ‘right’ food, but also criticizes other people for eating meat.

    • Sir Aaron

      There are some rare individuals that have conditions that cause what you describe. But most of the time, the waistline is a pretty good indicator that you have a lack of personal discipline.

      • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

        Um, or that you’ve had a couple kids.

        • Mrs.G

          Or whether you’ve had your thyroid removed. . .

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            Or that you’re heading into that hormonal hurricane of menopause…

      • Still Waters

        Rare? The church had maybe 100 attendees. That’s about 3 percent, which isn’t that rare. Their individual conditions were different, so in that sense their conditions were rarer; but they were all prescribed the same medication, which is useful in many different conditions.

        • Sir Aaron

          When I spoke of rare I meant in society as a whole (although I would say 3% is still rare). I still stand by what I said. Most of the time, which is to say greater than 50%, the waistline is a pretty good indicator.

      • JayRyder2100

        Um, or that you’re in your late 50s and the metabolism is shot. Weight just doesn’t come off, even with exercise (but the vitals are still all good – praise God!)

        • Sir Aaron

          Of course it doesn’t just come off. Otherwise, everyone would do it. It requires a great deal of work as you get older.

          • JayRyder2100

            You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about.

      • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

        Or that you blog on Cripplegate when you should be exercising…

        • Sir Aaron

          Isn’t that the same thing as a lack of personal discipline?

  • Sir Aaron

    Clint this is one of my pet peeves. I don’t think you went far enough. Everyone wants to dance around the elephant in the room (the big fat one). Sure there are a few rare people who have serious medical issues that prevent them from being the appropriate weight. The reality is that very few people have these issues most of those can be solved with medication. The plain unvarnished truth is that most people who are grossly overweight are so because of a lack of self-discipline. It may not be gluttony but it is most certainly a lack of self-discipline.

    I wish I had a dollar for every-time I heard “I diet and exercise but nothing I do results in weight loss” (and as a physical fitness instructor I’ve heard it a lot). That is just a pathetic excuse. The fact of the matter is that losing the weight hasn’t been important enough to do anything serious about it. And yes, I know it’s difficult. For some, it will be extremely difficult. And that’s without your brothers and sisters constantly tempting you to eat their fares at the monthly potluck. (let’s face it, our society revolves around eating). And frankly, just like with other problems, you shouldn’t tackle such a problem without assistance. You want counseling? You go to a counselor. You want physical training, you go to somebody who does that.

    I’m also really, really tired of people saying it is better to be “godly” then to be involved in physical fitness. I simply don’t see how you can be “godly” when you have a severe lack of personal discipline in one area. I think it is awesome that you memorize verse about being disciplined and running the race all the while sporting 50 extra pounds.

    Being overweight is a major ministry hindrance as well. How am I supposed to take you seriously when you tell me to be more disciplined about reading my Bible or praying in the morning when you can’t manage your personal fitness? How am I supposed to pray for your various physical ailments when I know them to be caused in part or in whole by your poor physical condition? How are you going to lecture me on resisting sexual temptation, or temptation of lust, or any dozen of difficult physical areas when you cannot? What are newcomers supposed to think when they see a grossly overweight minister? Being grossly overweight is a serious spiritual issue. Bodily training sets the tone for spiritual training.

    Finally, don’t give me the “but the skinny guy can be gluttonous too.” That is a child’s response. We aren’t talking about that other person. We are talking about you.

    • Jeff Schlottmann

      Aaron, you’re so focused on “mastering the body” that you forgot to show love to your brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t know if you’re saved or not. You’re using this article to beat down and belittle people who may not be in the shape you are in. It’s good to encourage better health, but maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to hoist yourself up. Salvation is more important than working out. Without it those muscles are meaningless. I’m sure most would prefer an overweight but biblically faithful Spurgeon to a ripped version who was a hack. And I feel the same goes for any pastor or layman who’s in the same scenario.

      Got to go. I’ve got burgers on the grill.

      • Sir Aaron

        Actually, Jeff, I think it is you who don’t show love to your brothers and sisters in Christ by allowing them to remain undisciplined and living a lifestyle that will result in severe health consequences.
        You perpetuate this false dichotomy as if the reason most people are overweight or don’t do even minimal exercise is because they are too busy being spiritual. You and I both know better.

        • Kay

          Sir Aaron, as one of the big fat elephants in the room I would like to invite you to dance with me, not around me! 😀

          Seriously, though, I’m sorry that if we were ever to meet in person you would feel qualified to assess my spiritual fitness (or apparently, lack thereof) just from the way I look. I guess you are proving the whole “man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.” And I thank God that He does, because when it comes down to it I’m going to answer to Him for how I spent every minute of my day, not to you or other fitness-obsessed people.

          I have lots of personal anecdotes about self-discipline and my obesity that I could share, but I won’t bother because I’m sure you would dismiss them as excuses since they don’t support your thesis. As has already been pointed out to you in a previous comment, the Bible clearly states that physical training has SOME value, but it’s not our highest aim or most important goal. The tone and content of your comments suggests that perhaps you don’t really agree that this verse is true. I hope that’s not the case.

          • Sir Aaron

            What is one’s “spiritual fitness?” I’m certainly able to gauge your physical fitness, aren’t I? I’m able to gauge whether you are disciplined enough to get back to a health weight, aren’t I?
            I keep hearing that physical fitness isn’t our highest aim. So what’s keeping everyone from being at a healthy weight (because nobody here said you should be an athlete) is because they are reading the Bible, praying, or otherwise spending every waking hour tending to the needs of the saints?
            You’ll have to excuse my skepticism.

    • Mamaof6

      Wow! That was pretty harsh. Yes, I am overweight. It’s there for everyone to see, but her on this post you have let everyone see that you are not a compassionate person. There are other sins like making thinness and fitness your god. And yes I know a lot of people who do that. Health and fitness has become a major idol in the church. And yes, I have friends who are thin and may look fit to the world, but they are anorexic and therefore their thinness is a god to them.

      • Sir Aaron

        Christian 1 to Christian 2: “You have a problem. You are obese and need some discipline to lose the weight and maintain a healthy weight. It isn’t just a physical problem but also a spiritual one.”
        Christian 2 to Christian 1: “But skinny people can be gluttons too. Plus look at the anorexic people. Other people make fitness their idol. You aren’t being compassionate.”

    • Matthew

      You said,
      “How am I supposed to pray for your various physical ailments when I know them to be caused in part or in whole by your poor physical condition?”

      With this type of reasoning, why would you pray for anyone? You do know where gluttony comes from right? Why would I pray for someone who is struggling with their weight? The same reason I would pray for someone struggling with drugs, porn, pride etc. We all struggle with sin,and we all need prayer.

      • Sir Aaron

        I said pray for your physical ailments not pray for somebody. You always pray for somebody, even unbelievers. There is a huge difference in the way those prayers are brought.
        You brought up some examples, such as drug use. If somebody sat with me and asked me to pray for relief from irritability, anxiety, and crack bugs all the while continuing to use crack unrepentantly, I’d probably have difficulty making that prayer. My prayer would have to be more along the lines of asking God to make said person realize using crack is the problem from which they need to repent and change. I’d probably not ask for God to relieve the symptoms of their drug use. I’d also be somewhat remiss if I did not confront said person about their apparent sin.
        That scenario plays out time and time and time again with various health ailments and yet people think nothing about completely ignoring the underlying problem. In other words, I’m expected to pray for relief for somebody’s diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol while I watch them consume a powdered jelly-filled donut. Right? Isn’t that exactly what you are saying?
        We aren’t talking about people who are struggling. We are talking about those who don’t even acknowledge there is a problem much less do anything about it. Additionally, with drug use, I’d expect a person who is “struggling” to, I don’t know, actually struggle. I don’t expect them to frequent cannabis dispensaries. But with weight and fitness related problems we just accept that a home filled with cake and ice cream represents somebody “struggling.” And if I tell said person that maybe they ought to throw out the ice cream and take a long walk then I’m in violation of 1 Timothy 4:8, because you put more value in being godly.

  • Karl Heitman

    Clint, thanks for having the courage to tackle this issue. It’s one of those sensitive topics that always gets people fired up and emotions start bubbling. It seems sort of like gluttony is one of those “respectable sins” and any well-meaning concern about it inevitably leads to the “so what” question: “So, are you willing to church discipline a man for eating too much?”

    I think another reason why the sin of gluttony is invisible in our churches is because it’s part of our culture. Well, at least in our American religious culture (not sure about the South African culture). Think about it: at almost every church event what is there? FOOD! And not just any kind of food; donuts, cake, cookies, soda, juice, chips, and other sorts of tasty junk food. We jokingly hear church leaders spout out, “We believe in the 4 F’s: Fun, Fellowship, & Food!” Also, our Christian hospitality is unheard of without a full course meal. We say, “Let’s have you over for dinner!” We want to serve our guests by giving them a robust, hearty meal topped off with a nice big chuck of pie. Obviously, none of those things are bad, but my point is that our church culture is heavily focused on food. Therefore, why be concerned with the effect of always having at our disposal an overabundance of [junk] food (i.e., gluttony)? Who would dare change the culture!?

    • Thanks for you insights on this thread.

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  • This is great. With Elisabeth Elliot’s recent passing, I find myself hearing her “voice” in much that I read, and her words on weight gain and self-control were classic (not exact quote): No one has the right to speak about weight. If you’re thin, you’re told that you don’t know what you’re talking about. If you’re too heavy, you’re told that you’ve got no room to talk.
    Well, Clint, you’ve addressed the topic in a way that demonstrates both biblical fidelity as well as sensitivity.

    • Thanks for that. Very true words indeed!

  • disqus_NTyABGsE7H

    Agreed. My father is an alcoholic who is killing himself with alcohol. Easy peasy sin.

    My father-in-law, however, is 200lb overweight and just underwent his second heart surgery because of it. He is a deacon in his church.

    • Very common occurrence.

  • Eugen

    As I suspected when I saw the title, this would produce a flurry of response. A couple thoughts…

    We are tempted to judge by appearances (and our preconceived ideas). For example, “tubby Tim is tubby because he just lacks self control, he’s a glutton”. But then you actually have a meal with him and see that he’s a conservative eater, avoiding all the calories that you are scarfing down with ease. And then as you get to know him better, you discover that he’s very aware of his weight problem (gasp!) and it’s forced him to apply extraordinary self control in his life – more than you do (double-gasp!).

    The issue about confronting sin in the church is absolutely linked to true biblical fellowship. We must be involved in each other’s lives in a way that exposes our spiritual strengths and weaknesses to one another, for the purpose of “building one another up in love”. As Paul wrote “…you know what kind of men we proved to be among you” meaning that his life was an open book. Now in our hyper-privatized individualized culture, that is a no-no. We keep each other at arm’s length and our fellowship has been reduced to friendship, or a weekly courtesy. So, besides clear teaching on sin (definitions and all), we need the dynamic ‘body life’ in 1 Cor 12 where ‘one member suffers, all suffer together’.

    On another note – the sin of gluttony is excess, greed, lack of self-control when it comes to food. The way it is so often linked to drunkenness, rebellion, defiance, insubordination, and licentiousness may drive us to think it is only speaking of outrageous, public and unrestrained debauchery. Of course, those whose lives are marked by this (i.e. a glutton) will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. But this sin is one of lacking restraint or self control over the natural and good desires God has given us (as with any – hunger, sex, rest). Now staying clear of asceticism (eating only to stay alive), where do we draw the line when it comes to that second (or fifth) helping? My pastor said it well “can you sincerely give thanks for that third helping?” We need a robust theology of food – one that is aimed at glorifying God in giving us a variety of delights, but also has a healthy fear of our appetites.

    For anyone who’s interested, Joel James lays out a theology of food in this manual for counselling eating disorders (or as he puts it ‘disorderly eating’):

    • mamaof6

      “But this sin is one of lacking restraint or self control over the natural and good desires God has given us (as with any – hunger, sex, rest).” So true. I I have said that quitting other things like smoking, and drinking etc. are easier that dealing with gluttony because it is possible to stop consuming alcohol and cigarettes and still live. I cannot go cold turkey and stop eating altogether. I have a large family and I have to cook for them. I have to eat and therefore it is so easy to overeat!

      • BTW, mamaof6, I can’t think of a better, more God-glorifying reason to lose one’s “ideal” figure than having 6 kids! Well done. I know ladies whose main objection to having kids is “I’ll lose my figure!” Yuck.

  • HC
  • Robert Sakovich

    Clint, thanks for this. My wife and I have struggled with this…we had gone up and down in weight on various diets before God cleared the path for us to both have gastric bypass surgery. This requires a whole lifestyle change towards eating and we have to stay disciplined towards eating healthy and getting nutrients we need or we see the effects rather quickly. Some might say we “cheated” the system of self-discipline, but I would say that we have actually made it harder on ourselves because we literally feel extreme effects of unbalanced, undisciplined eating pretty much immediately. I’d say it makes us more physically sensitive to when we are no exercising the self-discipline that is a fruit of the spirit.
    I appreciate the comments of Sir Aaron regarding self-discipline, but I would add that we need to make sure that we fight this battle by the power of the Spirit and no just physical means alone. I’ve been studying “The Mortification of Sin” in a Sunday School class and Owen really drives home the point that we can easily deceive ourselves into thinking we’re doing spiritual work when we are really just doing things in our own power. And we can not mortify sin in our own power.

    • Sir Aaron

      I would agree…absolutely, that we can’t do this alone. We fight this battle by the power of the Spirit, and I also believe with the help of other Christians (and in some cases a professional).
      I have very mixed feelings about such surgeries but they usually aren’t approved casually. I’m not sure I would call it cheating though as the road is still a tough one (as you well know).

      • Robert Sakovich

        I only brought the Holy Spirit up because I felt that people were leaving that part out in the meta…I just think that everybody struggling with this and other areas of sin need to make sure to count on His power and conviction and not just themselves.
        As for bariatric surgery, it surely is not an easy road and is not for everybody. We decided on the most harsh procedure because we wanted to be accountable and not have an easy road for being able to “cheat”. It has been painful at times, but the benefits (physical and spiritual) have been more than worth the cost.

        • Sir Aaron

          And it is a great point.
          I’m happy to hear you and your wife are doing well (and losing weight)!

    • Thanks Robert. Interesting points.

  • I suppose if food consumes your thoughts pretty much round the clock, it might be an idol. If I wake up and think about all the food I’ll eat today, rather than focus my thoughts on the Lord or when I’m eating, I’m planning my next meal….always thinking about food, that might be an indicator of a problem. Our society also disguises this and people call themselves “foodies” because they have such a knowledge of and an interest in food. It gives gluttonous tendencies more credibility.

    I just had this convo with someone the other day. It’s good to give it more thought.

    • Interesting. Thanks.

  • Chris Brooks

    Paul mentions those whose “god is their stomachs.” I think that gets at the heart of gluttony. It’s not necessarily the overweight or the overeater but the one who lives for his pleasure.

    • Yup, Philippians 3, “whose god is their bellies”!

  • Mamaof6

    I am an overweight person. I also know that everyone who sees me thinks I am undisciplined and have no self control. I know many thin people have a holier than thou attitude and they often cruelly refuse a cookie or donut in front of me saying that they need to watch their weight. Yes it hurts. I know some of those people struggle with hidden sins like gossip, anger, pornography, dishonesty and other sins. But no one sees those sins except maybe a few select people. My “sin” is out there for everyone to see. I am aware of my overweight every minute of every day. People look at a fat person and think he or she must be a slob. They assume we are lazy and have no self-control in any area of our lives. These assumptions are all based on the sole factor that I am overweight. Actually anyone who really know me knows that am very self- disciplined in every other area of my live. Yes, I have one of those hibernating bear metabolisms. My husband is extremely thin and yet he can eat anything and as much as he wants and ever gains. We have tired experiments where we eat exactly the same thing and he loses and I gain! And yes I am more active in my lifestyle due to having 6 kids and he has a desk job. So I am judged of gluttony by my size ( I don’t say I never overeat because I do.) while others have sins that are hidden but they are thin so everyone thinks they are OK.

    • Sir Aaron

      I have sympathy for your plight. Self discipline and regulation of one’s diet is not only difficult but requires a fair bit of knowledge, which, unfortunately, most do not possess.
      I have a couple thoughts. Firstly, you are guilty of the same judgment of thing people as they are of you (assuming you can truly read your thoughts). Because I am an athlete, I often have to pass up on food that others will eat. My diet regiment simply does not allow me to partake. So sometimes that thin person actually is watching their diet.
      Second point is that it is silly to eat the same thing your husband eats and expect to have the same results. I know society tries to tell us otherwise, but men and women are different. You don’t have a “hibernating bear” metabolism. That is an excuse. If you truly want to lose weight, I’d be happy to provide the appropriate education, accountability, and training to be successful.

  • Mark Hanson

    I am surprised in 100+ replies that no one has mentioned The Screwtape Letters, and Screwtape’s description of the patient’s mother, rail thin but a terror to every host and hostess because she insists on having everything she is served be “just so”. Her stomach was her god as much as any overweight person – hers was a gluttony of delicacy, not excess. And I find that form even more acceptable in the church.

    • Cynthia

      Good call!

    • Rob

      To Paula (who commented yesterday about foodies) and Mark (who shared the reference to The Screwtape Letters), I was thinking along the same lines as I planned this comment to this post, which by the way is excellent.

      I am convinced that we have many “gluttons” in our society today who are not fat at all, but who spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about and strategically planning every ounce/gram of their food consumption. I’m talking about insisting on the finest quality ingredients, the preparation, etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum. When there are people in the world barely subsisting, who go to bed hungry every night for lack of food, it seems unbalanced to devote such extreme amounts of time and money to ensure the utmost quality of what we ingest. That, to me, is another form of gluttony. It is also idolatry, where the stomach is one’s god. It’s a part of our Western society that has become part of the church as well.

      We need to carefully consider the adage – Eat to live. Don’t live to eat.

      • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

        I so agree! I cannot tell you how discouraging it is for me as a woman to be part of any women’s church gathering and all that is discussed is the importance of organic foods, the miracle of essential oils or God forbid cancer causing preservatives!

        God once accused Israel of setting up idols in their hearts. We have set up ours in our stomachs.

    • Bout time someone brought Lewis into the room. Thanks Mark.

  • tonib

    With all due respect to your reference of the metabolic rate and thyroid condition factor, it is important to note that these “conditions” arrived on the scene about the same time McDonalds did. Though obesity existed in days gone by it was most definitely highly unusual to see morbidly obese people- they were rare.
    Obesity is overlooked in the church because sin has been reduced to something all who are “in Christ” no longer need to be concerned about….after all, it would be pharisitical and legalistic to expect Christians to walk in obedience. This is the theology of the modern church- God help us.

    • Still Waters

      Thyroid malfunction has been around as long as disease has been. Have you ever heard the word ‘cretin’? It was the historical term for someone with hypothyroidism (which, untreated, can lead to severe mental retardation as well as weight gain), until the public misapplied it. In the same rural clinic in a third world country, I helped treat both the emaciated malnourished and those heavy from hypothyroidism.
      And have you never heard the old nursery rhyme (much older than MacDonalds) which says, “Jack Sprat could eat no fat, and his wife could eat no lean; so between the both of them, they licked the platter clean”? To quote the wisest man, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

      • tonib

        I did not mean to imply that these are not legitimate conditions, only that they are liberally misdiagnosed and often self-diagnosed to avoid self examination and discipline.

        • Sir Aaron

          not to mention most cases can be solved with medication.
          People want to blame their metabolism, a rare health disorder, or the thin guy for their problems. That is easier than the very difficult road of losing weight.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            We’ll all be asking Jesus for your dessert at the banquet. Just sayin. 😉

      • Funny.

  • Brenda McAlpine

    I have a good friend who just finished writing a book about this very
    topic. She attacks weight loss from a biblical perspective, and talks
    about the ongoing struggle to bring her desires under the lordship of
    Christ. I’m really looking forward to reading it.

    • Nuts. I wanted to write a book on it. Do you know the title?

      • Brenda McAlpine

        The working title is “God’s Itty Bitty Fat Book” by Carole Holliday. She’s looking for a publishing channel.

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