December 26, 2011

Jesus Died for your Food Coma

by Clint Archer

Aah Christmas day. Alarm-rushed-breakfast-church-presents-set-table…then it’s time…to eat. Chicken, lamb, beef, roast potatoes, the healthy stuff to keep mom happy, and just when the gorging has caused eyes to bulge with food pressure, there is the…dessert(s).

Then nap time. The whole family’s blood sugar index crashes like an African stock market and everyone drifts into the welcome oblivion of the food coma. Does this sound at all familiar?

Food coma: early onset.

Ironically it is often when we celebrate the humble birth of our Savior that we are tempted to overindulge in His provision. And this is the sequel sin to Thanksgiving day– another event where we allegedly thank God for his gifts before we stuff ourselves with them.

Jesus died for the sin of gluttony. 

I’m not talking about having seconds. When a famished Oliver Twist delivered his famous petition, “Please sir, I want some more,” Dickens was not portraying a high handed rebellion. There are times when having another helping of food out of pure enjoyment is a way of glorifying God.


I love food. God could have made us eat only porridge. Or sustaining vitamin pellets. Instead, he gave us a cornucopia of nutrient variety and abundance to enjoy (1 Tim 6:17). But he also drew some boundaries.

Gluttony is one of our society’s more respectable sins (to poach Jerry Bridges’ tongue-in-cheek moniker). And not only because we worship the emaciated, airbrushed humanoid cover-girl specimens posing on magazine racks. We also prize instant gratification beyond its real value.

Let’s define gluttony. 

gluttony |ˈglətn-ē|   habitual greed or excess in eating.

It’s the sin of losing self control around food. The need and desire for food is God-given. As is the need and desire for sex, rest, and chocolate. But sex outside God’s parameters is the sin if fornication. Overindulgence of rest is the sin of sloth, and it’s perpetrator God calls a sluggard. And an overindulgence of chocolate, pie, or any other good gift is called gluttony.

The line is not smudged: if you are in control of your desires, and your desire is to glorify God, you’re fine. If, however, you lose control and have more to eat than your conscience permits, (or engage in any activity outside of God’s revealed will) then you are sinning.

Don’t be fooled, weight is a narrow indicator of gluttony. Just because you have a high metabolism, doesn’t mean you aren’t a glutton. Conversely, a repentant glutton may still have a few pounds to shed before attaining his fighting weight. Or perhaps a corpulent Christian has some thyroid issues or other contributing factors to their gravitationally challenged state. Don’t judge others, just control yourself. God is interested in your heart, not your waistline.

The solution is not asceticism. Jesus had a healthy enough appetite to be labelled a glutton by the Pharisee paparazzi (Luke 7:34). The solution is fruit: the fruit of the Spirit, self control.

1 Cor 10:31 Whether you eat or drink do all things to the glory of God.

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.
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  • Michael Delahunt

    Reading this whilst eating some delicious mozzarella sticks and wild rice soup…an altogether convicting and encouraging read. Thanks Clint! Loved the article.

    • Praise God for mozzarella. Italy wouldn’t be the same without it. As long as you only ate enough for one person!

  • Kathy

    Thanks you, Clint. Well explained, cogent but not condemning. Helpful.
    : )

    • You’re welcome Kathy. Thanks for signing our visitor’s book.

  • Fred

    Your definition of gluttony is an American-nized definition. It is not a biblical definition. All throughout scripture, gluttony is tied directly to drunkedness and rebellion. A “gluttoness” son could be executed under the terms of the theocratic law, (Deut. 21:18-20). A guy who is 50 pounds overweight and eats a couple of helpings of prime rib on Christmas afternoon is not a “glutton” in the biblical sense.

    Now. I always find it amusing how YRRs (not saying you are, btw) when encouraged to lay off the alcohol promotion by people like JMacArthur, will appeal to such passages as Deut. 14:22-27 as an excuse why they should be drinking. Yet that same passage, along with giving permission to drink, also gives permission to eat, and to eat a lot.

    Overeating is more of a personal discipline issue that should be treated like cigarette smoking, or maybe watching too much TV or surfing the web all day. It is not a “sin” on the level you suggest. If it is, then are we prepared to exercise church discipline against a person we label a “glutton” in our church? Sin is serious and should be treated seriously by pastors and church leaders. But who here is ready to exercise Matthew 18 against a fat guy who eats a Papa Johns large pizza once a week? Oh. I’m sure there are some food pharisees who shake their nanny fingers at such a person and say “Well, we should!” Really?

    And what do you do with the guy who can eat all day and not gain weight and is a fine specimen of worldly health? Low cholesterol, fit as a fiddle? Is he still a glutton if his body naturally burns off the calories and maintains a slim, 33 inch waist line, but the fat guy is a “glutton” because his slow metabolism doesn’t burn off the calories? Just sayin’.

    • Hey Fred, thanks for airing your views. We welcome discussion. It does help, though to read the whole though. I understand blog readers tend to skim read. But the ones who comment generally read carefully enough to make sure they aren’t just repeating what’s already been written. Here’s a line from the post that sounds a lot like the main point of your closing paragraph: “Don’t be fooled, weight is a narrow indicator of gluttony. Just because you have a high metabolism, doesn’t mean you aren’t a glutton”

      • Thanks Clint,
        But I did read your article carefully. Maybe I needed to be more concise. Getting ready for a long, 3 day trip across the southwest may have added to the confusion.

        A few things to note: First and foremost, you didn’t respond to my main point. That being, your definition of gluttony is NOT the biblical definition. This is key. You are defining gluttony according to a modern definition and assigning it spiritual value. This is not the biblical definition.

        Secondly, pulling from my first main point that you didn’t really interact with, a man who overeats is not a “glutton” according to a biblical standard, and thus, he is not in “sin.” Sin must be defined according to Scripture. Eating a larger Papa John’s pizza in one sitting and being 70 pounds overweight is not a “sin.” It certainly isn’t gluttony under the terms of what the Bible defines it.

        Third, if you insist upon your definition of gluttony, and this applies to Karl’s comment as well, are you prepared to subject a person who overeats and is overweight to a Matthew 18 disciplinary process? Why or why not? I am not talking about a person who has “repented” and is now in Weight Watchers. I am talking about a big (no pun intended) number of church members who love the Lord and enjoy eating at Cracker Barrel. What standards of “gluttony” do we use to judge whether or not these individuals are gluttons? The unrealistic government standard weight chart that says a 5’8 man must be 160 pounds to be considered “healthy?” Seriously. There are some significant issues to evaluate if we are going to take this view of gluttony as you have outlined in your article above.


        • Thanks for your comments, Fred.

          I’m having a hard time understanding, though, what you think is the biblical definition of gluttony. You mentioned that it was “tied directly to drunkenness and rebellion,” but you didn’t really define what “it” was. How would you define gluttony biblically?

          • I think that gluttony being tied to drunkedness and being grounds for state execution tell us exactly what it isn’t, which is a guy who overeats at Hometown Buffet and is maybe overweight and needs to loose fifty pounds. Clint seems to ignore the context in which the Bible mentions gluttony and pours into the word our modern, progressive understanding of health, which it is not.

          • To be fair, the argument that it can’t be what Clint suggests because what Clint suggests doesn’t merit the death penalty is a little weak. By the same evaluation, state execution seems a bit much for an incorrigible child as well, which incorrigibility is more the main point of Deut 21:18-21 anyway.

            But that still doesn’t actually answer the question. I’d like to consider your perspective, because you’ve always shown yourself to be a sound thinker and it’s likely you’ve got an insight where I’ve overlooked something. But I can’t consider it without knowing what you think is a biblical definition of gluttony.

  • Clint, this is such a “respectable” sin that no one ever brings it up. I get the debate about being fat does not equal gluttony. However, I’m not so sure I believe a 300+ lb. man that claims to have a “thyroid problem” or a “metabolism” issue. C’mon man. Most of us need to lose a few lbs. so we always feel the need to ward off any personal attack by encouraging people not to “judge others” then immediately turn around and discuss the “heart” or “fruit” in keeping with a life marked by true repentance or genuine godliness. What up with that? Which is it? If your brother has a 50” waist, then perhaps he needs the loving admonishment to deal with his obvious enslavement to food?

    Does an obese man really have an organic health issue? I don’t buy it. I think Fred has a point. If gluttony is a sin, how do we deal with it in the church?

    • Hi Karl, thanks for your honest questions. I appreciate that you are trying to think through things biblically. What I meant was that once a person repents of their sin, there may be a long time before the consequence of their sin becomes invisible. If a person got to be 300 lbs by lack of self control, and then repents, it will be a very, very long time (if ever) before they will shed all the remnants of what that sin has done to their body. Just like a if a girl gets pregnant before being married, and repents immediately, her heart is right before God and `he is pleased with her based on what Christ has done…but the pregnancy will be visible to all, and the child will always be there. Yet she is in right standing with God. In the same way being fat is no indicator of a person’s heart at the present time. It only shows there was a time before repentance where there was sin. Imagine your pre-salvation sin was as visible to all as that of an obese person.

      • I understand much better now. Thank you for the clear explaination.

  • Dave

    “Jesus had a healthy enough appetite to be labelled a glutton by the Pharisee paparazzi.” Love that image!
    Gluttony may be considered a “respectable sin,” but at the same time I witness weekly disrespectful jabs, clothed in humor, aimed at corpulent Christians. It seems to be a Matt 18 backstabbing approach to the body of Christ. If a Christian witnesses a brother in the act of gluttony, then just graciously approach them in prayerful humility (Gal 6:1-3) rather than look for a witty remark.
    We really need to go deeper with our post-worship banter and set examples of ministering words of grace. Everyone enjoys a good laugh, it’s good for the soul, but never at the expense of someone else…it just isn’t funny or respectable.

    • I love this point. Thanks Dave. You are absolutely right, and it is very worthy of deep consideration.

  • Dave

    I think this cogent article provides concise biblical view of gluttony. There is always the tension between law and grace. That’s why the graceless Pharisee’s called Jesus a glutton, and why Paul cautions against a lawless, Epicurean licentiousness that draws away Christians to follow a god of the belly (Phi 3:17-21; Ro 16:18). We are not to let the grace that allows us to enjoy all things lead to license to overindulge to the point where we worship the pleasure/comfort of things that will pass away (1 Cor 6:13). Our sanctified conscience is what allows us to maintain the balance.
    Love this site…happy New Year to the Cripplegate Team: continue the ministry of the Word. May it have free course in our hearts as we seek to conform moment by moment to His image!

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