What the Bible Says About Gluttony

Deu 21:20 "and they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard."

Pro 23:21 "For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty; And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags."

Pro 28:7 "Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son; But he that is a companion of gluttons shameth his father."

Tit 1:12 "One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons."

Above is the sum total of what the American Standard Bible has to say about glutton, gluttons, or gluttony. In fact, the word "gluttony" is not found in the King James, American Standard, ISV, or ESV Bibles at all. Three of the four passages are from the Old Testament, seemingly placing them out of reach in our New Testament time in terms of the need to apply them. All four passages seem to depict gluttony in a negative light. The paucity of New Testament scripture on the topic plus several other factors may explain why so few sermons are preached on gluttony.

Along with the rest of the United States, the Lord's church shares an obesity problem. The latest CDC figures show that 65% of Americans are now either overweight (a few extra pounds, BMI of 25 through 29) or obese (dangerously overweight, Body Mass Index of 30 or over). Obesity is such a sensitive topic that over 60% of physicians will not broach the topic to patients no matter how obese they obviously might be. The pervasiveness and sensitivity of the problem are two reasons why preachers do not tackle it from the pulpit any more often than they do. If you have ever depended upon a preaching check from week to week to help with the family budget, you understand the gravity of preaching a sermon on a really sensitive topic. Gluttony gets less pulpit time than adultery, drunkenness, or gambling.

A third problem is the lack of a Biblical definition. There are no Metropolitan Life-style height and weight charts in either the Old or New Testaments. There is no definition of gluttony in the scriptures. And anyone who has access to a pulpit should know the hazards of importing man-made standards into a prescription for the Christian life (Revelation 22: 18, 19). We just cannot go to the pulpit and tell everyone to go on the South Beach Diet.

The scriptures that impinge mostly nearly on gluttony as a health factor are in I Corinthians:

1Co 3:16, 17 "Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, and such are ye."

1Co 6:19,20 "Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body."

These passages illustrate the general principle of stewardship as related to the care and maintenance of our own bodies. These scriptures are also the impetus for the church's teaching on substance (drug and alcohol) abuse as well as on tobacco use. We do not seem to have as much problem preaching or teaching against those. But for obesity, the lines can be a little hard to draw. At what point is a person destroying his body? Whereas the deliterious effects of illegal drugs, alcohol,and tobacco can be fairly immediate, the ill effects of "having a few extra pounds" can be harder to demonstrate.

We are blessed today with more medical information than any generation before us. If we watch the TV, surf the Internet, or visit our doctors at least once a year, we know what things to watch out for. The following things led me (as a personal decision, non-binding on others) to change the way I was eating.

So in view of this personal evidence, I changed from my "see food" diet to a Weight Watchers one of 1980. In the 1980s, I had experienced success on this food plan in losing weight and in keeping it off for about six years. I never attended Weight Watcher meetings and am not a spokesperson for that organization. The most recent medical news is that which food plan one chooses (WW, South Beach, low fat, low carbohydrate) does not seem to matter as much as whether the food plan enables one to take in fewer calories than one uses in any given day. Calories in, calories out--whether we operate at a deficit on a consistent basis over a long period of time determines whether our weight will go up or down.

Other general principles that speak to our eating habits include (1) our effectiveness in representing Jesus Christ and His church to people (2) maintenance of an energy level that would help in carrying our His Great Commission and (3) our general feeling of good health and wellness from day to day. Surely the abundant life of John 10 does not include the diet-related illnesses that plague so many people in our food-crazed world.

Epilogue, or mid-script: As I add these words to what was written probably four months ago, I am 30 pounds lighter than when I began a new life and a new attitude toward food on February 1, 2009. None of the ailments in the bulleted listed above now plague me. I can work a hard seven-hour day outside with hoe or tiller or chainsaw before feeling like I am so tired that it is time to retire for the day. I have re-discovered a whole closet full of clothes that I scarcely knew I had. People who have known me for any appreciable length of time tell me I have lost a lot of weight. I have not missed a church event or a day of work due to back or knee problems since I started eating right on February 1. I plan to go down another 25 pounds, and it looks like I may make it by Thanksgiving. I am not missing the fattening foods or the large portions. If 2009 emerges as my year of The Great Weight Loss, so be it. I have needed to put food in its proper spiritual and physical perspective for a long time.


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