I’m eating barbecue with my friends on Memorial Day. We’ve just floated the Comal River and we are about to blow any kind of diet we had, then a joke gets made about gluttony.
Should we be joking about the sin of gluttony? Is it really a laughing matter? Does eating barbecue with your friends on Memorial Day, (way more barbecue than you’d eat on a normal day) even count as gluttony?
What is the line between feasting and gluttony?
What does the Bible say about feasting?
In the bible, feasting is seen primarily in the Old Testament, and the gospels. The Israelite calendar is actually organized around a series of feasts. These feasts usually mark historic events for the Jews and help them to remember God’s provision of safety. The most important are probably The Feasts of Unleavened Bread and Passover, established at the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. (Ex 12 and 13) They remind the people of Israel that God brought them out of Egypt. The others are the Feasts of First-fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, and Booths (or Tabernacles).
Jesus celebrated the Jewish feasts. Repeatedly, we see him attending feasts and condemning the Pharisees for taking a prominent place instead of being humble and thinking of others at the feast.
Wedding feasts are a common theme in the gospels.
There is a future feast promised for believers in the Millennial kingdom in Isaiah 25:6-12. It is at that feast that death will be fully and completely destroyed.
Obviously we can conclude one thing: feasting isn’t a sin. Feasting is, quite the contrary, a good and sanctifying action. It should be enjoyed, not detested.
What does the Bible say about gluttony?
Pro 23:20-21 – “Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe one with rags.”
The Apostle Paul makes references to “enemies of the cross” whose “god is their belly.” i.e. They let their passions and lusts control them, instead of controlling their passions and lusts.
Paul also talks about “making no provision for the flesh” and he makes references to our bodies as “temples unto the Lord” (the implication being “take care of it!”) (Rom 13, 1 Cor 10)
A clear picture of gluttony in action is of the Israelites when wandering in the wilderness after being rejected from the promise land. In Numbers 11, we see the people of Israel complaining about God’s provision of manna. They want something better. They want meat! God gives them a TON of quail and the people get greedy and gather it up and begin to gorge themselves on it. God then strikes down those who gave in to their craving. The name of the place it occurs is called “graves of craving.”
What is the difference between feasting and gluttony?
Here’s what I think.
Feasting is a specific, planned celebration for the purpose of rejoicing over a specific person, event, or both.
The qualities that make feasting what it is are camaraderie, celebration, and unity. The point of feasting is to selflessly rejoice over the workings of another. In the process, particular pleasures are applied in a proper context: eating, drinking, friendship, and good conversation. These simple pleasures add to the feasting experience without altering the feast’s intent.
Love is expressed in a feast. Love for one another and for God.
While we, the individuals feasting, get to experience the pleasure of eating, it is not for the express purpose of experiencing that pleasure, but for the purpose of bolstering the joy that comes with true community.
Gluttony, on the other hand, is the misapplication or over-indulgence of the pleasure of eating.
There is no love in gluttony; there is only lust.
Gluttony is inward focused, set on abusing the pleasure, even to the point that it is no longer pleasurable. Gluttony is usually a solitary act, allowing the focus to be on the self, not on others. Gluttony allows a specific pleasure (eating) to dominate the will and replace God as the true master in one’s life.
In this sense, gluttony does not necessarily mean eating a lot of food. It may mean eating only a little or even no food.
C.S. Lewis explained the idea of “gluttony of delicacy” instead of “gluttony of excess” in The Screwtape Letters. The idea is that a human appetite, a human’s want for pleasure through eating, can cause their behavior to turn sour. Screwtape jibes, “what do quantities matter, provided we can use a human belly and palate to produce querulousness, impatience, uncharitableness, and self-concern?”
The devil in the story is saying that gluttony may consist in a person’s cravings controlling the way they behave, instead of the person controlling their cravings.
When defined as such, bulimia and anorexia are just as much gluttony as binge eating.
Much like other sins involving pleasure, the enemy takes something created for good and twists it, or misapplies it, turning it into something sinful.
An additional component of gluttony has to do with habit. A man who celebrates a friend’s birthday with a piece of cake and scoop of ice cream after an already large dinner may not be a glutton. Daily celebrating the arrival of 5 o’clock with cake and ice cream may be a warning sign.
What, then, is the line between feasting and gluttony? How do you know if you are a glutton? The next time you eat a big meal, how will you know if you are sinning or celebrating?
Ask yourself some of these questions, and then answer them honestly.
Where does your pleasure come from? Is it found in others, in love, and in God, and only bolstered by eating, or is it in the eating itself?
Food is a means and the end is the celebration of holiness, or purity, or goodness. Is food your end or your means?
Do you allow your stomach to alter your behavior? Do you justify rudeness with hunger? Do you abstain from eating for vanity’s sake?
Where is your focus as you eat? Is it on yourself and the pleasure you currently feel, or is it on others and the joy you are experiencing together?
Who is in control while you’re holding a dinosaur-sized rib… you or the rib?