Jan jokingly calls herself a “fast-food junkie.” She loves biting into a juicy burger at the end of a long day at work, licking the grease off her fingers as she indulges in a large order of French fries. Throughout the day, she plans out where she wants to pick up dinner that night; her life is dominated by thoughts of cheap, fast food.
Frank considers himself a “foodie.” The thought of fast food makes his stomach turn. He only likes to eat the finest food, no matter the price or the rarity. Much of his monthly income is devoted to extravagant meals. Because of his lifestyle, Frank can rarely get friends to eat with him, as their budgets don’t allow for such lavish expenditures.
Kathy is a health nut. Besides exercising obsessively, she counts every calorie she eats, and spends hours researching the source of every ingredient she purchases. She refuses to eat at restaurants because “you never know what they might sneak into your food.” Food is not her fuel; it is her obsession.
Would it surprise you to hear that each of these people is indulging in the sin of gluttony? When we hear the word “gluttony,” it is likely that our thoughts instantly go to over-eating or consuming rich foods. However, this sin pertains not merely to the act of eating but to the attitudes and desires behind it.
The enjoyment of food is not, in and of itself, wrong. “Eating is meant to be pleasurable, and if you deliberately enjoy this pleasure, develop your ability to do so, and share your experiences with others, you take part in a divine mission. The link between food and pleasure has been established by the Creator Himself” (The 3 Colors of Community, p. 50). However, when this pleasure is expressed in isolation, without balance, that pleasure can turn into gluttony.
The question behind gluttony is, “Why?” What makes a person become preoccupied with food? Could it be that eating is compensation for something that is lacking? Could it be that a person is seeking to fill a spiritual void with a physical remedy? The sin of gluttony puts food at the center of our universe–a place that should be reserved for God!
Effective structures (i.e., structure in the life of a believer) are the remedy for the sin of gluttony. The purpose of these structures is to create a balance in a person’s life, thus creating a long-term perspective. By bringing our lives into balance through the effective structures, we are able to combat the sin of gluttony through balance.
Another key element in combatting the sin of gluttony is to employ thankfulness. “Food is a gift from God, and even the connection to pleasure was created by God . . . Not enjoying what God has given us implied criticism of the Creator has His good creation” (The 3 Colors of Community, p. 55) In fact, we see multiple times in the New Testament that sharing a meal–eating and drinking together–is a key element in building community. Thus, thankfulness is a key element of finding balance in food consumption.
Consider your relationship with food. Do you have a healthy balance in that relationship, or has food replaced God at the center of your thoughts and devotion? If your relationship with food is imbalanced, what are some effective structures you can employ that will help you realign your priorities?
(You can learn more about “The Path Away from Gluttony” on pp. 48-55 of The 3 Colors of Community.)