Reasons We Struggle with Gluttony

Dear Roger,

I am a glutton. I know I am because I weigh too much. My BMI is just inside of obese. I’ve tried Weight Watchers and Slimfast and support groups. I’ve counted calories. Three times in my life I have crashed dieted and lost over 50 pounds.

Unfortunately, within three months I gained it all back. I’m obese and losing the battle instead of losing the fat. Any biblical help would be greatly appreciated.
Sincerely, Over-eater

Dear Over-eater,

I have never taken an accidental bite of my food in my life. Unfortunately, I’ve taken too many bites. I, too, have too much fat. 

Nevertheless, I feel somewhat qualified to answer your question–especially because I know that I can share with you what the Bible says about how to get victory over gluttony.

What is Gluttony?

Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more food than we require.

Gluttony is an acceptable sin in the church today. That’s not how God sees the sin of gluttony in our midst. I imagine that God might say to the church, “I really don’t like all that fat slopping around the Kingdom.”

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 is addressed to the church: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 is addressed to individuals: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Why We Struggle With Gluttony

1. Food is everywhere.

C. S. Lewis sets the scene in “Mere Christianity”: The theater lights dim, the band begins to play softly and sensuously as a man enters from stage left carrying a silver tray which is covered by a white cloth. He walks to the middle of the stage and begins dancing lewdly before setting the tray with the white cloth on a table. He whirls his hands over his head and then moves slowly and deliberately as he slides the cover off the silver tray. In the middle of the tray is a pork chop. 

“Would not you think that something has gone wrong in that culture about food?” He asked.

Of course, his seventy-year-old vision has come true in America today. From the Food Channel to “Chopped,” we are strangely twisted and out of control with our love for food.

2. Comfort food works so well.

When we’re miserable it’s so easy to over eat carbohydrates— especially sugar. Within forty-five minutes those chemicals are transforming into serotonin which is the “feel good” neurotransmitter in the brain. When we are really stressed our brains may scream at us to eat carbohydrates. It’s hard to say “no” when our brains are screaming “yes”.

I testify that comfort food really does work. I can eat a half-gallon of ice cream in less than an hour when I need to.

3. Our genetic makeup can program us to over-eat.

Geneticists have discovered at least forty genes that help control and oversee our eating. It’s possible that overeating turns on some genes that make us hungry that would not have” turned on” if we had not started overeating.

Our ancestors pass along genes and chromosomal material that may influence our weight. Notice how Eskimos are so fat. They need insulation from the cold.

Some people have faulty hormonal problems (like thyroid issues) that take weight control completely out of their hands. It’s hard to say that overeating would be their fault. However we acknowledge that if no food is available anywhere, no matter what the chemistry, people will not get fat.

4. Poor nutritional habits developed during childhood can doom us to a lifetime of over-eating.

Personally, I was big for my age— not fat, just big. Unfortunately, I remember that in fourth grade I picked up the nickname, “Fats.” Sadly, I took it to heart. I remember eating triple-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to impress the guys in the class. What a shame.

Looking back, I see how my mother tried to control everything we ate, and when we ate it. I can’t blame my mother for my adult overeating, but I do think that in some ways I was set up during my childhood to overeat.

5. They are sinners.

Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. Gluttony is a sin of the flesh.

6. They are under a satanic attack.

In Ephesians Chapter 4, Paul mentions that it’s possible for us to commit a sin so often that we open the door for Satan to have a demonic “foothold” in our lives. Victory here would necessitate winning a spiritual battle.

Remember that the Bible teaches that every area of our lives not under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit is open to control by demonic spirit.

7. They are addicted to food.

Food-a-holics must be beware of falling off the wagon just like an alcoholic. A support group with weekly meetings is essential.

They need extra help and support to get well.

How to Win the Battle with Food

1. Treat gluttony as the sin that it is.

Confess that you are guilty of gluttony and that you know it is wrong.

Repent by “turning over a new leaf” and commit to a new life without gluttony.

Ask for and receive God’s forgiveness: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Read Romans 6:1-12 and recognize that you are dead to sin and that you don’t have to sin if you don’t want to.

2. Be on guard against a satanic attack which may be the result of perpetually succumbing to gluttony (Ephesians 4).

If Romans 6 doesn’t bring victory and you feel that your gluttony has become a spiritual foothold satanic attack, use James 4:7 as your guideline for freedom: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

3. Go ahead and be afraid of fat.

Extra fat in our bodies is a quiet killer. At can cause cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Recognizing that it’s slowly destroying us can scare us into keeping our mouths shut more often.

4. The only foolproof way to lose weight is to stop eating so much.

We are bombarded with advertisements for quick weight-loss diets. Let’s be honest, they don’t work. Those who lose weight with a quick-loss diet will soon begin regaining what they lost. They have not changed their eating habits enough to maintain their goal weight over time.

Faithful adherence to “Weight Watchers” principles of wise eating over a long period of time has brought success to many.

Personally, I’ve tried everything ranging from counting calories to support groups to research projects to quick loss diets to Weight Watchers.

Nothing worked for me until (1) I started treating my gluttony as sin and (2) I began recognizing that I could choose to eat smaller portions if I wanted to.

Remember. The only way to permanently lose weight is to treat gluttony as a sin and stop eating so much.

“The ability to say ‘no’ to anything in excess—self-control—is one of the fruits of the Spirit common to all believers” (Galatians 5:22).

I hope that I given you some long-term-helpful advice. Here are several more versus that you might enjoy applying in your life.

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.”

1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Love, Roger

Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese.His latest work isGot Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answerfrom Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.