The Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony

Notes & Transcripts

The last of the Seven Deadly Sins is gluttony. It’s the one I know you’ve all been waiting for!

It is a sin we obviously don't hear much preaching about these days. Maybe because too many American preachers are over-weight from too much fried chicken and meetings at Ryan’s. It is a sin that strikes a little too close to home, and most preachers like preaching on their congregation’s sins and not their own!

Gluttony is one of those sins we assume other people—big people, I mean really obese people—are guilty of. It’s one of those insidious sins because it’s always easy to find someone heavier then we are and think to ourselves, “See, I’m not that fat” and assume we don’t have a problem with the sin of gluttony. And let’s be honest—compared to the other six deadly sins we’ve looked at, how sinful is it really if we eat one more piece of pizza then we probably should?

While it may not be a sin you or I commit on a regular basis, it is, never-the-less a sin most of us have committed in the past, and—in the era of 72-ounce big-gulp cups, super-sized burgers and fries and all-you-can-eat buffets—it may be a sin we commit this week.

What is gluttony? I like one quote I found that said, A glutton is the person who takes the piece of pastry you wanted. One Bible dictionary defines a glutton as one habitually given to greedy and voracious eating. To be voracious means to be exceedingly eager. To be called a glutton is not a nice thing. A glutton is a person given to loose and excessive living—food being just part of the excess. In the NT the word was used to describe a rascal or scoundrel who had an uncontrolled or excessive fondness for the pleasures of the flesh. And, if we go by that definition, most of us would not be considered gluttons.

We may not be habitual gluttons, but it is a sin that most of us have a problem with more times then we care to admit.

Let me put you to the test by asking you a series of diagnostic questions. Have you ever heard these words coming from your lips?

    • "Whew I ate too much!" If so, then maybe you've committed the sin of gluttony.
    • Or how about this phrase: "If I take one more bite, I'll bust"? If so, then maybe you've committed the sin of gluttony.
    • Or how about his famous phrase, /"I can't believe I ate the whole thing!" If you've used that phrase, then maybe you've committed the sin of gluttony.

Why was over-eating considered a deadly sin by our spiritual forefathers? They believed, and rightly so, that self-indulgence is the enemy of gratitude. The early church fathers believed that a person's appetites are linked. Full stomachs and quenched palates take the edge from our hunger and thirst for righteousness. They saw gluttony as a gate-way sin that led to other sins of the flesh such as lust and sloth.

Ultimately, gluttony is not merely about over-eating; it is about overindulgence in general and our attitudes toward overindulgence. It is the mad pursuit of the bodily pleasures that never completely satisfy, because our real need is for spiritual satisfaction in Christ. Frederick Buechner, a Presbyterians minister, theologian and author, says that “ ... a glutton is one who runs to the icebox for a cure to a spiritual malnutrition.”

Gluttony—in whatever form it takes—spoils one's appetite for God. This is exactly the situation found in the text I read a few moments ago and provides the foundation for my first point ...


            1. the people of Israel have been wandering in the desert for only a few months if not just weeks
                1. every day, God miraculously provided a substance called manna, to sustain them during their march to the Promised Land
                2. but very quickly they became tired of manna
                    1. I’m sure there are just so many ways you can fix manna
                    2. I can just hear some Jewish husband complaining, “Manna casserole again!?”
            2. the blandness of the manna compared with the spicy food of Egypt prompted a wholesale rebellion against Moses and the Lord
            3. God was angered, but He is also longsuffering
                1. the Scriptures tell us that God caused a wind to blow which brought flocks of migrating quail right through the camp of the Israelites
                2. all the Hebrews had to do was knock the birds down and pick them up
                3. and they did it by the bushel basket full
                    1. Numbers 11:32 tells us that every person who caught quail collected no less than 10 homers of quail each
                    2. if you have a good study Bible it probably has a footnote that tells you that 10 homers is equal to 60 of our bushel baskets!
                    3. now, Exodus 12:37 tells us that 600,000 men took part in the exodus from Egypt along with women and children
                    4. do the math: lets assume that just the men caught quail: AND if each man caught 60 bushels worth of quail, that equals 36,000,000 bushels of quail, AND if one bushel basket will hold 50 quail THEN that equals 1,800,000,000 birds!
                    5. that’s a lot of hot-wings
            4. talk about a pig-out party!
                    1. and that is exactly what the Israelites did—they pigged out
            5. instead of giving God the glory for the miracle of providing the people such a bounty, they began a binge of lustful gluttony that focused instead on the meat instead of the Master
                1. they failed to give thanks
                    1. they neglected to recognize God for the miracle
                2. God became angry
                    1. the bible says that while the meat was still between their teeth, the Lord unleashed His wrath against them and sent a severe plague that killed many of them
                    2. the place where this happened was named Kibroth-Hattaavah which means graves of craving because there they buried the people who had craved food more than they craved the God who had given them the food
                3. we also have a plague in America due to overeating and over-indulgence
                    1. it’s called coronary heart disease!
                        1. 14,000,000 Americans suffer from it
                        2. almost 500,000 Americans die from it every year making it the leading cause of death in the United States
                        3. and while smoking plays a part as well as stress and even heredity, the biggest culprit is the American diet
                          • ILLUS. A Jewish Proverb says, “Gluttons dig their graves with their teeth.”
            6. our early spiritual fore-fathers considered gluttony a sin because it focuses our attention on the sustenance rather than on the provider of the sustenance
                1. I submit to you that to eat anything without giving thanks to God for it or recognizing God as the provider of it, makes us a glutton


            1. the early Christian theologians understood gluttony in different ways than we do
                1. the first is the obvious—simply eating too much
                2. but gluttony concerns not only the quantity of food we eat, it also concerns our attitude about food: Our preoccupation with it, our impatience when we do not get it fast enough, and our resentment when we are deprived of it
                3. gluttony can simply be giving eating too much attention
                  • ILLUS. Most of you are familiar with the stories that revolve around a bear named Pooh. Pooh Bear's favorite thing in the world to do is eat – especially honey. In one conversation, Rabbit asks Winnie the Pooh, "When you get up in the morning what is the first thing you think of?" Pooh Bear ponders the question for a moment and answers, "The first thing I think of in the morning when I get up is, What am I going to have for breakfast!'"
            2. in the Old Testament we find a man named Esau who had a distorted emphasis on food
              • “Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.) Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.” (Genesis 25:28–34, NIV)
                1. he valued a full stomach even more then his birthright which was his spiritual heritage
            3. was Esau really about to die from want of food?
                1. it is very doubtful
                2. Esau was expressing the very same sentiments we do when we exclaim, "Honey, when will dinner be ready? I'm about to starve to death."
                3. Esau's philosophy is echoed by the attitude of the rich man Jesus preached about in Luke's gospel
            4. Esau’s attitude concerning food and drink reveal three distortions in our attitudes about daily sustenance


            1. first, let me say that eating is a wonderful experience
                1. American's three favorite words are "Let's order out!"
                2. there is nothing wrong with having a good meal: Jesus enjoyed good meals - some even called Him a glutton
                3. we love to fellowship around the dinning room table or at the kitchen bar
                    1. Americans live in the only country in the world where pie-eating contests are old-fashioned fun and all-you-can-eat restaurants dot the landscape
                    2. we’re a nation of big eaters who turn eating into annual festivals
                      • ILLUS. A search of the internet turned up some of the following gastronomic events you can attend almost any summer: There is the Spamarama in Austin, TX for Spam lovers; the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, the Lobster Race & Oyster Parade in Aiken, SC; the Artichoke Festival in Castorville, CA; the National Fiery Foods Show in Reno, NV; the Annual Sweet Onion Festival in Rock Springs AR; the anual Return of the Chili Queens festival in San Antonio, TX; and, my favorite, the Great Monterey Squid Festival, Monterey CA.
            2. secondly, let me say that eating is a physical necessity
                1. ya don't eat, ya die
            3. but let's face it . . . in America today we have exaggerated and distorted the importance of food
              • ILLUS. Where else but in the United States would a company spend $3,000,000 for sixty-seconds of air time to advertise their beer or their pizza during a football game?
            4. advertising distorts the importance of food and drink in our lives by convincing us that, we too, should eat, drink, and be merry for that is what life is all about
                1. drink the right kind of beer and babes in skimpy bathing suits will show up in your pool
                2. eat the right candy bar and you'll find your taste buds rollicking in absolute rapture
                3. choose the right pizza and you'll be dancing in the aisle
                4. choose the wrong picante sauce and you’ll be ostracized by your friends
            5. our Lord said that life is about more than these things
              • “Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” (Luke 12:22–24, NIV)
            6. it may be time for believers to once again seriously think about fasting
                1. Jesus never instructed his disciples to fast, but from the Scriptures we can infer that he assumed that we would
            7. gluttony not only distorts the importance of food . . .


            1. our early church fathers also defined gluttony as eating too expensively
                1. it was not uncommon for the nobles and well-to-do of ancient Roman society to throw lavish banquets
                2. they were given at great expense and often lasted for days frequently turning into drunken orgies
            2. it's amazing what some people will pay for food or drink
              • ILLUS. One of the most expensive meals ever served took place at the The Dome Restaurant in Bankok, Thailand in 2007. Fifteen guests were served a ten-course meal that cost $30,000, not including the tip. Italian Chef Heinz Winkler told the Associated Press that the dinner was “Worth every penny.” To dine a Masa’s in Manhattan will cost you a minimum of $500 per person, which makes dinning at a San Francisco restaurant called The French laundry a real bargain at $195 a person. If you have a discriminating palate and money is no object you might consider some of the following culinary items. These are some of the most expensive food items in the world ... Matsutake Mushrooms – $1000pound; Wagyu Steak – $2800pound; Yubari cantaloupes – $22,872 for two; Italian White Alba Truffles – $160,406/pound
            3. these prices give new meaning to the phrase "living high-on-the-hog"
                1. the early church fathers would have considered placing this kind of value on food items as gourmet gluttony
                  • ILLUS. D.G. Fraser and Andrew Rimas refer to this as the new gluttony in a book by that title. They write: "The new gluttony co-exists with the old, but instead of too many calories, it craves refinement. Instead of the chili fries, it orders the glass of aged port and the imported cheese. And instead of being frowned upon as indulgent and wasteful, it’s applauded as a mark of sophistication.”
                2. but gluttony by any other name is still gluttony
                3. when we live to eat instead of eating to live we’ve put too high a value on food
            4. not only does gluttony distort the importance of food and the value of food . . .


            1. the early church fathers also understood gluttony as eating too eagerly
            2. when we become so preoccupied with getting ‘our fair share’ of what’s on the table or wolfing down our meal so we can get back in line quickly, we are guilty of the sin of gluttony
              • ILLUS. We see an example of this among believers in the Church at Corinth. Gluttony had become such a problem in the church, that the Apostle Paul had to speak to it. The early church regularly held what were called ‘Love Feasts.’ They we fellowship meals that culminated in the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Evidently, some in the church began behaving badly in relation to the supper. Some were evidently getting to the church early and devouring the fare before everyone arrived. That meant that some went hungry. Not only that, but some were even getting drunk on the wine that was to fill the communion cup! A service that was meant to be spiritual and promote fellowship among believers was ruined because of a few gluttonous believers.
            3. in the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul warns us not to become like those Christians who have abandoned the faith
                1. he says “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things,” (Philippians 3:19, NIV)
            4. in the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day, enjoying the fellowship of family and friends and showing good ol fashioned table manners was as important—if not more so—than actually consuming the food
                1. in other words, consuming food while important for sustenance, is not nearly as important as the act of eating and the people we do it with


            1. gluttony is the silent but deadly sin of American culture
                1. 34% of all U.S. adults over 20-years-old are obese and another 34% are considered overweight
                2. 14% of our children are overweight
                3. 12% of our teenagers are overweight
            2. but we live in a country that virtually worship slimeness
                1. "fat" is ugly and "thine" is beautiful
            3. the result is a host of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia and millions of dollars spent on dieting, liposuction, and body sculpturing
            4. there's something almost schizophrenic about a culture that wants us all to look like Barbie and Ken while at the same time encouraging us to eat and drink ourselves into oblivion


            1. we need moderation
                1. the Bible tells one of the Fruits of the Spirit is Temperance or Self-control
                2. believers need to exercise temperance in every area of life – including our eating habits
                3. the secret to self-control is Christ-control
                    1. it begins when you surrender your heart and life to Christ
                    2. when you surrender your life to Christ, God will transform and change your
                    3. that is what God is in the business of doing
                4. that is why Jesus died on the cross – not only to save you, but to transform and change you
            2. we need healthy eating habits
                1. God gave the Jewish people many ‘dos’ and ‘don’t’s’ concerning their diets
                    1. some food was considered ‘clean’ and fit to eat while other items were considered ‘unclean’ and unfit to eat
                2. God did this to protect His people and encourage healthy eating
                3. for most of us, out biggest problem is not overeating but unhealthy eating
            3. we need to express thankfulness
                1. thankfulness helps us focus on the one who has provided our sustenance instead of the sustenance itself
                  • “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV)
                2. I have a feeling that if we really ate so as to give glory to God we would . . .
                    1. #1 not eat so much
                    2. #2 eat a lot healthier than most of us do

Why was over-eating considered a deadly sin by our spiritual forefathers? Because self-indulgence of our physical appetite usually dulls our spiritual appetite. Bottom line—do we spend as much time feeding our souls each day as we do feeding our stomachs?

Ultimately, gluttony is not about over-eating; it is about overindulgence. It is the mad pursuit of the bodily pleasures that never completely satisfy. And that is always sin.

Let me close by sharing a Jewish prayer of the 1st century:

Who will set a guard over my mouth, and an effective seal upon my lips, so that I may not fall because of them, and my tongue may not destroy me? O Lord, Father and Master of my life, do not abandon me to their designs, and do not let me fall because of them! Who will set whips over my thoughts, and the discipline of wisdom over my mind, so as not to spare me in my errors, and not overlook my sins? Otherwise my mistakes may be multiplied, and my sins may abound, and I may fall before my adversaries, and my enemy may rejoice over me. O Lord, Father and God of my life, do not give me haughty eyes, and remove evil desire from me. Let neither gluttony nor lust overcome me, and do not give me over to shameless passion.

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