Food Fight

God created man hungry. Among the first words spoken to the freshly created man and woman were, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Ge 1.29). Hunger and the satisfaction of it are God-given gifts to man in his sinless condition, not results of the fall. Man’s hunger is a constant reminder that he is a creature whose day-to-day existence is dependent upon the grace of God. God made us hungry and wants us to eat good food and lots of it. In fact, food is central to our worship of God. Whether we are talking about the fruit of the Tree of Life in the Garden, the daily offerings in the Tabernacle and Temple, the Feasts of Israel, or the Lord’s Supper, God has always called us to a table to eat in his presence in order to enjoy communion with him. God wants us to enjoy good food in abundance. Our hunger and his provision to satisfy it our his gifts to us. 

Hunger and food aren’t problems. Hunger is not to be considered a human weakness that we must overcome, and food is not to be seen as an evil that must be avoided. God has not called us to “rise above” the necessity of food. Those who condemn food (whether our need for it or certain types of food) are teaching the doctrine of demons (1Tm 4.1-3). All foods are good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. God sanctified all foods by his declaration in creation that everything he made was good, and all foods are sanctified to us when we receive it in prayer (1Tm 4.4-5). 

As with all other good gifts from God, sin twists our hunger and God’s provision of food so that they are turned into idols. We begin to allow our cravings to control us. They give us commands and we obey. When this happens our hunger has replaced God himself in our lives. This is the sin of gluttony. 

Gluttony is the sin of being obsessed with food. Gluttony is the idolization of food; that is, believing that it is food itself that will give you the life you crave. The glutton is the obese man who is constantly gorging himself with food. He is never satisfied. He may be full, but he can’t stop. The food is killing him because of his over-indulgence, but it doesn’t matter to him. He continues to eat what he wants, when he wants, and how much he wants. He cares not for the future consequences only the present pleasure. He doesn’t care that his lack of self-control is not only hurting him but hurting those who love him; whether through watching him kill himself over the long-term or putting undue burdens on his family (financially and otherwise) because he doesn’t want to push away from the table. The glutton’s consumption of food reveals his own self-consumption. Nobody else in the world matters. He and his cravings are all that matter.

While the common picture of the glutton is indeed an accurate picture of the sin of gluttony, it is certainly not the only picture of gluttony. Gluttony is obsessed with food. That obsession can take the form of quantity, but it can also take the form of quality. There are people who are controlled by fear of food. Of course, sometimes there are medical reasons to avoid certain foods. That’s understandable. But there are some who constantly worried about their waistlines to the point that can never enjoy God’s gifts. They will consider a piece of chocolate cake as a moral evil. People will say things like “I was so bad today” when they eat something not approved by the bishops of health in our society. In the extreme this obsession with food leads to anorexia, bulimia, and being consumed with exercise. This type of glutton is looking for his salvation through food as much as the obese man. “If I just eat all the approved foods, then I should be in perfect health.” But it never happens. 

Food is not our savior, but our Savior is food. The only way the glutton can be delivered from his sin is at a Table; a Table where he learns that the eternal Son became food for us so that we could be truly satisfied. In his grace he doesn’t call the glutton to forsake food, but he teaches him that his cravings can only be satisfied by first feasting on Christ’s body and blood. At this Table Christ teaches us how to eat properly. We learn that our salvation is in Christ alone, that we are to be concerned for others around us in our consumption of food, and that we need not fear food. Learn to eat at Christ’s Table and you will be freed from the enslavement of gluttony.

Come, taste and see that the Lord is good!