I have been thinking a lot about gluttony lately. Primarily because my facebook news feed is constantly filled with article posted by friends about organic foods, and avoiding chemicals, and how we are all going to die if we eat chicken with added hormones. I am not a scientist and so I honestly am not sure about all of the information coming out about food. I read the research and the studies seem very unscientific in the way they find their results–scholarship is generally pitiful in this area on all sides–and I am reminded that not even 50 years ago all the experts said the opposite of what current experts say. Likely in 50 years more it will change again.
What I find is that gluttony comes to my mind because many of these brothers and sisters in Christ believe that by giving their friends this information they are helping prevent gluttony, they are protecting their co-laborers’ health, and they are leading them to be good stewards of their bodies. And in some cases they are giving what appears to be helpful information–I don’t doubt their motives. What I doubt is how helpful it is to be constantly discussing food concerns. Just as it seems like a poor choice to focus on any ONE issue.
When people talk about eating healthier as Christians it is often in the context of “my body is a temple,” referencing 1 Corinthians 6:19. One obvious way, however, to test if someone is thinking biblically about a topic is to simply look at their use of Scripture. 1 Corinthians 6:19 is speaking very specifically about sexual immorality. If fact, the point being made is a very specific, logical argument that sets aside sexual immorality is a different kind of sin from, say, gluttony.
But that is not to say that the Bible does not speak about food:
From Matthew 6:
This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add a single cubit to his height[o] by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the idolaters[p] eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God[q] and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
From Acts 10:
9 The next day, as they were traveling and nearing the city, Peter went up to pray on the housetop about noon. 10 Then he became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something, he went into a visionary state. 11 He saw heaven opened and an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. 12 In it were all the four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. 13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!”
14 “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything common and ritually unclean!”
15 Again, a second time, a voice said to him, “What God has made clean, you must not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and then the object was taken up into heaven.
From Romans 14:
Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about doubtful issues. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, but one who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat, and one who does not eat must not criticize one who does, because God has accepted him…
So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. 20 Do not tear down God’s work because of food. Everything is clean, but it is wrong for a man to cause stumbling by what he eats. 21 It is a noble thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother stumble. 22 Do you have a conviction? Keep it to yourself before God. The man who does not condemn himself by what he approves is blessed. 23 But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from a conviction, and everything that is not from a conviction is sin.
What I see when I read these passages is this–what you eat is not in itself sinful. But, if you are convicted about eating something you shouldn’t eat it. You should, however, keep it as a private conviction less you create a law out of a conviction and tear down the work of Christ and the Gospel. If you are worried about what you eat, you have missed the point of conviction about food–your worry will not add one second to the length of your life. Nor will your eating choices. I don’t mean that eating choices are unimportant, nor that stewardship of our bodies is unimportant, but that serving a sovereign God who numbers our days before any have come to pass should remove worry and fear related to food.
I have known a woman who would not partake of communion because she felt it was wrong to eat wheat gluten and the bread served had gluten in it. I have also known a woman who was allergic to grape juice and so requested that another juice be served. The second woman rightly understood the purpose of food and asked that, since she desired to partake of communion, that modifications be made. The first woman used God’s ordinance as an opportunity to place her personal conviction above her fellowship with the body and to make a point. One of these shows a desire to give God glory despite difficult circumstances, the other shows the desire to create difficult circumstances and glorify food.
The true purpose of food for the believer is perhaps most clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 10 when Paul says “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” And how is God glorified through eating? God is glorified through eating when it is not about the food. God is glorified in eating when it is about people and the work of the Gospel. If you struggle to eat with those with whom you are a covenant church member because of your feelings about food, or if your food choices–to be healthy or not–are elevated above your commitment to fellowship together, then you need to consider whether Scripture would support this attitude.