Matt Wallace is a personal trainer from Maine. He’s written an excellent article on over-eating and its spiritual implications. He calls it, “How the Gospel Overcomes Gluttony”.
Here are some highlights:
Having worked professionally as a personal trainer for over 15 years, I know millions of people resolve each year to get control of the overeating that has haunted them and perhaps threatens their health. And I’m not talking about enjoying an occasional dessert, but rather a desperate dependence upon food.
In attempt to fix the problem, millions of dollars are poured into the fitness industry, gym memberships expand, and every manner of diet book and fitness product. No doubt these books will be full of easy-to-follow principles. Nevertheless, a month or so later we learn the five easy principles are anything but easy. The constant failure reveals that the problem with chronic overeating goes deeper than we have ever imagined.
Turning to the Scriptures, we see a diagnosis of the human condition that goes to the root of all our problems. What we see is that the real problem isn’t food, or weak willpower, but the affections of our hearts. In Genesis 3, we see the root of every sin is a disaffection for God, based in unbelief. Satan used the fruit to sell a grand story of how food would impart to Adam and Eve a better identity than being God’s children and reflectors of his glory. As the story was sold, the fruit would give knowledge that would make them not merely image bearers of God, but gods.
Because Adam and Eve didn’t trust in their exalted status, approval, and security in God, they sought to establish their own righteousness. It was the forbidden fruit that promised salvation. So, in rebellion, they ate to satisfy their deepest longings. Although they had plenty of food in the garden, it wasn’t enough. Their hope was that food would give them a better existence than being loved by God. That is the root of gluttony. It is a deep seated rebellious affection based on the lie that food is more pleasurable than God. Gluttony is not merely a lack will power, it is religious in nature as it is service, devotion, and worship of the pleasure of food instead of God. In short, gluttony is idolatry.
As Richard Baxter explains, “Gluttony is a sin so exceedingly contrary to the love of God: it is idolatry. It hath the heart which God should have . . . because that love, that care, that delight, that service and diligence which God should have, is given by the glutton to his belly and to his throat.”
Paul underscores the severity and end of trusting in food as a god. “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Phil. 3:19).
For the glutton, food is more pleasing, more alluring, more enthralling, more satisfying, and more beautiful than God. The glutton has covenanted with overeating to be their comfort, security, approval. In doing so, the glutton has become his own savior, eating his means of grace as a sacrifice on the altar of pleasure. If this is true, then we need to assess overeating with new eyes. We must say plainly, “I treasure food more than I treasure God.” Gluttony exposes how we really feel about God.
That is why our resolutions are powerless to change the heart. We need more than principles and personal trainers. The good news for the glutton is that acceptance and change aren’t based on our resolutions and effort (Gal. 2:15–21), but on God’s gracious resolution and effort to make us his workmanship in Christ (Eph. 2:8–10). The only resolution that matters is God’s gracious resolution to give sinners himself through the blood-stained cross and empty tomb. The gospel of Christ offers us all we need to satisfy the hungry soul, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger” (John 6:35). . .
Thomas Chalmers called it “the expulsive power of a new affection” that uproots and dethrones gluttony. The vain and fleeting pleasures of gluttony are replaced by our union and communion with the breathtaking loveliness of the blessed Trinity. So to the degree that the glutton sees the contrast between what we justly deserve and what we are freely given, new affections take over and we “taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8), that in God there is, “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
So when the soul is depressed about the future, when failure breaks into our lives, when the break up happens, when the loneliness shows its teeth, when grief will not relent, when the daily rhythms of existence seem lifeless and bleak, when our dreams crash, it is not to the kitchen we go, but to Christ and recount his heroic exploits on our behalf. We must learn to rely on his gospel on the spot. The gospel with all of its flavors are to be savored and enjoyed drawing down nourishment and delight in the soul. So the gospel of Christ is the sole ground of the glutton’s approval, but it is also the ground upon which gluttony is put to death and where renewal and change take place until the work is finished. . . .
Fighting against gluttony will be a daily battle. The world, flesh, and the devil will allure, entice, and try to convince the soul through hardships and enchantments that food is more beautiful than God. To persevere, the soul will need to learn by the Spirit to daily feed on the gospel.
Read the whole thing. It’s excellent: