From gluttony to self-control
Have you ever realised just how ‘pro-food’ the Bible is?
Read through the Old Testament and God frequently turns up over a meal, or calls people to have a meal (Passover being the most famous but certainly not the only one). The land given to the people of Israel is famed for its food; the first spies infiltrate the land and return with super-sized fruit to prove it. Grapes the size of space hoppers. Food is not just a detail or in the background, it’s a sign of God’s goodness and provision. Enjoy!
Skip to the New Testament and Jesus seems to spend most of the first section of his ministry sat with people eating. With friends, disciples, Pharisees, tax collectors, wedding guests. Zacchaeus is famous for being small and rich, but he gets an invite to eat with Jesus. Peter gets restored from his failure over breakfast on a beach.
Jesus gets a label thrown back at him: “a glutton and a drunkard”. It doesn’t stick, but it’s a reminder that food and drink were everyday parts of his life, and of his humanity. His teaching and miracles depended on the stuff we eat too: “don’t worry about what you will eat”, “you’re invited to a wedding banquet”. Watch what he can do with a few loaves and fishes and realise here is the One who can satisfy your soul.
The very thing he left his disciples by which to remember him was not a mantra or a list of good works but a meal: bread and wine.
There is no problem whatsoever with eating and drinking and enjoying doing so. Good food, and in good company, is one of the great joys of life. The Bible backs that up time and again, it encourages us to share our lives and our tables – to practice hospitality.
Food may be good but our desires are not always good, sometimes they rule us when we need to rule them. When we consider the deadly sin of gluttony, many of us are perhaps unaware of … how do we put this … our relationship with food. Or it might be drink, or exercise, or a hobby. Where the desire for something dominates and shapes our life, and not a God-shaped desire, then we’re heading for trouble. Gluttony is a deadly sin, it can literally kill us.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.1 Corinthians 6:19
How much, what, why and when we eat say something about our respect for ourselves, for the needs of others, for the resources of this planet, and God’s desire for our good. We’re made in God’s image, to love him and others as we love ourselves. If we’re controlled by our desires to consume (gluttony), we’re losing sight not just of our health but of holy, godly, good living.
The fruit of the Spirit (there’s a good food guide if ever we need one) includes self-control, and mastering our desires (Gal. 5:22-24). God is able to help us, to change us, perhaps to rescue us from ourselves.
What change would you want to ask God to empower you to make with your eating and drinking?
Where would you want to see more self-control in your life?
What will your prayer be, for a renewed spiritual appetite this week?
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