A cartoon shows a sign in front of a café: “Specializing in meals that leave you bloated and lethargic, followed by self-loathing.”
A man says to his wife, “I liked it better when they called it comfort food.”
I know the feeling, friend.
A while back, I was in another state speaking for two nights. The first morning after I had arrived, I had gotten up early and found a downtown diner that catered to the locals. I met a lot of people and put away a big breakfast. A few hours later, my host and another pastor took me for lunch in a buffet restaurant. That evening, I spoke at a banquet where the food was plentiful, delicious, and memorable. Late that night, back in the hotel, I turned on the computer, read my email, and in answer to a question agreed that, yes, I would write an article on gluttony.
I am clearly the right guy for this job. Gluttony is a subject I’m well acquainted with.
Recently, I announced to some friends my plans to write on gluttony, in case they had revelations or insights. None could recall ever hearing a sermon on gluttony. I haven’t either, and I’m the preacher.
Why is that? Why so few sermons on gluttony?
1. Our hypocrisy is obvious.
A preacher can wax forth on the other so-called deadly sins (pride, lust, avarice, anger, envy and sloth) all day long, and everyone except his wife will assume he has the issue well in hand and has no difficulty with this particular discipline.
But not gluttony.
If he overeats, everyone knows it. The bulging waistline, the strained collar, the coat that will not button—all speak eloquently to the failure of the preacher to rein in his appetite.
Gluttony, like most sins, is a case of a thing of beauty that has been spoiled, a healthy and normal drive that has broken the bonds and runs rampant, a faithful servant who has assumed the throne and revealed himself a tyrant.
Okay, enough with the metaphors.
2. The subject is elusive.
What exactly is gluttony? It’s hard to nail down. One reason we pastors gravitate to our favorite sermon topics is that they are more understandable, more practical, more easily categorized. But what is there to say about gluttony, other than, “Don’t do it”?
Everyone has to eat, and occasionally we may overeat and not consider it sinful.
When is over-indulgence at the table sinful? If the preacher brings the subject up, he’d better have answers.
No pastor wants to preach on subjects he can’t get a handle on, issues that “just don’t work for me.”
3. Our Scriptures are rare.
Preach on greed or anger and you have a wealth of texts to draw from. Deal with laziness and every other Proverb seems to speak to the issue. As for lust and pride, biblical illustrations run rampant—everything from Samson to Nebuchadnezzar to Herod.
In the rare article and sermon on gluttony Proverbs 23:1-2 is among those cited: “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is put before you; and put a knife to your throat, if you be a man given to appetite.” But I suspect that’s more about making a good impression on the powerful host than self-control and discipline.
Doubtless Scripture addresses the issue so lightly because this was not a problem for all but a very few First Century believers. The incredible variety of rich food available to clog the arteries of modern-day believers was not possible even for Caesar, much less the Lord’s disciples who tended to have limited financial means.