I LOVE food. I love to cook it, I love to eat it, I follow numerous social media profiles dedicated to it, and I’m even a sucker for watching it on TV. Even though I’m obsessed with the food I routinely shovel into my face, I still try to make healthy options and not to eat in excess. So, naturally I didn’t think I struggled with gluttony, but as it turns out, gluttony has less to do with portion size, and more to do with my relationship with food itself.
Recently, our culture has elevated food from a basic necessity to a necessary comfort. Advertisements today promise consumers that eating a certain product will lead to comfort, happiness, and can even mend heartache. On social media, we are often bombarded with images of cheesy pizza, gooey chocolate desserts, and other comfort foods that will invoke a desire to consume whatever we are viewing. As a result, and I’m speaking from experience, we often end up at the fridge or pantry searching for something to satisfy the cravings that our constant food fantasies create. There’s often an inner desire we can’t quite put our finger on, but we are willing to try the full spectrum of snacks, from savory to sweet, in order to quench it. So, what’s the big deal? What’s so wrong with being obsessed with food?
In C.S. Lewis’s, The Screwtape Letters, a senior demon is writing to his nephew on how to capture the soul of the human he inhabits. When the demons discuss gluttony, there were two forms that came to light: excess and delicacy. The first form focuses on the quantity of food consumed, while the second focuses on the desire for a specific type of food. They determined that the desire for food can be such a strong motivator that quantity doesn’t matter as long as the human belly and palate can be used to produce querulousness, impatience, uncharitableness, and self-concern. This is pretty concerning isn’t it? How often do we make light of “hanger”, as an excuse for our outbursts of frustration and anger, which stem from our desire and anxiety for food? How much time do we commit everyday to think about what we will consume at the next meal? How much of our money do we throw away on food that we know we don’t need but that we “have to have”? Our desire for food itself can be considered a form of gluttony – but where do we draw the line between healthy and unhealthy desire?
In Philippians 3:18-19, Paul wrote, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” So, why does Paul make such a specific distinction for food? Well, Paul is not focusing on food itself, but the desire we have for it. The individuals Paul discusses are those enslaved by the need to fulfill their bodily desires. They no longer look to Christ as their source of comfort and joy, but have created functional saviors (i.e. Idols) to worship, in the food they consume. Paul makes no distinction on how much a person needs to consume, but emphasizes that an individual’s source of worship itself is most important, because it can create a war in our hearts between God and our functional saviors.
So, is it bad to think about food or to desire to have a certain meal? Absolutely not! God created food for our enjoyment and to sustain us! However, God never meant for food to take His place in our hearts as our source of fulfillment, comfort, and joy. That place is designed for the one who fulfilled our ultimate need on the cross, for the one who provides and fulfills all that we could need, and for the one who reflects the glory of God. Our ultimate desire should be for a relationship with Christ Himself. He is better than any chocolate chip cookie. He is better than any tub of ice cream. And yes, He is even better than a perfectly cooked steak. So, after a long day, don’t run to the pantry, but to the throne of Grace, where perfect fulfillment, comfort, and joy can be found in the promise and person of Jesus Christ!
God never meant for food to take His place in our hearts as our source of fulfillment, comfort, and joy.