by: Jack Hughes
- Dieting and Eating
We are presently exploring what the Bible says about eating and particularly sinful eating habits. Billions of dollars are spent every year to get people to eat certain foods or dine out at certain restaurants. Billions of dollars are spent every year trying to keep people from suffering the consequences of eating too much. We are constantly being bombarded with advertisements for food, dieting, and exercise.
While the world is doing a fantastic job at promoting worldly views concerning eating, God’s views on eating, and specifically sinful eating habits, are being ignored, even in the church. Obviously the world does not have the answers to sinful indulgence, overeating, obesity, anorexia, bulimia, and just plain slavery to food. While most people don’t mind being accosted about their poor eating habits or their need to get some exercise in the privacy of their own home while watching television or reading the paper, they don’t really want to know what God says about these things. The reason is that once God gets brought into the picture, then the believer is responsible to obey and if he does not, he dishonors God by sinning.
Contrary to what Satan would want us to believe, ignorance is not bliss. As God proclaimed through Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6). We must have God’s knowledge in order to flee from sin, and pursue righteousness in every area of our lives. This is why we are doing this series “When Eating Becomes Sin.” So far we have looked at some extra-biblical reasons to have self-control in our eating. Obesity is one of the great killers in the world today. People who are overweight have a lower quality of life and are more likely to suffer from a host of debilitating and or lethal diseases.
Then we looked at some of the Biblical reasons to have self control in our eating: 1) improper eating habits are harmful to our bodies, 2) the Bible says we are not to be mastered by anything, 3) the Bible says we are not to show partiality and ignore certain sins in the church while condemning others, and 4) we are told to avoid hypocritical judgment by condemning sins in others when we too practice the same thing.
In our second Calvary Review we looked at Scriptures that told us food and being able to eat and enjoy food is a blessing of God. We learned that food is a gift that brings us pleasure and sustains us. The danger is when we enjoy a blessing outside of the bounds of Scripture. When we do that, eating becomes a sin.
In our last Calvary Review we specifically focused on Scriptures that address sinful indulgence. We learned that indulgence is often mentioned in the same context with other sins like murder and immorality. When you hear that, your first reaction might be, “Jack, are you trying to say that eating too much ice cream is the same as murdering someone or committing immorality?” I am merely pointing out that they are mentioned together as they are all sins of indulgence. They all appear in the same contexts because they are the same kind of sins. They are sins of the flesh or sins that bring pleasure to our bodies. And it is clear from the Scriptures that anyone who is a slave to any sin, regardless of kind or degree, “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-4). This is why any sin is a very serious matter. People are not condemned to hell for “big sins,” but because they commit any sin! If the only sin you ever committed was eating too much ice cream just one time on a hot summer night, that one sin would be enough to send you to hell for all eternity! This may seem petty to us, but we must remember that to an infinitely holy God, every sin is an infinite offence. As we shall continue to see, there are many Scriptures which both implicitly and explicitly speak to our eating habits. Any sin that put Christ on the cross is really bad!
We also learned that false teachers and godless people are often characterized in the Scriptures as those given over to fleshly indulgence. (See Mt. 23:25; I Cor. 6:12-13; Phil. 3:18-19; Gal. 5:19 & 21; Heb. 12:16; II Pet. 2:9-10; I Jn. 2:15-17). Now we will add two more categories of Scriptures which give us principles that address how we must eat in order to give glory to God.
Scriptures which address the sin of not exercising self-control
You may be wondering if practicing self-control or preaching and teaching on the topic of self-control is all that important. Acts 24:24-25 describes for us a historical event concerning the preaching of Paul. This is what the text says, “But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, ‘Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.’” Here we learn that Paul’s Gospel included exhortation on God’s view of self-control. Paul wanted Felix to know that being a Christian meant exercising self-control.
In Gal. 5:22-23 Paul is discussing the fruit of the Holy Spirit. He has just finished describing the deeds of the flesh that characterize all those who will not inherit the kingdom of God. He then describes the opposite of the deeds of the flesh saying,“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Notice that the last quality of the fruit of the spirit mentioned is “self-control.” It is also important to realize that Paul uses what is called a composite singular here. The word “fruit” is singular in the Greek, and yet contains many parts, kind of like an orange that is a single fruit, but it is composed of many sections. What this means is that you must have all the pieces in order to have the singular fruit. A Christian who does not exercise self-control in their eating is not obeying the command to walk in the Spirit.
In II Pet. 1:5-8 Peter, exhorting his readers to holy conduct, says,“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”Notice that Paul puts a condition on spiritual growth and godliness “if these qualities are yours and are increasing,” and one of the qualities he says is necessary for spiritual growth and being useful and fruitful to God is “self-control.” What this means is if you are not self-controlled, then you will not be useful or fruitful as a Christian.
In all three of the verses above the same Greek word is translated “self-control.” The word describes mastery or control over your desires, passions, lust and appetites. It describes the process of bringing your fleshly desires under the control of the Holy Spirit. The basic components of the word describe power or lordship over someone or some thing. Hence the person who has self-control has power or lordship over his own desires and lusts.
Paul in II Tim. 3:1-5, describing the godlessness of the last days, uses a negative form of the same word translated self control above. Paul says, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” Notice that the godless are described, among other things, as “without self-control.” Not exercising self-control is a godless activity and hence is sinful behavior.
In Titus 1:7-8 Paul addresses the qualification of leaders and says, “For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled.”Here Paul explains that the overseer must not be characterized as “self-willed” but “self-controlled.” Again, this is a slightly different form of the same word defined above.
It is easy to see how the Scriptures above apply to our eating habits. Christians must be self-controlled in what they eat. It also means that it is sin for a Christian not to exercise self-control in his or her eating habits. This leads us to our next group of Scriptures that address the sin of living an undisciplined life.
The sin of living an undisciplined life
In I Cor. 9:24-27 Paul explains his reason for being above reproach in order to win people to Christ. He says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” Notice that Paul uses the analogy of athletes who must be “disciplined”and “exercise self-control in all things.” In the same way, the Christian must exercise self-control and be disciplined in his eating as lack of self-control in any area of our lives shows slavery to sin, not submission to Christ and actually hinders our ability to witness to others.
Notice how Paul describes his life style to the Thessalonians in II Thess. 3:7, 11 where he says, “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you.” Then he goes on to say in vs. 11 “For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.” Obviously, living a life of self-control and discipline is hard work, but it is necessary work if we are going to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ. It is also encouraging to realize that every Christian has the God given ability to be self-controlled and disciplined. Paul in II Tim. 1:7 reminds Timothy of this saying, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”
The conclusion to what we have studied so far might be summed up in several statements: 1) obesity is dangerous to your health; 2) the Bible tells us to take care of our bodies; 3) the Bible teaches we are not to show partiality in the sins we condemn; 4) the Bible teaches we are to avoid hypocritically condemning sins in others when we are slaves to the same kinds of sin; 5) fleshly indulgence is a serious sin that Christians are to avoid; 6) false teachers and godless people are often characterized by slavery to their appetite and fleshly indulgence; 7) the Bible teaches that not exercising self-control is a sin; and 8) the Bible teaches that living an undisciplined life is sin. There is more to come, but for now, meditate on the Scriptures above and ask God to help you evaluate your eating habits in light of what the Scriptures teach.
Will cite source location at end of series.