What does a discussion of God have to do with a book on becoming beautifully, healthfully and gloriously thin for life? After all, losing weight, dieting, and exercising are all a matter of willpower, discipline, and brain-retraining, right?
Not entirely. In fact, God has a very important role to play in your becoming the person you want to be, so that you can overcome the negative habits and behaviors that have so long kept you from reaching your goals.
Gluttony is a sin that Christians all but ignore. If someone chain-smoked or abused alcohol or was having an extramarital affair, we would never let them have a leadership position within the church. You simply wouldn’t find someone like this leading Bible study or Sunday School. Yet too many Christians have no problem with overeating. Look around you in church on Sunday morning, and you can easily tell who they are.
So which of God’s laws are we actually paying attention to?
The book of Proverbs contains many admonitions about overeating.
Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags (Proverbs 23:20-21).
He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father (Proverbs 28:7).
Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony (Proverbs 23:2).
The Bible makes it very clear that overeating is a sin. God says we need to control our appetites rather than allow our appetites to control us. So although a lot of people may joke about overeating, but there’s nothing funny about it.
Why is overeating a sin? Because a problem with overeating means food has become an idol.
In Exodus, when Moses and the Israelites are given the Ten Commandments, God gives His people two very specific commandments about the kind of relationship they should have with Him.
God’s first rule is very clear about this: “You shall have no other Gods before me” (Exodus 20:3 niv).
His second rule is equally clear: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them” (Exodus 20:4-5).
It’s no accident that God made these His first two commandments. To Him, it’s essential that we don’t do either of these things—have other Gods, or make an idol out of anything that tempts us. God is supreme.
It may seem odd to have a discussion of idolatry in a book on nutrition, but if you’re struggling with overeating—if food occupies your attention more than it should—then food has become your idol. Idolatry is when we begin to value anything more than we value God.
In Luke 10:27, Jesus tells us how we should love God. He says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”
The Bible clearly tells us we’re supposed to love God in this fashion, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to do.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying what we eat, but food can’t be the focus in our life. Take it from someone who knows what it is to make food an idol, who knows what it is to lust after food. I may not even have finished breakfast, but I’m already wondering what’s for lunch. When I’m eat lunch, I’m thinking about what to have for dinner. Frankly, I think about food all the time—what I’ll be eating, how it will be prepared, where it’s coming from.
Let’s take a look at how those two all-important commandments that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai came into play. It’s important, when we’re discussing the Bible and its commandments and promises, that we look at the writings in context. So let’s examine the previous chapter, Exodus 19, to see how serious God was about these things He created commandments around.
3 Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.”
Then Lord says, speaking about Mount Sinai:
12 “Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death.’ ”
God commands us to make sure no one touches the mountain. If you touch even the foot of the mountain, you must be put to death.
Thus, in verses 5 through 8, God made a covenant with Abraham. He promised to make these people into great nation and to bless and care for them. The people promised to obey. But the good intentions of people quickly wore off.
Using this as a guideline, each of us must ask ourselves: Have I made a good commitment to God in the area of food? How am I holding up my end of the bargain?
5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.
You see, when we make a commitment to God and say, “God, I’m not going to eat anything until I’m truly hungry,” are you holding up your end of the bargain? Or do your good intentions quickly wear off?
God is serious. There are consequences for sin. God told the Israelites, Listen, here’s your one rule: You can’t touch the foot of the mountain. A mountain here represents anything God has said not to do. Our attitude all too often seems to be, I know you’re telling me NOT to do it but I’m going to do it anyway.
But think for a moment. Why would God ask us not to touch the mountain?
We know it must be for our benefit that He’s doesn’t want us to touch it. He’s telling us not to touch the “mountain”—not to overeat—for our own well-being. That’s because overeating has serious consequences—health consequences as well as financial and social consequences. God does all these things for our own good.
Yes, the Bible is very clear about overeating. It’s not a gray area.
God reiterates what is called the Great Commandment in Mark 12:28:
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Luke 10:27).
What does it mean to love someone with your whole heart?
I think the best way to describe loving someone with your whole heart is this:
If anyone has ever cheated on you, you may already understand this one. I know that if my husband ever found out I had feelings for another man (which I don’t), he’d be devastated. He’d be upset because I wasn’t giving my whole heart to him.
It’s the same way with God. He wants us to desire a relationship only with Him. We have a God-shaped hole in our heart that we try to fill with other things, but He wants 100% of our heart. Some have given pieces of their heart to others things—worship of careers, of money, of sports or hobbies or wealth—or substances like alcohol and food. But God wants it all.
Here’s another barometer of our true feelings: If God took away your food, how would you feel? How would you react?
I know someone who was in this situation. Catherine had recently been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The trick is to figure out which foods are setting off the problem for you. Catherine told me about a time she was in a supermarket, so hungry because she was scared to eat anything and had been consuming very little. She looked around at all the wonderful foods that she would have given anything to eat, but she knew nearly everything her eyes landed on would cause the most appalling diarrhea. She realized, suddenly, that food had become her enemy. It had become toxic to her system.
That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. If God took away your food, how would you feel? Desperate? Despairing? In revolt? In denial?
When you worship something else, like food, you end up feeling drained, lethargic, worn out and emotionally empty. Because once the consequences set in, that’s how you feel. You’ll feel empty because you never got what you were looking for. And what is that? What we’re looking for in food is comfort. Yet, because food is just a temporary fix, we end up feeling worse.
Truth: God will not let your false God give you what you’re looking for.