Playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote, “There is no love sincerer than the love of food” (Man and Superman, Act I). That may be true in some people, in which case they might be guilty of gluttony, the habit of eating immoderately. But the love of food should never be allowed to become disproportionate to the love of other, more important things.
The Bible’s warnings against gluttony are mostly indirect, and there is no verse that says outright, “Gluttony is a sin.” However, when we consider what gluttony is and the biblical principles that apply, our conclusion has to be that gluttony is indeed a sin.
Gluttony is eating to excess. Aquinas defined gluttony as “an inordinate desire” for food and drink that goes beyond reasonableness and therefore departs from goodness (Summa Theologica, Secunda Secundæ Partis, Question 148). Gluttony can be seen as a form of greed—a selfish desire for something—which is definitely sin. Jesus warned us to guard ourselves against “all kinds of greed” (Luke 12:15). Gluttony can also be seen as a lack of self-control, and self-control is a quality believers are to pursue (2 Peter 1:5–6).
Gluttony is a sin because it gives too high a priority to physical desires. Paul took care not to be “disqualified” from the ministry, and part of that care was physical: “I discipline my body and keep it under control” (1 Corinthians 9:27, ESV). He determined that he would “not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Believers are not to “indulge the flesh” (Galatians 5:13). All of this seems to indicate that gluttony—eating to excess—is wrong. In contrast to Paul’s commitment to exercise control over his body, the enemies of the gospel give free rein to their appetites: “Their god is their stomach” (Philippians 3:19).
Proverbs 23:19–21 mentions gluttony directly. In giving wisdom to those who would avoid self-induced hardship, the wise man says,
The path of those who indulge in too much wine and too much food is a ruinous one. Moderation in all things is much preferred over gluttony (see also Proverbs 28:7).
Gluttony is a sin because the Bible promotes self-control as one of the characteristics of the Spirit-led life. We are to curb physical appetites and not let them control us. There are many things about our bodies that we must control: our sexual behavior (1 Thessalonians 4:4), our tongues (James 3:1–12), our hands (Proverbs 16:17), our feet (Proverbs 16:18), and our eyes (Mark 9:47). It stands to reason that we must also control our stomachs. The ability to say “no” to anything in excess is a godly skill.
Jesus was accused of being “a glutton and a drunkard” (Luke 7:34), but it was a malicious false charge. The same evil-hearted people accused John the Baptist of being demon-possessed because he did not feast. Jesus attended feasts and so was labelled a “glutton.” The fault-finders were unwise. As Jesus said, “Wisdom is proved right by all her children” (Luke 7:35); that is, those who are truly wise will understand and appreciate both John and Jesus.
God “richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17, NLT), and that includes an incredible variety of foods that are delicious, nutritious, and pleasurable. We should thank God for the colors, aromas, textures, and tastes that we enjoy at our meals. And we should honor God by partaking of His gifts in appropriate quantities.