Many commonly tolerated sins are coping mechanisms. They are attempts to fill up what is lacking in our lives and are idols of our own making. As John Calvin once said, our hearts really are “idol factories” that constantly manufacture new gods for us to serve. We destroy one, and our hearts fabricate another seemingly overnight.
Gluttony is a good example of a sin that can function idolatrously as a coping mechanism. Even though it has at times been defined more broadly as overindulgence in any area of life, in the Bible it is more narrowly considered as overindulgence in one specific area—namely, eating food (e.g., see Deut. 21:20; Prov. 23:20–21; Matt. 11:19). For many of us, overindulging in food is a way to cope with heartbreak, tragedy, disappointment, failure, and setback. It’s a way to deal with situations in which we feel totally out of control. Food gives us a sense of comfort and a sense of being in control, at least in some way. In twenty-first-century Western culture, we struggle with this sin greatly. We eat too much, and we do so regularly.
One of the reasons that we struggle with gluttony so profoundly is that we can. If we lived in a poorer culture or in a time of extreme famine, we wouldn’t have the same access to food that we enjoy now. Gluttony wouldn’t be an option for us if food weren’t so readily available for us to eat. So in one sense, the mere fact that we struggle with this sin is a huge blessing from the Lord. We have plenty, and we are incredibly wealthy—even if we don’t always realize it.