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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.

But at the same time, this blessing can easily be abused. We abuse it in several ways, to be sure, but the most important, in terms of our discussion here, is that we do so by relying on the gifts of God rather than on God Himself. Gluttony turns to food for comfort, joy, endurance, and contentment rather than to God. It loves the gift more than it loves the Giver. Like many other commonly tolerated sins, gluttony is anti-God behavior. It acts as though there is no God, as though this world is all there is.

For this reason, we must tear down the stronghold of gluttony by reminding ourselves that God is to be our food and drink (see John 4:34). He is to be the source of our life and energy and comfort. Every time we eat, we should think about these things and strive to rely on Him, regardless of what circumstances we may be experiencing in our lives. We should find ways to remind ourselves that “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11) will never be found in food but can be found only in the One who provides “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).

Greed for Unjust Gain


Keep Reading Commonly Tolerated Sins

From the May 2023 Issue
May 2023 Issue