I remember several years ago talking with a friend who was struggling to give up cigarettes. I encouraged her to consider how her body was created to glorify God:
[box]“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19)[/box]
While I was challenging her to consider this verse each time she reached for a smoke, the Holy Spirit got my attention. He issued His own challenge to me. He graciously challenged me with this:
“It’s no different than when you reach for that second piece of chocolate cake . . .”
That’s been almost twenty years, but I remember it being the first time I consciously recognized how my heart toward food indicates where I am in my relationship with God.
Food plays a role in whether I am glorifying God or giving way to gluttony.
I grew up as a skinny-bones girl and never had to worry about what I ate. Actually, I was always trying to gain weight, so food was never a problem for me (or so I thought). I ate as much as I wanted, whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, without ever thinking about it.
The problem with that imbalanced approach to food is it allows you to easily slide into gluttony. Food is meant to serve as a source of nutritional fuel for health and energy, not to become an idol. It is a pleasure that we’re to enjoy but not to idolize. And I didn’t realize it until then, but food had become a major idol in my life.
Worshiping my Idol
When I say an “idol” I don’t mean I bowed down to worship it—literally. But worship is a condition of the heart, a heart posture that exalts something to a deified position in my life. We can set up lots of things as “little gods” in our lives, and it can happen so imperceptibly that we may not even recognize that we are “worshiping.”
Martin Luther puts it into perspective:
“To whatever we look for any good thing and for refuge in every need, that is what is meant by ‘god.’ To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in him from the heart . . . To whatever you give your heart and entrust your being, that, I say, is really your god.”
How about we do an “Idol Check?”
- How much is food the subject of your thought-life?
- Can the restaurant choice become a battle ground or reason for conflict?
- Do you find it difficult to make healthy eating choices?
- How important is food to you?
- Is food what you run to when you’re sad? Lonely? Having a hard day?
- Do you continue eating when you are already full?
- Do you ever eat just for comfort?
- Do you eat when you’re not really hungry?
- Do you find it extremely difficult (or impossible) to fast from a few meals in order to seek the Lord on a specific issue?
- On a scale of 1—10 (with 1 being top priority and 10 least priority) where does food rank?
I believe God wants us to enjoy the good gift of food. He created an abundance of delicious tastes. But any good thing can become an idol. Food is an idol when it takes first place in our hearts. By giving food “first place” I mean when we gratify our flesh rather than obey God.
Listen to what the early church father, John Chrysostom said on this topic:
“The body was not made for the purpose of fornication, nor was it created for gluttony. It was meant to have Christ as its head, so that it might follow him. We should be overcome with shame and horror-struck if we defile ourselves with such great evils.”
Wow. That’s pretty straight forward. Did you catch that? He’s putting gluttony on the same level as fornication—and calling them both “great evils.” And did you notice he said we should be “horror-struck” if we are giving in to gluttony?
I’m afraid I’ve grown so accustomed to my sin of gluttony that I’m definitely not “horror-struck.” Nailed.
Tomorrow, I’ll share with you what looked like the death blow to my struggle with food.
How did you do on the Idol Check?
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