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The Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony

Text: Numbers 11:4‑10; 18-20; 31‑34

Theme: Gluttony is not only eating too much, it is eating in

the wrong way.

The last of the Seven Deadly Sins is gluttony. This is an appropriate Sunday to preach on it. Most of you know that this last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday which, in the traditional church calendar begins the Easter Season. What you may not realize is that the day before Ash Wednesday is Shrove Tuesday. The name most of you know it by better is Mardi gras. In Southern Europe it was a time of universal partying and gluttony. People would gorge themselves before the long Lent fasting period.

It is a sin we obviously don't hear much preaching about it these days. Maybe because too many American preachers are over‑weight from too much fried chicken and trips to Ryan=s. It is a sin that strikes a little too close to home, and most preachers like preaching on their congregation=s sins and not their own!  Gluttony is one of those sins we assume other people B big people, I mean really big people B are guilty of. But I submit to you this morning, that it is a sin more of us are guilty of than cares to admit. While it may not be a sin you or I commit on a regular basis, it is, never‑the‑less a sin most of us have committed in the past. And, in the era of 72-ounce big-gulp cups, super-sized burgers and fries and all-you-can-eat restaurants, it may be a sin we commit this week.

     What is gluttony? One quote I found said, A glutton is the person who takes the piece of pastry you wanted. The dictionary defines a glutton as "A person who eats or consumes immoderate amounts of food and drink." And, if we go by the pure letter of the law, most of us would not be considered gluttons by that definition. Praise God! But notice that the definition does not say: "A person who constantly eats or consumes immoderate amounts of food and drink." We may not be habitual gluttons, but it is a sin that most of us have been guilty of at one time or another.

     Let me put you to the test by asking you a series of diagnostic questions. Have you ever heard these words coming from your lips? "Whew I ate too much!" If so, then maybe you've committed the sin of gluttony. Or how about this phrase: "If I take one more bite, I'll bust"? If so, then maybe you've committed the sin of gluttony. Or how about his famous phrase, "I can't believe I ate the whole thing!" If you've used that phrase, then maybe you've committed the sin of gluttony.

     Why was over‑eating considered a deadly sin by our spiritual forefathers? They believed, and rightly so, that self‑indulgence is the enemy of gratitude. The early church fathers believed that a person's appetites are linked. Full stomachs and quenched palates take the edge from our hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Ultimately, gluttony is not about over-eating; it is about overindulgence. It is the mad pursuit of the bodily pleasures that never completely satisfy. That means that gluttony can apply to too much television watching, too much shopping, too much computer usage, as well as too much food consumption. Gluttony B in whatever form it takes B spoils one's appetite for God.

     This is exactly the situation found in the text I read a few moments ago and provides the foundation for my first point .. .



1. the people of Israel have been wandering in the

desert for only a few months if not just weeks

a. every day, God miraculously provided a substance

called mana, to sustain them during their march to the Promised Land

b. but very quickly they became tired of mana

1) I=m sure there are just so many ways you can fix


2) I can just hear some Jewish husband

complaining, AManna casserole again!?@

2. the blandness of the manna compared with the spicy

food of Egypt prompted a wholesale rebellion against Moses and the Lord

          3. God was angered, but He is also longsuffering

a. the Scriptures tell us that God caused a wind to blow

which brought flocks of migrating quail right through the camp of the Israelites

b. all the Hebrews had to do was knock the birds down

and pick them up

c. and they did it by the bushel basket full

1) Numbers 11:32 tells us that every person who

caught quail collected no less than 10 homers of quail each

2) if you have a good study Bible it probably has a

footnote that tells you that 10 homers is equal to 60 of our bushel baskets!

3) now, Exodus 12:37 tells us that 600,000 men took

part in the exodus from Egypt along with women and children

4) do the math: lets assume that just the men caught

quail: AND if each man caught 60 bushels worth of quail, that equals 36,000,000 bushels of quail, AND if one bushel basket will hold 50 quail THEN that equals 1,800,000,000 birds!

4. talk about a pig‑out party!

a. and that is exactly what the Israelites did B they

pigged out

5. instead of giving God the glory for the miracle of

providing the people such a bounty, they began an binge of lustful gluttony that focused instead on the meat instead of the Master

a. they failed to give thanks

1) they neglected to recognize God for the miracle

b. God became angry

1) the bible says that while the meat was still

between their teeth, the Lord unleashed His wrath against them and sent a severe plague that killed many of them

2) the place where this happened was named

Kibroth-Hattaavah which means graves of craving because there they buried the people who had craved food more than God who had given them the food

c. we also have a plague in America due to overeating

and over-indulgence

1) it=s called coronary heart disease!

(a) 14,000,000 Americans suffer from it

(b) almost 500,000 Americans die from it every

year making it the leading cause of death in the United States

(c) and while smoking plays a part as well as

stress and even heredity, the biggest culprit is the American diet

ILLUS. A Jewish Proverb says, AGluttons dig their

graves with their teeth.@  

6. our early spiritual fore-fathers considered gluttony a sin

because it focuses our attention on the sustenance rather than on the provider of the sustenance

a. I submit to you that to eat anything without giving

thanks to God for it or recognizing God as the provider of it, makes us a glutton              



1. the early Christian theologians understood gluttony in

different ways than we do

a. the first is the obvious B simply eating too much

b. another was simply giving eating too much attention

ILLUS. Most of you are familiar with the stories that

revolve around a bear named Pooh. Pooh Bear's favorite thing in the world to do is eat B especially honey. In one conversation, Rabbit asks Winnie the Pooh, "When you get up in the morning what is the first thing you think of?"

Pooh Bear ponders the question for a moment and answers, "The first thing I think of in the morning when I get up is, What am I going to have for breakfast!'"

2. in the Old Testament we find a man named Esau who

had a distorted emphasis on food

Genesis 25:28‑34 "Isaac, who had a taste for wild game,

loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.  He said to Jacob, Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!" Jacob replied, First sell me your birthright." Look, I am about to die," Esau said. What good is the birthright to me?" But Jacob said, Swear to me first." So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright."

a. he valued a full stomach even more then his

birthright which was his spiritual heritage

3. was Esau really about to die from want of food?

a. it is very doubtful

b. Esau was expressing the very same sentiments we

do when we exclaim, "Honey, when will dinner be ready? I'm about to starve to death."

4. Esau's philosophy is echoed by the attitude of the rich

man Jesus preached about in Luke's gospel

a. the man looked at his abundance and said to

himself: "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."


1. first, let me say that eating is a wonderful experience

a. American's three favorite words are "Let's order


b. we love to fellowship around the dinning room table

or at the kitchen bar

1) Americans live in the only country in the world

where pie-eating contests are old-fashioned fun and all-you-can-eat restaurants dot the landscape

2) we=re a nation of big eaters who turn eating into

annual festivals

ILLUS. A search of the internet turned up some of

the following gastronomic events you can attend in the near future: There is the Spamarama in Austin, TX for Spam lovers; the Lobster Race & Oyster Parade in Aiken, SC; the Artichoke Festival in Castorville, CA; the National Fiery Foods Show in Reno, NV; the Annual Sweet Onion Festival in Rock Springs AR; the 11th anual Return of the Chili Queens festival in San Antonio, TX; and, my favorite, the Great Monterey Squid Festival, Monterey CA.

2. secondly, let me say that eating is a physical necessity

a. ya don't eat, ya die

3. but let's face it . . . in America today we have

exaggerated and distorted the importance of food

ILLUS. Where else but in the United States would a

company spend $1,000,000 a minute to advertise their beer or their pizza during a football game?

4. advertising distorts the importance of food and drink in

our lives by convincing us that, we too, should eat, drink, and be merry for that is what life is all about

a. drink the right kind of beer and babes in skimpy

bathing suits will show up in your pool

b. eat the right candy bar and you'll find your taste buds

rollicking in absolute rapture

c. choose the right pizza and you'll be dancing in the


d. choose the wrong picante sauce and you might find

yourself hung by your friends

5. our Lord said that life is about more than these things

Luke 12:22‑24 "Then Jesus said to his disciples:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!"

6. it may be time for believers to once again seriously

think about fasting

a. Jesus never instructed his disciples to fast, but from

the Scriptures we can infer that he assumed that we would

7. gluttony not only distorts the importance of food . . .


1. our early church fathers also defined gluttony as eating

too expensively

a. it was not uncommon for the nobles and well‑to‑do

of ancient Roman society to throw lavish banquets

b. they were given at great expense and often lasted

for days frequently turning into drunken orgies

2. it's amazing what some people will pay for food or drink

in our society

ILLUS. A number of years ago while my dad was still

living and working, one of the vice presidents of Anheuser Busch took mom and dad out to dinner at once of the most exclusive restaurants in St. Louis. The price tag for a dinner for four was $300.

3. now, I know that few of you live that "high‑on‑the‑hog"

when it come eating

a. you may never have spent $300 on a meal, but I'll

bet you've paid $40 or $50

b. now, is there anything wrong with that?

c. doing so on a rare occasion and for something

special is not a sin, but when it is done on a regular basis the early theologians considered it the sin of gluttony

4. not only does gluttony distort the importance of food

and the value of food . . .


1. the early church fathers also understood gluttony as

eating too eagerly

2. when we become so preoccupied with getting >our fair

share= of what=s on the table or wolfing down our meal so we can get back in line quickly, we are guilty of the sin of gluttony

ILLUS. We see an example of this among believers in the

Church at Corinth. Gluttony had become such a problem in the church, that the Apostle Paul had to speak to it.

The early church regularly held what were called >Love Feasts.= They we fellowship meals that culminated in the observance of the Lord=s Supper. Evidently, some in the church began behaving badly in relation to the supper. Some were evidently getting to the church early and devouring the fare before everyone arrived. That meant that some went hungry. Not only that, but some were even getting drunk on the wine that was to fill the communion cup!

A service that was meant to be spiritual and promote fellowship among believers was ruined because of a few gluttonous believers.

3. in the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul warns us

not to become like those Christians who have abandoned the faith

a. he says ATheir destiny is destruction, their god is

their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things,@ (Philippians 3:19) NIV

4. in the Jewish culture of Jesus= day, enjoying the

fellowship of family and friends and showing good ol fashioned table manners was as important B if not more so B than actually consuming the food

a. in other words, consuming food while important for

sustenance, is not nearly as important as the act of eating and the people we do it with


1. gluttony is the silent but deadly sin of American culture

a. 35% of all adults over 20-years-old are overweight

1) that figures out to 65 million adults

b. 14% of our children are overweight

c. 12% of our teenagers are overweight

           2. but we live in a country that almost worship slimeness

a. "fat" is ugly and  "thine" is beautiful

3. the result is a host of eating disorders such as anorexia

and bulimia and millions of dollars spent on dieting,

liposuction, and body sculpturing

4. there's something almost schizophrenic about a culture

that wants us all to look like Barbie and Ken while at the same time encouraging us to eat and drink ourselves into oblivion



1. we need moderation

a. the Bible tells one of the Fruits of the Spirit is

Temperance or Self-control

b. believers need to exercise temperance in every area

of life B including our eating habits

c. the secret to self-control is Christ-control

1) it begins when you surrender your heart and life to


2) when you surrender your life to Christ, God will

transform and change your

3) that is what God is in the business of doing

d. that is why Jesus died on the cross B not only to

save you, but to transform and change you

2. we need healthy eating habits

a. God gave the Jewish people many >dos= and >don=t=s=

concerning their diets

1) some food was considered >clean= and fit to eat

while other items were considered >unclean= and unfit to eat

b. God did this to protect His people and encourage

healthy eating

c. for most of us, out biggest problem is not overeating

but unhealthy eating

d. healthy eating will

3. thankfulness

a. thankfulness helps us focus on the one who has

provided our sustenance instead of the sustenance itself

1 Corinthians 10:31 ASo whether you eat or drink or

whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.@ NIV

b. I have a feeling that if we really ate so as to give

glory to God we would . . .

1) #1 not eat so much

2) #2 eat a lot healthier than most of us do

Why was over‑eating considered a deadly sin by our spiritual forefathers? Because self‑indulgence of our physical appetite usually dulls our spiritual appetite. Bottom line B do we spend as much time feeding our souls each day as we do feeding our stomachs?

Ultimately, gluttony is not about over-eating; it is about overindulgence. It is the mad pursuit of the bodily pleasures that never completely satisfy. And that is always sin.

Let me close by sharing a Jewish prayer of the 1st century:

Who will set a guard over my mouth, and an effective seal upon my lips, so that I may not fall because of them, and my tongue may not destroy me? O Lord, Father and Master of my life, do not abandon me to their designs, and do not let me fall because of them! Who will set whips over my thoughts, and the discipline of wisdom over my mind, so as not to spare me in my errors, and not overlook my sins? Otherwise my mistakes may be multiplied, and my sins may abound, and I may fall before my adversaries, and my enemy may rejoice over me. O Lord, Father and God of my life, do not give me haughty eyes, and remove evil desire from me.  Let neither gluttony nor lust overcome me, and do not give me over to shameless passion.

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