"I get so tired of my minister going on a tirade about the 'sin of the week.' It seems he condemns everyone with every little (or large) sin he can think of. I've heard sermons on every imaginable sin, and a couple of those sins many times. But he's somehow managed to not say anything about gluttony. Is overeating a sin?"
I too get tired of listening to a minister's litany of their personal pet-peeves and, as our writer puts it, their sin-of-the-week. I personally know a growing number of unchurched people who are guilty of one sin or lifestyle or another who won't set foot in a church because they know they'll only come away feeling condemned, whereas the message of Jesus has always been one of hope-of getting free of our sin, guilt, addictions, and vices. It's always seemed to me if we focused on the wonders and joys of being in a relationship with God then people would gladly hear the gospel and then willingly be freed from their sin. But I've gone afield from our question.
Is overeating a sin? One of the "seven deadly sins," compiled by the Roman Catholic Church many years ago, is gluttony. Gluttony is the sin of overeating. The word itself can be found in scripture in both the Old and New Testaments and is always used in a context of derision. However, nowhere in the sixty-six books of the Bible does it say, "Thou shall not overeat." Nonetheless, the apocrypha, the fourteen books that stand alongside scripture, reflects what was clearly the sentiments of other biblical writers. "Do not have an insatiable appetite for any luxury, and do not give yourself up to food; for overeating brings sickness, and gluttony leads to nausea. Many have died of gluttony, but he who is careful to avoid it prolongs his life" (Sirach 37.29-31).
Clearly, overeating is a sin. Indeed, Paul writes to the Corinthians that being dominated or addicted to anything other that Jesus is problematic: "All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything" (1 Corinthians 6.12b).
Now, nearly everyone overeats now and again and the Thanksgiving holidays spring to mind. According to scripture, overindulging, even occasionally, is a sin. Although nowhere do we find a proverb that suggests, "All things in moderation," this is both the sentiment of Paul and the tenor of scripture.
But the sin of gluttony really rears its head in America where overindulgence in food is not simply a "once in awhile" occurrence, but an ongoing lifestyle choice. There are a couple of "sins" I've heard identified as "lifestyle" sins; however, no one I've read has had the gumption to name indulgent overeating as one of them. And yet, gluttony is one of the most insidious and prevalent lifestyle choices in our culture. Recently the American Medical Association reported that between one-third and one-half of American adults are overweight. By far the most common reason for this excess weight is inappropriate eating habits, i.e., gluttony. Someone who is overweight is not only living a lifestyle of sin, but they dishonor their body-a sin that Paul suggests is against the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6.19-20).
What then should our response be? I know several denominations who charge that "lifestyle sins" disqualify people from serving in leadership. Interestingly enough, these same denominations seem to have no problem ordaining and placing into leadership people who are overweight because of their aberrant lifestyle. Perhaps this is because there are so many who "suffer" from this particular sin and that it seems to be socially acceptable in some way.
So, is overeating a sin? Yes, and often not only a sin, but a lifestyle choice. Thank God that God's grace extends to all of us, even when we sin-and even to those who "live in sin." Let us learn to be patient, loving, forgiving, and tolerant of those who suffer from these infirmities (the parable of the wheat and the weeds is instructive here-Matthew 13.24-30). And remember, it is God who's in charge of bringing the increase (1 Corinthians 3.6-7), the judgement (1 Corinthians 4.5), and the retribution (Romans 12.19).