by Jeffrey Hamilton
Text: Numbers 11:4-34
I. Someone, reading an article on the Roman Catholic teachings of the seven deadly sins, was surprised to find that gluttony included “eating too soon, eating with condiments, eating too expensively, and eating with pleasing the palate in mind.”
A. He wrote to ask, if such were true in the Bible.
B. The quote he had found wasn’t quite accurate. A Roman Catholic, Joseph Rickably, did define gluttony as eating “too soon, too expensively, too much, too eagerly, too daintily.” [Catholic Encyclopedia]
1. I had to dig to find any mention of condiments and gluttony. I did find a Roman Catholic, John Cassian, discussing monastic living stating, “We notice that the traces of this passion are in us when perchance, having been invited to eat by one of the brothers, we are not content to eat the food with the condiment with which it was seasoned by our host but demand with importunate and unbridled boldness that something be poured on it or added to it.”[Fifth Conference: On the Eight Principle Vices]
2. Thus the complaint is not the use of condiments when supplied, but a lack of contentment with what has been served.
C. Historically, Catholicism has a history of frowning on pleasurable activities if they do not have some other purpose.
1. That is why they take a stance against contraceptives. To a Catholic, a husband and wife having sex should include the potential for producing a child.
2. Sex is pleasurable, but they oppose doing something solely for the pleasure of doing it.
3. The same conclusion is reached for eating and drinking.
a. When eating and drinking is done to sustain the body, it will be pleasurable to eat, but it has a purpose beyond pleasure.
b. To eat just for the pleasure of the taste is considered wrong.
D. But what does the Bible have to say about these matters? What exactly is gluttony?
II. The definition of “gluttony”
A. In the Old Testament, “gluttony” translates the word zalal. It means someone who is morally loose or who has no restraint.
1. Proverbs 23:20-21 - A person with no restraint on his appetite will become poor and lazy.
2. But the word can have broader implications.
3. Deuteronomy 21:20 - The charge is that the son has no restraint – he does as he pleases, whether it is regarding eating or any other fleshly appetite.
4. A person without restraint ends up in shame - Proverbs 28:7
B. In the New Testament we also see a condemnation of unrestrained gratification of the flesh
1. I John 2:15-16 - Strong desires of the flesh are of the world
2. Pursuit of whatever a person might crave characterized the Gentile society (and our own) - I Peter 4:3
a. We often think of lewdness and lusts as references to sexual sins, and it does, but it also has a broader application.
b. It refers to any pursuit of strong desires without moral restraint. In other words, an unbridle appetite - Romans 13:13-14
3. It can become a person’s idol - Philippians 3:18-19
III. Incomplete restraint
A. Some people have good control most of the time, but on certain things they “pig out”
1. Such as with sweets - Proverbs 25:16, 27
2. Again, realize that these have applications beyond a lack of self-control in eating chocolate.
3. There are many things people are able to restrain themselves, but on one or two, they just can’t keep a grip on themselves.
B. An important aspect of Christianity is self-control - Acts 24:25; II Peter 1:5-8; Galatians 5:22
1. We must exercise self-control in all things - I Corinthians 9:24-27
IV. There is joy in a contented life
A. Enjoying life is a gift from God - Ecclesiastes 3:12-13
B. But pleasure can’t be our sole focus. We have to display a contentment with what we have - Hebrews 13:5
1. I Timothy 6:8 - We can enjoy what we have
2. But an unbridled pursuit of pleasure can cause us to forget caution - Proverbs 23:1-3
C. Proverbs 30:8-9 - Agur understood there is a danger in having too much as well as having too little.
D. When people have everything they want, they have a tendency to rebel - Deuteronomy 8:10-14
V. The need for restraint to avoid over-indulgence
A. Eat because you are hungry, not because you want something tasty in your mouth - Ecclesiastes 10:16-17
B. When we allow lusts to dominate our thoughts, we become ripe pickings for sin
C. Notice the trap the Israelites fell into
1. God supplied them all the food that they needed, but it wasn’t enough - Numbers 11:4-6
2. Their lust caused them to make demands, to put God on trial - Psalms 78:18
3. And when given the opportunity, they gorged themselves to death - Numbers 11:31-34
D. The sin of gluttony is about unrestrained appetites – not just in food, but in any desire of the body
1. When those appetites control us, we lose, and we are devoured by our own weaknesses.
2. Instead resist and exercise control - I Peter 5:8-9