Is Overeating Really a Sin?
by Elaine Creasman
One day I was talking to a friend about a loved one who had said, “I prayed for God to deliver me from homosexuality, but He didn’t do it.”
The friend, who is also a counselor, said, “She shouldn’t be praying for deliverance; she should be confessing her sin.”
I’ve been thinking about that comment in connection to overeating. How often I’ve prayed, “God, deliver me from this habit.” When I pray that prayer, I’m putting all the responsibility on Him. “God, You have to do something.” When I use the word “deliver” in my prayers, I’m rarely thinking of Him delivering me from the sin of overeating. Sometimes I convince myself it’s not a sin. Instead it’s a habit, a disorder, a disease, a problem, an addiction, a bit of over-indulgence.
When I finally get to the point—or I should say back to the point—of admitting that my overeating is a sin, I begin to take responsibility. I once again admit that I’m choosing to sin. And with God’s help, I can choose not to.
Our society uses all sorts of words to minimize sin. We say “love affair” rather than “adultery.” We say “fibbed” or “fabricated” instead of “lied.” Often instead of using the word “sin,” we’d rather say “fault” or “failing.”
The word we overeaters rarely use and even modern society wants to avoid in connection with food is “gluttony”—a word the Bible speaks of in not-so-gentle terms. “Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony,” proclaims Proverbs 23:2 (NIV). My Bible defines gluttony as “excess in eating or drinking.”
What if the fast food places had said, “Do you want glutton portions?” instead of “Do you want to supersize that?” Even when we’re dieting, we tend to go for eating plans that let us eat excessive amounts of certain food groups.
What I’ve been convicted of is that we Christians tend to hate only certain sins. In these days, we hate homosexuality and sometimes cross over to hating homosexuals. But I’ve wondered repeatedly as I’ve watched Christians stuff themselves and while I take part in the gorge fests myself, why we don’t hate the sin of gluttony?
It’s because we’ve come to accept it—the way some parts of society accept homosexuality, casual sex, and easy divorce.
Those are the thoughts that were going through my head as I pondered the plight of my loved one, a beautiful young woman who says, “I’m a Christian,” and “I’m a homosexual.” At first some impatience and frustration came to me as I thought, “Why can’t she see how wrong that is?” and “Why can’t she allow God to heal her, so she can be free of it?”
The next question that popped into my mind was, “Why can’t you do that with the sin of overeating?” The bottom line is that I don’t really want to see it as sin. And when I do finally admit it is, I don’t have faith that God wants to or is able to deliver me from this sin.
But isn’t that the same erroneous thinking that some homosexuals have?
The biggest sin in connection with food is that I substitute it for God. Instead of running to God when I’m feeling hurt, lonely, or afraid, I turn to food. It’s often my primary source of comfort and has been since childhood—before I ever knew the Lord. Food can be like a lover when God desires to be the lover of my soul. I can see that people who have sexual sins demonstrate the same kinds of behaviors.
As I’ve returned to seeing overeating as sin—as gluttony—I have been eating less and consuming foods that promote good health. I’m turning to God to deal with the difficulties in my life instead of thinking that somehow food will make things better—even though Christians all around me seem to have bought in to that lie.
When I give in to gluttonous temptations, I’m learning to say, “Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4). I’ve confessed lately how wrong it is to minimize the sin of overeating and the sin of turning to food for comfort instead of to the Lord.
The thought that comes to mind right now is—what if a friend were hurting and instead of calling me, she chose to stay home and have a hot fudge sundae to help her through a difficult time? And the result was that she sank deeper and deeper into despair when all along I was available to help her?
How often I have done that with the Lord. I’m so thankful that when I have, He has continued to urge, “Come unto Me.” When I’ve responded, what beautiful rest He has given to me. How I long to run to Him every time and early on when I face difficulties in my life.
My goal in the days ahead is to confess all sins surrounding food—from daydreaming about it in the middle of prayer time to, on some days, spending more time praising food than I do praising the Lord. I’ve begun to confess each time I turn from God toward food, embracing the lie that food can feed the hungers of my soul. Another sin that comes to mind is my supporting others instead of exhorting them when it comes to overeating—often without words, but just by my bad example.
I choose to have compassion on those who battle sins that involve turning elsewhere for comfort (rather than to the Lord)—like homosexuals, drug addicts, porn addicts, cigarette smokers…I am beginning to see how much alike we are in our battles with sin.
I think I disagree with my friend, the counselor, who says we shouldn’t pray for deliverance. It’s OK to pray for deliverance, but we need to connect it with the word “sin.” And we need to confess our sin and know that we have a part in the deliverance process. I pray for grace and humility to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in this area and in every aspect of my life, so I can experience the freedom the Lord longs for me to enjoy.