Questions From Readers
▪ Are Jehovah’s Witnesses as firm about gluttony among their members as they are about the harmful tobacco habit?
Jehovah’s Witnesses take a Bible-based stand against tobacco, and they equally accept the Scriptural condemnation of gluttony.
They believe that smoking violates Bible principles. Smoking involves a nicotine addiction. Further, it is unnatural to inhale smoke. Smoking defiles the body, causes health problems, and has shortened lives that should have been used to God’s praise. Smoking also dangerously pollutes air that others breathe; certainly, that is not neighbor love.—2 Corinthians 7:1; Romans 12:1; Mark 12:33.
What, though, about gluttonous overeating? Frankly, the Bible condemns gluttony, which is greedy excess in eating, or voracious overeating. An Israelite son who was unrepentantly “a glutton and a drunkard” was to be executed. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) Proverbs warns against “having companionship with gluttons.” (Proverbs 28:7; 23:20, 21) Gluttony is also wrong since we are told that “greedy persons” will not inherit God’s Kingdom. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; compare 1 Peter 4:3; Philippians 3:18, 19.) Christian overseers are to be “self-controlled,” not “unemployed gluttons.” (Titus 1:8, 12) This is so serious that some overseers have been removed because of their uncontrolled eating.
It must be recognized, however, that determining when gluttony exists is not easy. Eating (in contrast with inhaling tobacco smoke) is natural and proper. Nor is being fat the sole criterion of gluttony; a very thin person might be a glutton. It is not being overweight that the Bible censures but, rather, overeating, which may or may not result in obesity.
Some people are overweight because of glandular disorders or disease, though Professor Judith Rodin holds that only “5 percent of all cases of obesity are caused primarily by medical problems.” Heredity may incline a person to stockiness. Dr. William Bennett comments: “Lots of fat people maintain their weight by eating about what an average-weight person does . . . They are metabolically different.” Certain scientists even feel that if a fat person eats less, his body lowers its metabolic rate so that he burns calories more slowly. But even if a fat person is not a glutton in the sense of being a voracious eater, he (or she) may need to apply more seriously God’s counsel.
For example, Christians should cultivate self-control, which applies to eating too. (Galatians 5:22, 23; 2 Peter 1:5-8) The apostle Paul urged the Christian to be like a runner who “exercises self-control in all things.” Paul ‘pummeled his body and led it as a slave that he should not become disapproved.’ (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) A stout person may have reason to ‘pummel his body’ as to how much, what, when, and how he eats.*
Being fat can be dangerous. Reports show that obesity can lead to higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels, adult-onset diabetes, several types of cancer, heart and gallbladder disease, arthritis, and respiratory problems. “A person who is 20 percent overweight faces a death rate one-third higher than average; for those 30 and 50 percent overweight, the rates are 50 and 100 percent higher, respectively.” (The New York Times, February 27, 1985) Similar reports of health problems come from England, Germany, and Italy.
A Christian truly wants to ‘love Jehovah with his whole heart, soul [or, life], mind, and strength.’ (Mark 12:30) Many, upon studying Christianity, quit smoking to preserve their health and life. Should not Christians be just as concerned that being overweight because of overindulgence might undermine their health and their life that is dedicated to Jehovah?
Some people eat more when they are sad, frustrated, lonely, or angry. While being a Christian does not wholly prevent such feelings, rather than finding relief in unnecessary eating, the Christian can turn to God and to his brothers. In this regard read Philippians 4:6, 7, 11-13. Even scientists who hold that a person has a natural inclination toward a certain weight admit that this can be changed. They stress cutting down on high-fat food and increasing physical activity. Interestingly, in many areas a Christian who shares regularly in the door-to-door ministry does much healthful walking and climbing. Paul, too, ‘labored and toiled’ in the ministry.—2 Corinthians 11:26, 27.
Thus, Jehovah’s Witnesses disapprove of gluttony because of what the Bible says. Whatever their weight, they strive to ‘exercise self-control in all things,’ including eating. This is not primarily because of a cultural judgment about fashion but because they want to live by Bible principles and be active Christians having God’s approval.
How much: consistently eating less at each meal. What: cutting down on starchy junk foods and sodas, and on sweets and fats, such as butter and oils, in favor of a healthful, balanced diet. When: not snacking between meals or secretly. How: eating more slowly.