Questions From Readers
How does the Christian congregation view gluttony?
God’s Word condemns both drunkenness and gluttony as behavior that is incompatible with serving God. Therefore, the Christian congregation regards a confirmed glutton in the same manner as it views a habitual drunkard. Neither a drunkard nor a glutton can be part of the Christian congregation.
Proverbs 23:20, 21 states: “Do not come to be among heavy drinkers of wine, among those who are gluttonous eaters of flesh. For a drunkard and a glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe one with mere rags.” At Deuteronomy 21:20, we read about a “stubborn and rebellious” individual, who deserved to be put to death under the Mosaic Law. According to this verse, two characteristics of that rebellious and unrepentant individual were that he was “a glutton and a drunkard.” Clearly, in ancient Israel, gluttony was viewed as an unacceptable practice for those who desired to serve God.
What, though, constitutes a glutton, and what do the Christian Greek Scriptures say about this topic? A glutton is defined as “one given habitually to greedy and voracious eating and drinking.” Thus, for one thing, gluttony is a form of greed, and God’s Word tells us that “greedy persons” are the sort of people who will not inherit God’s Kingdom. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Philippians 3:18, 19; 1 Peter 4:3) In addition, when the apostle Paul warned Christians against practicing “the works of the flesh,” he mentioned “drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these.” (Galatians 5:19-21) Overeating often accompanies drunken bouts and revelries. Moreover, gluttony certainly is included in Paul’s expression “and things like these.” As with the other “works of the flesh,” a Christian who is widely known for his gluttony and who stubbornly refuses to change his greedy behavior ought to be removed from the congregation.—1 Corinthians 5:11, 13.*
Although God’s Word places a drunkard on the same level as a glutton, the former is much easier to identify than the latter. The signs of drunkenness are usually quite visible. However, determining the point at which an individual becomes a confirmed glutton is much harder because it cannot be determined simply by outward appearance. Therefore, handling situations in this area of concern requires great care and discernment on the part of the elders in the congregation.
For example, obesity may be a sign of gluttony, but that is not always the case. One’s being overweight may be the result of an ailment. Hereditary factors may also contribute to obesity. We should also keep in mind that obesity is a physical condition, while gluttony is a mental attitude. Obesity is defined as “a condition characterized by excessive bodily fat,” whereas gluttony is “greedy or excessive indulgence.” Thus, gluttony is not determined by someone’s size but by his attitude toward food. A person may be of normal size or may even be thin and yet be a glutton. Furthermore, what is viewed as the ideal weight or shape varies considerably from place to place.
What are signs of gluttony? A glutton routinely shows a lack of restraint, even gorging himself on food to the point of feeling very uncomfortable or becoming sick. His lack of self-control indicates that he has no real concern about the reproach he brings upon Jehovah and the good reputation of His people. (1 Corinthians 10:31) On the other hand, a person who overeats on a few occasions would not automatically be viewed as a “greedy person.” (Ephesians 5:5) Nevertheless, in the spirit of Galatians 6:1, such a Christian might need help. Paul states: “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness.”
Why is the Bible’s counsel to avoid excessive eating especially important today? Because, particularly regarding our day, Jesus warned: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare.” (Luke 21:34, 35) Avoiding overindulgence in food is one important way to shun a spiritually damaging life-style.
Moderation is a Christian virtue. (1 Timothy 3:2, 11) Therefore, Jehovah will surely help all those who earnestly seek to apply the Bible’s counsel on moderate eating and drinking habits.—Hebrews 4:16.
See “Questions From Readers” in the May 1, 1986, issue of The Watchtower.