Overeating is an issue that impacts the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of a person. The Bible has much to say on this topic, from the importance of self-control to how we should be mindful of how much we consume. In particular, three themes stand out: moderation, discernment and contentment.
Moderation is a key theme for Christian teachings about overeating. The Bible warns against over-indulgence in foods and drink as an example of over-indulgence in general (Deuteronomy 21:20; Proverbs 23:20-21). The injunction not to make a god of food is also worked its way into our program of moderation (1 Corinthians 6:12-13).
Discernment is a theme closely related to the idea of moderation. When drawing near to God we must ensure we pay attention to each and every detail of our lives – our habits and nutrition included. We must discern what is in our food and how it may affect our bodies and our spirits (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Only through discernment can we arrive at the right moderation, free of regrets and consequences for our bodies (Romans 14:21).
Finally, contentment plays a large role in being mindful of our eating habits. This is most clearly seen in the examples of Jesus and his disciples. They often abstained from food in order to ‘abide in God’s will’, knowing that He would provide for all their needs (Matthew 4:4). This understanding of contentment provides a fundamental framework for controlling our food intake, not in the sense of outright deprivation, but in the sense of enjoying what is essential for life in abundance, and avoiding what is unnecessary, while considering how best to nourish our bodies.
How Moderation is Represented in the Bible
The most important thing to take away from the Bible’s teachings on overeating is that moderation is key. Stories from the Bible use the language of moderation to come at this point, depicting how one should behave with regard to food. In particular, we can recognize how God chose to discipline Saul in 1 Samuel 14:24-30. Saul did not obey God’s orders and instead feasted on some animal sacrificed to God – displaying a lack of moderation. Consequently we see how this lack of moderation greatly affected Saul’s life and his relationship with God, and so this serves as a warning for us as well.
Proverbs also highlights the danger of overindulgence. Proverbs 25:16-17 reads “If you find honey, eat just enough— too much of it, and you will vomit. Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house— too much of you, and they will hate you.” In both of these cases it is clear that making yourself comfortable will lead to issues, so we should be careful in what we eat, and strive for moderation.
Not only is moderation itself represented in the Bible, but also the consequences of not having moderation. In Ecclesiastes 10:16-17 we can read about how “Whoever overworks himself will become poor; whoever is a sluggard will become wealthy. A hot-tempered person gives vent to anger; a wise person quietly holds it back.” Those who lack moderation, especially in the case of food, will be worse off at the end of the day, and so the message of moderation is loud and clear.
The idea of moderation is echoed in Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:19, “The Son of Man comes eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” By eating and drinking, Jesus was the embodiment of a moderate lifestyle, and depicted a way of life for us to follow.
Discernment and Contentment: Choosing the Best Foods and Approach to Eating
Closely linked to the idea of moderation is the concept of discernment. Discernment is a necessary part of deciding what is good for us and what is not. To apply discernment to our diet and eating habits we must decide what is acceptable food and what is not so that we can maintain a healthy balance (Hebrews 5:14). We can use the Bible as a starting point for this, although it can often come down to a personal decision as to how to maintain a moral and healthy approach to food.
Discernment in the Bible is closely related to the idea of contentment. As an example, Philippians 4:11-13 reads: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” This passage highlights the importance of being contented with the food choices we have, enjoying them but not overindulging.
Paul, too, warns that those who pursue a life of wealth are not living a life of contentment. He says in 1 Timothy 6:9: “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” The message here is that whilst it is okay to strive for a life of abundance, this should not be pursued blindly and at the expense of overall health and wellbeing.
1 Corinthians 10:31 puts it simply – “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Eating should be done with intention and drive towards glorifying Him, only then can we return to a sensible and God-honoring lifestyle.
Wisdom in Christian Eating Habits
Recognizing the importance of wisdom in one’s eating habits is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Not only should moderation be practiced in the amount of food consumed, but also in the type of food chosen. This means being mindful of what is good for the body and what is not. The Bible is not explicit in its instructions about what is “good” or “bad” to eat, but there is clear instruction to guard one’s heart and stomach in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle (2 Timothy 2:22).
Wisdom can be gleaned from studying the instructions in the Bible about physical health. In Leviticus 11:44, for example, we are instructed to be “holy, for I am holy”, signifying that holiness begins from the inside out. This means putting what is good for our bodies into our stomachs, and avoiding what is bad for them. Recognizing this important instruction that God has given us can help guide us towards better eating habits.
Finally, the example of Jesus provides us with a clear guide to Christian eating habits. Jesus was wise in his eating habits, foregoing the extravagance of the day and feasting on simple foods with great love and joy (Matthew 14:19). Though he was tempted by Satan to follow other paths of consumption (Matthew 4:3-4), Jesus wisely rejected these temptations, setting an example for us to do the same today.
The Impact of Over-indulgence on Spiritual Wellbeing
Lastly, it is important to consider the impact of over-indulgence on spiritual wellbeing. The problem with over-indulging in food is that it is often done without any thought to God’s commands. We can lose sight of our spiritual needs when we physically indulge too much in our food. It can lead to a loss of focus and an inability to truly commune with God.
When we eat extravagantly it can also lead to a lack of joy, and subsequently a lack of closeness to God. Proverbs 15:17 states “Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred”. This clearly highlights the importance of a loving and contented attitude when it comes to our food, and how this can bring a greater sense of joy to our hearts.
In conclusion, it is clear that the Bible has much to say on the subject of overeating. It calls for moderation in what we eat and how, and reminds us of the importance of being content in whatever we do. Ultimately, these teachings help us to better maintain a healthy spiritual and physical wellbeing, free of overindulgences and temptations. Considering the words of the Bible can significantly empower us to lead a morally and nutritionally sound lifestyle that brings us closer to God, and ultimately, closer to our own selves.
A husband of one wife, father of two beautiful girls, laborer of Lord, Jesus Christ, and a servant to God’s His saints. I hope to encourage you by God’s grace. Thank you for stopping by.