By Dave Cover
Our culture is consumed with consuming.
We’re taught to experience the good life by consuming, not by constraining. We’re told: every natural appetite should be filled, and more is better. We want to fill every type of empty space in our lives.
But rather than giving us more, over consumption brings the irony of feeling bloated and empty. Bloated and empty from the busyness in our schedules, a night (or day) binging TV, our credit card debt…all habits of indulgence that surf the edges of addiction.
Eating and drinking is never just about physical consumption. The Bible recognizes a spiritual reality to it as well. Food and drink should be enjoyed vertically. That is, seen and received with thanksgiving as a good gift of God.
It’s Good to Enjoy Good Food and Drink
This means it’s not gluttony to enjoy good food and drink. And no food or drink is more or less spiritually acceptable than others — not if we keep the vertical relationship God intends. The New Testament tells us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” and “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 2:16)
John Calvin, not particularly known as the fun party guy of church history, wrote:
If we ponder to what end God created food, we find that he meant not only to provide for necessity, but also for delight and good cheer. Thus the prophet reckoned among the benefits of God, “wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil that makes his face shine” (Psalm 104:15).
Away, then, with that inhuman philosophy that concedes only a necessary use of God’s creation and cannot be practiced unless it robs a man of all his senses and degrades him to a block.
We see Jesus, of all people, especially enjoying food and drink — so much so that he was accused of gluttony and drunkenness by his opponents (Luke 7:34). Jesus even furnished more wine at a wedding party, literally showing how food and drink is a creation of God for our enjoyment, with thankfulness to God as the Creator.
When Consumption Becomes Gluttony
Gluttony happens when we disconnect and disassociate our eating and drinking from its vertical relation with God.
Instead, we make it all about the experience in a way that’s separate from experiencing God’s presence.
Marjorie Thompson, in her book Soul Feast, writes; “Food is necessary to life, but we have made it more necessary than God. How often have we neglected to remember God’s presence when we would never consider neglecting to eat?” Ouch!
And all the while, our soul remains empty to what we are truly hungry for: the fullness of God. And the more we overfill our stomachs, the more we starve our souls. We end up bloated and empty.
How to Avoid Feeling Bloated and Empty
That’s why, for centuries, Christians have fought against gluttony by learning to experience a sustained hunger, called fasting. This helps the soul remember and pursue its hunger for God. This can be achieved simply by eating less at meals and waiting to experience the feeling of hunger between meals.
That slight pain reminds you that you’re starving for God. And when you remember, you’ll enjoy feeling less bloated and less empty.
An Important Note: This is not the same as a driven hunger out of an obsession with body image. If that’s a motivation you sense you might be struggling with, I urge you to get some good counseling that will help you investigate why your brain has wired to this kind of thinking. And that will help you determine what you can do to establish a healthier relationship with food.
In the Bible the word fast or fasting is used 75 times. Fasting is like tying a ribbon around your finger, impossible to ignore, to force you to remember your hunger for God.
Once, while fasting, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Gluttony wants to live on bread alone. It wants you to be constantly satiated so that you never recognize your hunger for God. It wants to keep the static turned up so you never hear your spiritual stomach growl.
But occasional fasting can silence the static of gluttony and help you rely less on food and more on God to fill you up.
The Power of Fasting
By choosing not to eat for a specified time, we affirm with Jesus when he says, “Is not life more than food?” By fasting, we can become less consumed with consuming and start feeling less bloated and empty.
Food, good meals and good drinks, and occasional feasts are gifts from God. But sometimes we must set aside God’s good gifts because we’re bloated, empty, and consumed with consuming.
So we occasionally deny our self, not to prove anything or show people how spiritual we are, but to remind ourselves of the ancient promise from Psalm 107,
He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul he has filled with what is good.
Are you ready to try fasting for a meal? For a day? Check out our helpful tips on how to fast so you can prepare your heart and your body.