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America’s Most Tolerated Sin

Gluttony is perhaps the most tolerated sin in American Christianity. I say this not as someone who is immune to the attractions of the buffet line, but as someone who needs all the help he can get. And I think if we’re honest with ourselves, most—if not all—of us have a dysfunctional relationship with food. We love it, and we hate it. We often find ourselves careening between stuffed stomachs and crash diets. Or perhaps we’ve given up altogether, watching with resignation as our waistlines expand into the distant horizon.

And then there’s that pesky issue of guilt. Restaurants use it like forbidden fruit to get us to save room for dessert. Fitness programs use it like a cat o’ nine tails to whip us into a lifestyle overhaul. Our own conscience, even, can rebuke us with how often we fall short of glorifying God with our stomachs. Guilt is powerful. Like the lawyers of Jesus’ day, it loads people with burdens hard to bear, and yet it will not lift a finger to help (Luke 11:46).

So as we consider the issue of gluttony, my aim is not to shame you into injecting more kale chips and chia seeds into your diet. My aim, to use the language of Hebrews, is to strengthen your hearts with grace (Hebrews 13:9). Gluttony, after all, is food worship. It’s table idolatry. It’s more about the direction of our loves than it is about the contents of our cupboards. How, then, do we discipline our appetites? One answer—and the one I want to explore here—is to quite literally turn the tables on gluttony by coming to the Lord’s Table with fresh resolve and fresh hope. In other words, I want to encourage you to see the Lord’s Table not simply as a weekly or monthly or quarterly ritual, but instead as a training ground for self-control.

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Here are eight ways the Lord’s Table helps us in the fight against gluttony.

1. The Lord’s Table reminds us that food is a created good.

It is striking to me that the Lord has commanded the church to remember his death with a corporate meal rather than with fasting, as important as fasting is. When we talk about gluttony, if we’re not careful, we can speak in a way that suggests food is dirty. But Mark 7:19 tells us that in his ministry, Christ “declared all foods clean.” And so, when we eat the bread and drink the cup, we proclaim with Paul, “[E]verything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4.4–5″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>1 Timothy 4:4–5).

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Johnathon Bowers is Instructor of Theology and Christian Worldview at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, MN.