This week we continue an interview with David Kotter and Dr. Jeffrey Trimark on the topic of eating for the glory of God. These two men are the authors of Eat and Be Content, which is due to be published by Crossway in 2008.
David, last week we learned about both the physical cause and the spiritual root of overeating. You described the sin of “discontent” as the primary culprit. Can you expand on that a little bit?
Thank you, Nicole. Yes, our book Eat and Be Content will help believers identify discontent in eating using two biblical categories: idolatry and foolishness. Idolatry in this context means turning to food to indulge lusts of the flesh rather than satisfy bodily hunger. Eating to comfort anxiety, relieve guilt, or gratify desires apart from God are ways of making an idol out of food. Alternatively, it is no more pleasing to God to remain thin by making an idol of physical fitness or personal attractiveness. Foolish eating goes beyond ignorance or immaturity and refers to the ethical transgressions ascribed to the fool of Proverbs. The blessing of an abundant variety of foods also carries a moral responsibility for understanding and eating “just enough” (Proverbs 25:16). Unlike other sins of the heart, discontent with food is a sin that has long lasting and cumulative physical effects like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.
Let’s talk about idolatry first. What is idolatry and how does it affect the way we eat?
Idols are more than the wood or metal statues condemned in the Old Testament. New Testament believers were exhorted to “Flee idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). Calvin referred to our hearts as “idol factories” always producing substitutes for the one true God. An idol can be anything, even a good thing that attracts our affections and attention away from the living God. By its very nature, food can make an especially attractive idol for comfort, encouragement and even greedy enjoyment. This can lead unsuspecting Christians to worship God’s good gift of food.
Idols expressed in eating include fear, greed, anger, self-pity, and many others. The scenarios are common. A person in the grip of anxiety mulls over a personal problem and automatically reaches for a bag of chips. Chip after chip provides a momentary relief from worry until the bag is empty. Rather than turning to God with anxious thoughts (Phil. 4:6), food becomes an idol of comfort replacing the living God. For another person, mint chocolate chip ice cream can deliver a temporary feeling of relief from guilt, and thus becomes an idolatrous substitute for the forgiving Savior. Even apart from anxiety and guilt, there are many other ways to make an idol of eating. Since idols are never satisfied, idolatrous eating draws people again and again to food. Sadly, this particular sin has a cumulative physical effect and unchecked will result in obesity.
On the other hand, idolatry can lead people to eat too much or too little. Some people successfully lose hundreds of pounds, only by turning to the alternative idol of health and attractiveness. In this case, rigorous dieting and strenuous exercise become a consuming focus of life, much like an idol.
Fleeing from idolatry of any kind is one of the ways that Christians will eat and drink differently than nonbelievers, and one of the primary ways that we can glorify God as we eat. The gospel can break the power of this sin and enable people to eat for the glory of God.
More about eating for the glory of God as we continue our interview tomorrow…