Hungry Mungry sat at supper,
Took his knife and spoon and fork,
Ate a bowl of mushroom soup, ate a slice of roasted pork,
Ate a dozen stewed tomatoes, twenty-seven deviled eggs,
Fifteen shrimps, nine baked potatoes,
Thirty-two fried chicken legs,
A shank of lamb, a boiled ham,
Two bowls of grits, some black-eye peas,
Four chocolate shakes, eight angel cakes,
Nine custard pies with Muenster cheese,
Ten pots of tea, and after he,
Had eaten all that he was able,
He poured some broth on the tablecloth
And ate the kitchen table.
His parents said, “Oh Hungry Mungry, stop these silly jokes.”
Mungry opened up his mouth, and “Gulp,” he ate his folks.
And then he went and ate his house, all the bricks and wood,
And then he ate up all the people in the neighborhood.
Up caame twenty angry policemen shouting, “Stop and cease.”
Mungry opened his mouth and “Gulp,” he ate the police.
Soldiers came with tanks and guns.
Said Mungry, “They can’t harm me.”
He just smiled and licked his lips and ate the U.S. Army.
The President sent all his bombers – Mungry still was calm,
Put his head back, gulped the planes, and gobbled up the bomb.
He ate his town and ate the city – ate and ate and –
And then he said, “I think I’ll eat the whole United States.”
And so he ate Chicago first and munched the Water Tower,
And then he chewed on Pittsburgh but he found it rather sour.
He ate New York and Tennessee, and all of Boston town,
Then drank the Mississippi River just to wash it down.
And when he’d eaten every state, each puppy, boy and girl
He wiped his mouth upon his sleeve and went to eat the world.
He ate the Egypt pyramids and every church in Rome,
And all the grass in Africa and all the ice in Nome.
He ate each hill in green Brazil and then to make things worse
He decided for dessert he’d eat the universe.
He started with the moon and stars and soon as he was done
He gulped the clouds, he sipped the wind and gobbled up the sun.
Then sitting there in the cold dark air,
He started to nibble his feet,
Then his legs, then his hips
Then his neck, then his lips
Till he sat there just gnashin’ his teeth
‘Cause nothin’ was nothin’ was
Nothin’ was nothin’ was
Nothin’ was left to eat.
– “Hungry Mungry” by Shel Silverstein
Gluttony. As was the case with Hungry Mungry, you might say “round and round and round it goes, and where it stops nobody knows!” Gluttony…it’s the sin so many want to joke about, but so few want to talk about. It’s the skeleton in the closet. A guilty pleasure. A secret sin.
…and it’s our topic for today.
Gluttony is one of those oft “swept under the rug” kind of sins. I believe this is, in part, due to the lack of clear cut biblical standards on the issue. Most everyone knows it is wrong to “overeat”…but what on earth does “overeating” even look like? How do you know when you’ve crossed the line? Can gluttony be measured?
One person might think eating more than one hamburger per sitting is wrong, another might think eating five hamburgers is alright. One person eats dessert once a week, another eats it three times a day. One believes that drinking pop is to be avoided, another cracks open a fresh can at every meal. Everyone has a different opinion about how much is too much.
So, who is right?! From what source can we get our standard?
Rather than getting caught up in opinions, we are to look to the Bible for our answers! Here’s where it gets tricky, though: the Bible speaks of gluttony in terms of principles rather than precepts. To the best of my knowledge, you will not be able to find a portion control chart in scripture to definitively define your eating habits! Just the same, God’s word is not altogether silent on the subject. He has given us all we need to monitor our leanings toward gluttony. (If we will only apply a little common sense!)
Today we will ponder three punishments that might show up in our lives as a sign of excessive eating habits. If one or more of these signs has shown up in your life, it may be time to make some changes…
The first sign of gluttony is a punishment of the body: the punishment of pudginess.
Let’s be honest…one of the first places gluttony shows up is inside our own skin. When we’re no longer growing up, but continuing to grow out, it’s nearly always a tell-tale sign that we’re consuming far more than our body needs for nourishment.
Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not advocating an obsession with numbers on a scale, or making oneself sick to fit into a certain size. What I am advocating is proper education on what is a reasonable and healthy weight for YOU. This will of course vary with height, age, bone structure, muscle mass, etc. It’s not so much the number on the scale as it is maintaining a proportionate size for your unique combination of the above factors. If you are unsure where you should be weight-wise, an experienced medical health professional can help locate the appropriate parameters you ought to stay in. When you find yourself pushing the limit, taking a serious spiritual look at your eating habits will most likely get you right back on track.
Food is a lot like sex. Sex, in the right context (marriage) is a gift of God intended for pleasure and the bringing forth of new life. Food, in the right context (portioned) is a gift of God intended for pleasure and the sustaining of life. Sex outside of the covenant of marriage is crude, unacceptable, and shameful. Food outside of the boundaries of a self-controlled appetite is also crude, unacceptable, and shameful. Food and sex are wonderful gifts if used properly…but repulsive stumbling blocks when they are not.
There is a difference between eating and drinking for strength and from mere gluttony. – Henry David Thoreau
We must be careful how we view and use food. Food is not only a necessary nourishment, but can also be a tantalizing temptation. Weight watching can quickly fly out the window in its presence if we are not careful. The last thing anybody wants to think about at mealtime is counting the cost, but this is exactly what the God Who created pleasurable sustenance calls us to do!
Consider the words of the Psalmist in praise to our Lord:
He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart. – Psalm 104:14-15
In this Psalm, we find that God created food and beverage with three focuses in mind: 1. Our Pleasure; 2. Our Health; and 3. Our Strength.
In our Lord’s great kindness to us, He inspired this “sweet” little passage as well:
My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste. – Proverbs 24:13
From these two passages above, we get the distinct sense that our loving Father delights in giving us tasty food to enjoy. He did not only create food for our survival, but He wanted us to find satisfaction in our daily meals.
However, there is a limit to how much satisfaction we ought to find in food. Consider these two proverbs about honey in conjunction with the previous one above:
Hast thou found honey? Eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it. – Proverbs 25:16
It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory. He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls. – Proverbs 25:27-28
Allow me to point out a few basic truths found in the first of these two scriptures. First of all, I will have you note that honey is a treat, not a necessity. This ought to remind us that food is a gift for our pleasure…our God is kind. Another point to be mindful of, is that there is no set number of ounces mentioned for the honey…but rather, a warning to control our portions. Why? If we eat too much, we will become full and “vomit” it. In other words, there is a somber truth when it comes to overeating: enjoy now, pay later.
In the second of these two passages, we see the comparison between overeating and pride. They both involve a sore lack of self-control. Overeating feeds the flesh, while pride feeds the ego…but they both feed the sin in our hearts…selfishness. The self-centered mindset leaves our spirit in shambles like a demolished city left to ruin. This is why we as christians are called to die to self.
There is much punishment to be had in pudginess. At first, a few extra pounds may not seem to make much difference, yet an expanding girth speaks volumes of an expanding sin problem. In the case of pudginess:
Gluttony is not a secret vice. – Orson Welles
It’s right there for all to see! How embarrassing to have “self” hanging over our jeans, jiggling from our arms, and rippling up our backs! Would we not be wise to look in the mirror and recognize the visible chastisement of the Lord? “Turn back, Child”, He warns…”Self is eating you alive!” Can you see the warning signs?
- The huff and puff while climbing a flight of stairs? The punishment of pudginess.
- The inability to participate in (physical) recreational activity with others? The punishment of pudginess.
- The old outfits at the back of the closet, long outgrown? The punishment of pudginess.
- The fear to be seen in naked vulnerability by your own spouse? The punishment of pudginess.
- The heart problem the doctors never seems to be able to fix? The punishment of pudginess!
Any such example should serve as a warning that “self” is taking over, and that we have pleasured our flesh far too much.
So, how do we avoid pudginess? How can we know the right amount of food to fuel our body? How can we avoid gluttonous eating habits?
I can’t tell you how many calories a day you may consume. Neither can I tell you how many cookies you may have for a snack. If the Lord Almighty did not set in place such definitive numbers in His word, neither will I presume to do so. However, I will give you a few tips that may help you to self-evaluate, and put things in perspective. When headed for the pantry, you might ask yourself the following:
- Am I eating to live, or living to eat?
- Am I consuming food, or is food consuming me?
- Does my spirit control my appetite, or does my appetite control my spirit?
These questions point at the heart rather than the hamburgers. The goal is getting down to the heart of the matter, after all. If you evaluate and find yourself lacking in self-control, now is the time to repent. By denying the flesh now, you will be saving yourself from the pain of punishment later.
There are many simple tricks for taking control and managing your own weight…
• In our age of high-technology, there is no end to the various apps that make it possible to easily track your eating habits and set boundaries. Try downloading one for free! You just might find that keeping records motivates you to do better today than yesterday!
• Another easy yet effective tool is self-talk for limitation. You tell yourself (for example): “I am going to eat two cookies for a snack this evening.” Then, you stay true to the words you spoke to yourself. Do not eat three cookies, do not eat two-and-a-half cookies…simply eat the amount you decided to eat – allow yourself no more. Several days of doing this and you have created a habit!
• One trick I have learned is to always save more indulgent snacks until the evening. Here is why: Let’s say I eat a slice of cake in the early afternoon. It is all I intend to snack on, but by evening, I am wishing I had another slice. My flesh would like to justify eating more. Slyly, my flesh says, “it has been a few hours ago since your last slice after all. Another sliver couldn’t hurt”. If I cater to my flesh, I have now foolishly eaten two slices of cake, when my original intent was to eat only one! However, if I refrain from eating any cake altogether until after supper, I have something to look forward to and I only eat one slice throughout the day. This leaves no provision for my flesh, and I remain in control.
Such simple tips as these can make a world of difference! Bottom line: set your own weight management goals, and stick to them. It only gets easier the more you do. It may not seem all that important to stick to goals that we make personally, but we must ask ourselves this: “if I can’t even stay true to myself, who can I stay true to?”
Don’t be a glutton for punishment. Flee from pudginess!
The second sign of gluttony is a punishment of the soul: the punishment of poverty.
If we are honest with ourselves, we can’t help but acknowledge that it costs more to eat more. A gluttonous grocery bill is not cheap.
Listen to these stark warnings from the book of Proverbs:
He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich. – Proverbs 21:17
There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it all up. – Proverbs 21:20
There is no room for doubt – a gluttonous person is going to be (more often than not) a poor person. They nickel and dime their money away on that satisfaction which is short lived…
You get no thanks from your belly — it always forgets what you’ve done for it and comes begging again the next day. – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
You might be thin as a rail (for gluttony does not always manifest itself in the physical body), but how’s your budget? Are you perhaps spending too much in the way of meals? A glutton may dig themselves into a financial hole just as well as a chain-smoker or a drunk would. There is more of a correlation than you might think…
Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags. – Proverbs 23:20-21
Drunkards and gluttons are in many ways two of a kind. They both are poor financially and spiritually. Also, take special note of the mention above of “drowsiness”. Hmm…food hangover, anyone? Think about it…eating too much usually makes you tired, sluggish, and irritable. It’s a terrible feeling, and it’s another form of punishment with a capital P!
It is the just doom of laziness and gluttony to be inactive without ease and drowsy without tranquility. – Samuel Johnson
To return to my original point, can you see signs of gluttony in your food bill?
- The unexpected stop at the fast food chain, because “it sounded good”.
- The candy bar you “couldn’t resist” while passing through the checkout lane.
- The cheese puffs you threw in your cart, because “a sudden, intense craving” came on.
Understand that I don’t mean to say any of these things are bad in and of themselves…in moderation. However, if this is the norm in your life or something that controls you “in the moment”, you may not be giving yourself a treat; you may be giving in to gluttony.
To be blessed and yet permit gluttony to blind me to the blessings is to banish myself to a life of unrelenting poverty even though I might be utterly engulfed in the embrace of a million marvelous blessings. – Craig D. Lounsbrough
Here are some tips that may help curb gluttonous spending habits…
• When grocery shopping, prepare one hundred percent of your list beforehand, and stick to it. Don’t be swayed by items you “didn’t know you needed”. If you didn’t know you needed it, chances are…you didn’t need it, period!
• Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan! Try to avoid unexpected restaurant excursions, and save those occasions for times when they are planned and can be afforded.
• Decide a set amount to spend on food for the week, and do not exceed the budget. Get cash out of the bank if you need to, and use that primarily (rather than a card). When you limit yourself to a strict cash flow each grocery day/restaurant excursion, it can help you evaluate whether you truly need all the extra “goodies” or not.
Don’t be a glutton for punishment. Flee from poverty!
The third sign of gluttony is a punishment of the spirit: the punishment of preoccupation.
When we are preoccupied with food, it leaves little room to dwell on other things. Higher things. Spiritual things. Rather than redeeming our time for the Lord, all we can think about is heading to the pantry to rummage more goodies for the flesh. How carnal! How shameful. If, on the other hand, we free our our minds from the lust of food, we will have room for more productivity and spiritual growth.
Preoccupation with food is not only gluttony, but it is a form of idolatry! It is a mindset of “food now, God some other time“…
- Ever wish the preacher would stop sermonizing so you could race to the dinner table to feed your belly?
- Ever think about what you will make for supper during the last song in worship service?
- Ever write a christian article and keep getting up to grab yourself snacks instead of focusing?
If these sound familiar, you might be suffering from the punishment of preoccupation, my friend! Stop now before you end up counted among these folks…
Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. – Philippians 3:19
Gluttony is often joked about in social circles, but as you can see – it’s no joke. Idolizing food is a sin worthy of destruction! That is why we must carefully heed this admonition:
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof. – Romans 13:14
Gluttony is a lust of the flesh, and there’s nothing funny about that.
Modern Christians, especially those in the Western world, have generally been found wanting in the area of holiness of body. Gluttony and laziness, for example, were regarded by earlier Christians as sin. Today we may look on these as weaknesses of the will but certainly not sin. We even joke about our overeating and other indulgences instead of crying out to God in confession and repentance. – Jerry Bridges
Gluttony was a sin worthy of stoning in Old Testament times. (The sin is just as abominable today, only the punishment may be delayed.) Check this scripture out, concerning the hard choice parents have had to make in regards to their wayward children:
And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. – Deuteronomy 21:20-21
Gluttony is directly linked with stubbornness and rebellion – and as we mentioned previously, drunkenness! What do we do if we have fallen into such dreadful behaviors? Ephesians 5:15-18 has the recipe for overcoming drunkenness, and if you follow the same recipe, you can overcome gluttony also:
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.
Want to be wise? Want to understand God’s will? Want to redeem your time? You can’t do this with wine, and you can’t do this with food! We must replace these vices with God’s spirit. We must idolize Him (only Him); and deny those things which slow us down when taken to excess.
If you are experiencing the punishment of preoccupation, try out these tips to get your mind back on track…
• Set aside a special time each day to study from God’s word. Set a timer and say “no” to any distractions (including food) until the timer runs out. When there is no question about grabbing a snack, you free your mind to forget about it and focus on the King.
• Brush your teeth. This can trick your mind into thinking it’s time to lay off the food! Besides, who wants to defile a perfectly clean and fresh mouth? Just do it – it helps!
• If you are physically capable, why not try fasting from time to time? It can help shrink your tummy if you do it reasonably often. A smaller tummy leaves less room for food, and less room for food means more room for God if you are determined to be spiritually minded! Least of all, these special days of fasting will leave you unencumbered from thinking about food. When you determine something is not even an option, you eventually stop thinking about it! A clear and free mind is a wonderful thing to have.
Don’t be a glutton for punishment. Flee from preoccupation!
“Am I a glutton?” It is a question we all must ask ourselves from time to time. If I want to know the answer, I must put myself to the test by asking three questions of my life.
• Firstly, I will look for a sign in my body: am I experiencing the punishment of pudginess?
• Secondly, I will look for a sign in my soul: am I experiencing the punishment of poverty?
• Lastly, I will look for a sign in my spirit: am I experiencing the punishment of preoccupation?
If the answer is ever “yes” to any of these questions, I will know that the Lord is warning me of serious danger. I must hearken to His chastisement and make a lifestyle change before it’s too late! I must remind myself that:
Gluttony is the act of digging a grave with your own teeth. – Enock Maragesi
Don’t be a glutton for punishment, friends! If we are inclined to engorge ourselves, let us feast solely and continually upon the “Bread of Life”. That is, Jesus Christ our Lord…who fills us all in all. Only in Him will we find the “oil and meal” that continues forevermore.
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. – John 6:35
For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. – Psalm 107:9
For God’s glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.