Last week we introduced the topic of overeating in the Bible, looking at Paul’s example of buffeting (disciplining) his body as to not be disqualified from the prize. The surrounding context of this verse (I Corinthians 9:27) is a 3 chapter discourse on the topic of food. Paul had mastered his body, making it his slave — rather than being a slave to his body.
I Corinthians 9:27 is one among many verses that teach the principle of self-discipline. And while we can do nothing apart from Christ, we can do all things through His strength. Paul, however, when talking about disciplining his body, does not highlight Christ’s work (though necessary) in the process. Rather, Paul highlights that he is the one who is responsible to master his body. He is actively, presently, and actually making his body a slave. Read more about that here.
Now we will present 7 Bible verses that address the topic of self-control and food.
- Proverbs 13:25: “The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, But the stomach of the wicked is in need.”
- This verse first demonstrates that God provides food for the righteous.
- Second it demonstrates that God provides enough food to satisfy. The word satisfy in this verse is so-bah in the Hebrew and it means full. It is elsewhere translated abundance and fully satisfied.
- Third it reveals that eating to our fill is not sinful and wrong, nor is it overeating. Eating till we are fully satisfied is a gift from God. He doesn’t want us to eat just a little.
- Proverbs 23:1-3: “When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you, And put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for it is deceptive food.”
- Robert Alden writes of this verse: “What you do at a banquet or elegant dinner tells others what kind of person you are. The ruler who hosts a dinner has a sharp eye on his guests. Some are so awed by the elegant surroundings and rich array of food that they will probably miss out on the real purpose of the evening. Others will overeat, thereby revealing greed and overindulgence. Wise men, however, will eat with moderation and restraint, constantly aware of what the host is asking of them.”
- Matthew Henry writes, “God’s restraints of the appetite only say, Do thyself no harm.”
- These two commentaries demonstrate that one reason for not over indulging on food is to keep the body from harm. Indeed overeating is unhealthy for the body and the soul.
- Proverbs 25:16: “Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, that you not have it in excess and vomit it.”
- Honey is praised in the Bible as a good food. Yet eating too much is not good for the body.
- This is an apt warning against excesses in all sweeteners and all things good.
- Matthew Henry writes again, “God has given us leave to use grateful things, but we are cautioned against excess.”
- Galatians 5:22-24: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
- Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. This means that all believers possess it, and should like Paul, actively, presently, and actually practice it by making their body a slave.
- This does not teach that we should not enjoy our food to the fill (or it would contradict other Scripture). The only passions and desires that are crucified are the sinful ones. We must use food in a way that does not harm our bodies. When we do this, we sin because it destroys the temple of God, even our flesh.
- I Corinthians 6:12-13: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.”
- Here the Apostle Paul teaches that Christian liberty is not a universal license to sin — this includes overeating.
- We are not to be mastered by anything, but rather we are to exercise self-control in all things — including food.
- We belong to the Lord and are not our own. Therefore we must honor God with our eating.
- Titus 1:7,8: “For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled.”
- Church leaders are to be examples of those living self-controlled lives.
- Paul led the way in this and invited everyone to follow his example (Philippians 4:9).
- For church leaders, self-control is part of being above reproach, a requirement.
- I Corinthians 9:25-27: “but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
- We’ve already looked at this verse, but will end with it as a reminder. Paul disciplined his body, made it his slave actively, presently, and actually because he did not want to be disqualified for the prize.
- We too should strive to win the prize. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
- Let us discipline our bodies in the area of food, for Christ’s sake.
When we let food rule over us, rather than ruling over food — it becomes an idol. I know that I have bowed down before the false god of food many times. I wish I had mastery as does Paul. And I must strive to achieve it through prayer, meditation on Scripture, and self-denial. God is not asking us to deny the great pleasures He has provided in the food kingdom. He is merely requiring that it not rule over us.
If the foods we are eating, or the amounts of food we are eating are causing us to suffer in our health — then it has become an idol that we must cast off.
Take warning (and I speak to myself as well): “The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord; And He watches all his paths” Proverbs 5:21.
Return to: Biblical Health Study
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