What Does the Bible Say About Gluttony?

Definition: Gluttony
Close-up of a dictionary page, with the central point the definition of the word gluttony. miteman / Getty Images Plus

Gluttony is the sin of overindulgence and excessive greed for food. In the Bible, gluttony is closely linked with the sins of drunkenness, idolatry, lavishness, rebellion, disobedience, laziness, and wastefulness (Deuteronomy 21:20). The Bible condemns gluttony as a sin and places it squarely in “the lust of the flesh” camp (1 John 2:15–17). 

Key Bible Verse

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, NIV

Biblical Definition of Gluttony

A biblical definition of gluttony is the habitual giving in to a greedy appetite by overindulging in eating and drinking. Gluttony includes an excessive desire for the pleasure that food and drink give to a person.

God has given us food, drink, and other pleasurable things to enjoy (Genesis 1:29; Ecclesiastes 9:7; 1 Timothy 4:4-5), but the Bible calls for moderation in everything. Unrestrained self-indulgence in any area will lead to deeper entanglement in sin because it represents a rejection of godly self-control and disobedience to the will of God.

Proverbs 25:28 says, “A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.” (NLT). This passage implies that a person who puts no restraint on his or her passions and desires ends up with no defense when temptations come. Having lost self-control, he or she is in danger of being carried away into further sin and destruction.

Gluttony in the Bible is a form of idolatry. When the desire for food and drink becomes too important to us, it’s a sign that it has become an idol in our lives. Any form of idolatry is a serious offense to God:

You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. (Ephesians 5:5, NLT).

According to Roman Catholic theology, gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, meaning a sin that leads to damnation. But this belief is based on Church tradition dating back to medieval times and is not backed by Scripture.

Nevertheless, the Bible speaks of many destructive consequences of gluttony (Proverbs 23:20-21; 28:7). Perhaps the most damaging aspect of overindulgence in food is how it harms our health. The Bible calls us to take care of our bodies and honor God with them (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

Jesus’ critics—the spiritually blind, hypocritical Pharisees—falsely accused him of gluttony because he associated with sinners:

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:19, ESV).

Jesus lived like the average person in his day. He ate and drank normally and was not an ascetic like John the Baptist. For this reason, he was accused of eating and drinking in excess. But anyone who honestly observed the Lord’s behavior would see his righteousness.

The Bible is exceedingly positive about food. In the Old Testament, several feasts are instituted by God. The Lord likens the conclusion of history to a great feast—the marriage supper of the Lamb. Food is not the problem when it comes to gluttony. Rather, when we allow the craving for food to become our master, then we have become slaves to sin:

Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. (Romans 6:12–14, NLT)

The Bible teaches that believers are to have only one master, the Lord Jesus Christ, and worship him alone. A wise Christian will carefully examine his or her own heart and behaviors to determine whether he or she has an unhealthy desire for food.

At the same time, a believer ought not to judge others regarding their attitude toward food (Romans 14). A person’s weight or physical appearance may have nothing to do with the sin of gluttony. Not all fat people are gluttons, and not all gluttons are fat. Our responsibility as believers is to scrutinize our own lives and do our best to honor and serve God faithfully with our bodies. 

Bible Verses About Gluttony

Deuteronomy 21:20 (NIV)
They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.”

Job 15:27 (NLT)
“These wicked people are heavy and prosperous; their waists bulge with fat.”

Proverbs 23:20–21 (ESV)
Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.

Proverbs 25:16 (NLT)
Do you like honey? Don’t eat too much, or it will make you sick!

Proverbs 28:7 (NIV)
A discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.

Proverbs 23:1–2 (NIV)
When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.

Ecclesiastes 6:7 (ESV)
All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied.

Ezekiel 16:49 (NIV)
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”

Zechariah 7:4–6 (NLT)
The LORD of Heaven’s Armies sent me this message in reply: “Say to all your people and your priests, ‘During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and in early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting? And even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves?’”

Mark 7:21–23 (CSB)
For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”

Romans 13:14 (NIV)
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Philippians 3:18–19 (NLT)
For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.

Galatians 5:19–21 (NIV)
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Titus 1:12–13 (NIV)
One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith.

James 5:5 (NIV)
You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.

Sources

  • “Gluttony.” Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies.
  • “Glutton.” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 656).
  • “Gluttony.” The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms (p. 296).
  • “Gluttony.” Pocket Dictionary of Ethics (p. 47).