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Is it a Sin to be Obese?

  • Dawn Wilson Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • Updated Feb 22, 2017
Is it a Sin to be Obese?

After four major diets in a decade, I knew losing weight wasn’t my problem.

Keeping weight off had more to do with my thoughts than the spoon in my hand. 

We categorize people from pudgy to grossly overweight as “fat.” And the cause of excessive weight, obesity, may not even be food. Sleep debt, medicines and medical disorders, inactivity, chronic depression, aging, ancestral tendencies, stopping smoking—there are numerous potential contributors to weight gain. 

We can’t say obesity is a sin, and we must be careful not to judge others on their outward appearance (John 7:24), especially if we don’t know their story. 

The media shouldn’t have the last word in defining “skinny” and “fat” for us either. Youthful, airbrushed bodies are meant to pressure us into buying quick fixes. We must get messages about appearance from Scripture, not the culture.

But we can’t dismiss weight issues too quickly either, because the Bible presents a strong cause for most overeating. 


A year ago, I went to a Christian nutritionist who lovingly pointed to numbers on my InBody machine readout. The report didn’t hide the truth. During another session, she said, “You’re addicted to food like a druggie is addicted to cocaine.”

The truth is, I was a glutton long before I got heavy. I learned how to be a glutton in my teen years. At church. All those banquet-sized tables loaded with tempting, calorie-dense potluck dishes. The pastor’s encouragement to “chow down,” and showing us how with an overloaded plate. 

I could have kindly said “no,” but did I mention I’m a food addict?

Gluttony is the sin Christians like to justify. We label and condemn other sins, but tolerate gluttony. It’s acceptable, even fun!

The Bible doesn’t say gluttony will keep us out of heaven, but it’s listed with habits that harm, impoverish and bring embarrassment and shame (Deuteronomy 21:20; Proverbs 23:20-21; Proverbs 28:7). The Bible gives a stark warning about its seriousness and the idolatry of loving the “pleasure” of eating more than loving the Lord (Proverbs 23:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Gluttony must be conquered, not tolerated. A wise food program can help, but here are other strategies that are helping me.

1. Control: Christians are only to have one Master.

In “How Can I Conquer Gluttony?” John Piper wrote, “Gluttony is having a craving for food that conquers you.” He also said, “The main way to fight cravings that we don’t want is to experience higher cravings and have them master us.”

I am tempted to sin when I forget my Master. When I’m led astray by fleshly desires, listening to the enemy, or paying more attention to other voices (Ephesians 2:1-3; James 1:14). 

We can “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” with minds set on earthy things, Paul said, worshipping our demanding “belly god” (Philippians 3:18-19).

Gluttony controls and enslaves me when I am not under the control of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:2; Galatians 5:22). When I want what I want regardless of His call to “overcome” in Christ (Philippians 4:13).

We might ask, “Is Jesus my Master in the kitchen, and at the restaurant and at the church supper? Am I willing to obey as He directs? Am I willing to let the Lord control my appetites?”

2. Commitment: For God’s servants, there is more at stake than eating.

“You want to have a healthy body,” my nutritionist said, “so you can serve the Lord longer. Right?” Yes, I wanted that. But wanting and acting are two different things. It would require commitment and discipline.

Paul disciplined his body like a committed athlete, keeping it under control lest “after preaching to others” he would be disqualified by wrong choices (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). There was much at stake in the temptations he’d face, so he did not “run aimlessly” (v. 26). 

Christians must add self-control to “faith” and care for their bodies, because they are the temple of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:5-7; 1 Corinthians 6:19). What are we willing to do to discipline our lives and improve our health? What proactive food and exercise strategies will benefit us? How will we follow through with them? 

For me, planned times of eating and activity coupled with regular accountability contribute to success.

3. Consequences: We reap what we sow.

“No one will ever know.” “I can get away with this.” Right. 

We take lightly the biblical principle of sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7-8). We ignore the connection. One week I told my nutritionist, “I don’t know how I gained this week.” She quickly calculated the calories in all the “handfuls” of nuts I consumed that week. 

Whenever I am unwilling to restrain overeating impulses, my body takes careful notes. I don’t get away with anything!

This doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy “planned indulgences” at special events. Food is a wonderful provision from God, and I can delight in all the nutritious and delicious foods He created. But I can’t give in routinely to my pleasure-seeking appetite. 

Indulgence has consequences. 

4. Captivity: Some thoughts paralyze and trap.

Undisciplined thinking derails good intentions, and lies we believe trap us in addictions. 

I’m learning to take my thoughts “captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) by substituting truth for every one of the enemy’s lies. I’m choosing to dwell in a disciplined way on concepts that encourage growth and freedom. 

I’m memorizing key Scriptures because I want thoughts and self-talk that energizes and motivates me toward godliness, not gluttony (1 Timothy 4:7b-8).

5. Connections: Other issues might overlap.

Ever watched sloths? They look lazy, tired and sl-o-o-o-w. Like human couch potatoes. Part of my issue with gluttony was connected to slothfulness, and the pounds packed on. 

Idle souls suffer hunger, not only couch potato hunger, but also spiritual hunger (Proverbs 19:15b). Acting like a sluggard is foolish and destructive (Proverbs 20:24; 24:30-34; Ecclesiastes 10:18). 

Other connecting issues for me are boredom eating and stress eating. Sometimes I’m just bored or stressed out, not hungry. Others admit this too: dealing with struggling relationships, stress and weariness at work, unmotivated, or when life in general feels just “blah.” 

I’m learning to run to the Lord before I run to the refrigerator. I consider what’s really going on in my brain.

I also try to plan something after eating so I don’t “graze and laze.” I asked the Lord for new goals, projects and adventures as my “go to” plans to get moving again—activities like rediscovering gardening, playing with my dog, and walking laps at Walmart.

A final thought: Christians must never heap self-condemnation on their heads, because God does not condemn believers (Romans 8:1). In Christ, believers are free, and He helps us discover the path to healthy eating. But we must ask and be teachable (James 1:5; Psalm 25:1-5).

Please pray with me: 

Father God, Jesus died for the sin of gluttony, and we can trust You for the grace to overcome this besetting sin. Help us taste and see that You are good. Help us come to You when our hearts are hungry. Teach us Your ways and guard our thoughts. Help us cultivate holiness so we can please and serve You. Amen! 


Dawn Wilson and her husband Bob live in Southern California. They have two married sons and three granddaughters. Dawn assists author and radio host Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with research and works with various departments at Revive Our Hearts. She is the founder and director of Heart Choices Today, and also publishes LOL with God and Upgrade with Dawn and writes for Crosswalk.com. Dawn also travels with her husband in ministry with the International School Project.

Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com

Publication date: February 14, 2017