I Want to Eat Right Now
See to it that . . . no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. Hebrews 12:15-16
Because eating healthy is a common struggle, I often use that struggle to illustrate the misery of addiction to those who’ve never been addicted. Just as many of us can’t stop eating unhealthy food despite knowing the repercussions, the one enslaved to drugs cannot stop using. I’m not saying overeating and drug addiction are the same. I’m simply saying we can all understand the struggle of the addict through our own struggles. Still, it begs the question – Can food be sinful? Is my scale a measurement of my spiritual health?
I do see profound similarities between my overeating and my drug addiction. Both stem from an appetite, not for the healthy, but for what I want right now. Both have undesirable – though different – consequences. I’ve continued to do both despite knowing those consequences. Just as I hid my drug use, I prefer to eat donuts when no one is looking. When I’ve eaten poorly, I’ve felt shame and regret as I step on the scale the next day. My gluttonous behavior looks a lot like my addictive behavior. I’ve often wondered though – Am I over-spiritualizing food?
Today’s passage makes a strong case for the correlation between my eating habits and my spiritual health. In it, the author commanded against sexual immorality, juxtaposing it with the story of Esau. This refers to the Old Testament (Genesis 25:29-34) story of the brothers Esau and Jacob. Esau was the older and so, owned the birthright – a position of leadership and inheritance. One day, after work, Esau came home to find Jacob cooking a stew. Famished, Esau wanted some. Jacob asked Esau to trade his birthright for it. In his tremendous hunger, Esau traded away the rest of his life for one bowl of food. His need for immediate gratification led him to one of the worst decisions of his life.
Is a donut or a steak sinful? It’s not necessarily wrong to find pleasure those things. I don’t want to over-spiritualize food. It is, however, self-destructive to overeat when it’s causing us physical harm. How we eat is often representative of how we approach the rest of our lives. If we live for our now-appetite, we live for immediate gratification, which distracts from our relationship with God and always demands a painful price later.
The Christian life is the opposite of living for our now-appetite. Being a disciple means daily abandoning our way to follow Christ (Luke 9:24). If we desire to know the lives for which we were made, we must daily work at abandoning our self-destructive nature so that we may pursue new life in Christ.