By Irven Lee
In speaking of the people of Crete Paul quoted one of their own poets as he said, “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretans are always liars, evil . beasts, slow bellies” (Titus 1:12). Goodspeed’s translation says, “savage brutes, lazy gluttons.” The American Standard Version has, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons.” The Amplified Bible, which can be used more as a brief commentary than as a translation, has “Cretans are always liars, hurtful beasts, idle and lazy gluttons.” The New Testament in Basic English has “evil beasts, lovers of food, hating work.” Knox has “venomous creatures, all hungry bellies and nothing besides.” Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, lets us know that in Titus two words were used which, when used together, signify a glutton, or an idle glutton. Webster’s Student Dictionary defines a glutton as one who eats greedily or to excess.
Excess in eating was one general characteristic of the people of Crete. Lying and idleness were traits also found among them. We know that these two last things are wrong. Our study is of gluttony. Is it a sin to be gluttonous? If it is a sin we need to know it and to avoid doing that which the Lord does not approve. The word keeps bad company in the passages where it is used. The enemies of Christ thought they were making a charge of sinfulness when they falsely accused Christ of being a wine bibber and a gluttonous man (Matt. 11:19).
Let us now read from the old law. “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; 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 shall thou put evil away from among you, and all Israel shall hear, and fear” (Deut. 21:18-21). The gluttony was only par( of the story in this case, but it could hardly be included in this if it were not evil. We do not live under the same law, but we do live under the same God who gave this law. Would you suppose that He now approves excessive eating?
Let us again read from the counsel given to Israel. “Be not among wine bibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: for the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: -and drowsiness shall clothe a man in rags” (Prov. 23:20, 1). The glutton is here mentioned with the drunkard. Poverty, drowsiness, and rags art mentioned as his part in this life. What if a glutton began drinking alcohol? Would he almost certainly drink to excess? The lack of self-control in eating would be evident in his drinking. The one habit may be a cousin to the other. I am not saying that one habit is as bad as the other. The drunkard would be more harmful to others. The gluttonous person may harm himself to the extent that his life expectancy may be no more than that of the alcoholic.
Is excessive weight harmful to the body which is fearfully and wonderfully made? Is there any doubt? “Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Cor. 6:20). “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23). We can, at least, say that the Lord is interested in the proper care of our bodies. If we all stop to consider, we may decide that almost every one of us have been guilty of over indulgence through some period of life, if not always.
The active young person may have a big appetite, but his great amount of activity uses the excess amount of food. The period when he settles into office work or quiet years in college may not see a corresponding cutting back on food consumption, so weight may rapidly increase, and there will likely be high blood pressure and other dangers to the body. I am no doctor, but we all need to inform ourselves of dangers and then buffet our bodies and bring them into subjection. We have much food, and many kinds of food are available in our country. Are we able to eat sensibly? There are evidently many that think it is great fun to eat ridiculous amounts where a restaurant offers “all you can eat” for a set price.
The Libscomb-Shepherd Commentary comments on Titus 1:12 and on the words “idle gluttons” from the American Standard Version, which it uses, as follows: “Their gluttony made them dull, heavy, and indolent. These sins were true of the Cretans generally in their unregenerate state; but sins prevalent among a people before they become Christians will possibly be their besetting sins after they become such. The sins of lying and gluttony seem to indicate a ferocious and vindictive spirit, and that they were lazy and given to gluttony.” These sins are not all usually listed together.
Gluttony and sensuality are examples of using animal appetites as means of gratification rather than relief. Evidently we should not glory in the things of which we should be ashamed. Self-control, dignity, refinement, and courtesy do not fit into the same picture as “lazy gluttons” or “idle gluttons.” Is there no regard for etiquette and good manners? One who consumes a ridiculous amount of food at an extraordinary speed may be repulsive to many who observe his behavior. Is this the proper behavior for a Christian? A great teacher in the days of my youth had a definition of temperance, which he stressed very often. He defined the word as meaning “the total abstinence from things harmful and the right use of things helpful.” Do not cut the length of your life in half by excessive use of good food.
The proper eating habits may be more easily formed by young people. It is very hard for the glutton of many years to come back to wise eating habits. It is not so difficult for the thoughtful and careful young man to develop good manners and avoid the loss of self-control in eating. It is so much easier to learn self-control early than to overcome the weight problem and the evil effects that come with obesity.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 42, pp. 682-683
October 23, 1980