Wise self-control over bodily appetites

Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:23. When the Holy Spirit is actively present in my life, I have more control of myself, not less. A lifestyle that is given to excess in which my bodily desires are controlling me, that is not a Christian body.

In the New Testament, the pagans are described as living lifestyles given to excess. Their bodies were in control of them instead of them controlling their bodies. “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19; See also Romans 16:18) 

Because of the Fall, my body wants more than it needs. Its goal is consumption. Its desires are insatiable. Hedonistic. Like the children in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, we will naturally want to eat, drink, and gratify all our appetites in excess. The question is really one of control. Who is in control? Is it me by the Spirit OR me by the flesh? “That each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor.” (1 Thessalonians 4:4)

Here there is great hypocrisy in churches where we preach loudly against satisfying the desires of the flesh and condemn the world for all of its passions and then are dismissed to the fellowship hall filled with doughnuts and desserts. Or take the stereotypical preacher who is unnaturally overweight, the buttons on his shirt are stretched to the max, and his belt is clearly on the last loop. All the while telling the flock they need to learn to deny themselves more and live for eternity. Really?

Is it wrong to eat a steak and strawberry pie? No. God has given us all things for us to enjoy (1 Corinthians 6:17) and real Christians enjoy their food more not less. There is a family taking me out for a steak for Sunday lunch. I shall eat it to the glory of God.

However, can I NOT eat the steak? Am I free to NOT eat the dessert? Can I curb my body’s desires? Or do I willingly eat, drink, smoke, inhale anything that will damage God’s body of which I am a steward? Is my lifestyle over time doing damage to the body Christ died to redeem?

I am not talking about the effects of slowing metabolism as we age or medical conditions that complicate this or a hundred other exceptions you may be able to come up with. I think you know what I am talking about; a lack of self-control and a failure to connect how I treat my body with my Christianity.

Are we a church that values the human body without hating it, abusing it, or worshiping it? In a body-obsessed world like ours, a Christian who doesn’t obsess over their body, but stewards it as God’s gift will shine brightly indeed.


Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

© 2011 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s web site address(http://www.bethelweb.org/) on the copied resource.

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Add Yours
  1. Mitchell Hammonds

    Really? As a Christian I must now sit down and ask the question “Should I eat or not eat?”… “Should/Could I drink?”… or “Should I not exercise?… because I may be on the verge of worshiping my body.”
    This is the stuff legalism is made of.
    Tell me of the commandments that I have truly broken and of the reconciliation won by Christ for me.
    More rules never work.

  2. Jared Dragoun

    Interestingly, there were not comments on this topic yet. But I could have guessed it even before looking at the comment area.

    Why don’t we hear this topic preached? Just like any rebuke, people don’t like how it feels. And with this sin, especially, it makes people feel uncomfortable because it is something that in some cases cannot be hidden (though, as Steve mentions, being “overweight” may or may not be the result of a person’s sin). Other sins are easier to talk about and openly rebuked because people can more easily hide them.

    I can hide my sin. I’m a tall, fairly “lanky” pastor who is continually aware of my own lack of self-control in the areas discussed in the article. Fortunately for me, I don’t have to wear my sin on my belly because of my decent metabolism, but my idolatry of food is a real battle.

    Thanks, Steve, for your willingness to address a topic that has been conveniently swept under the rug in the church.

  3. Kim Baker

    Self Control. Ha, it laughs at me every day. Every time I look in the mirror. Without going to God in Prayer when I am tempted, This sin is not hidden, everytime I put something into
    my mouth that I know I should not…it shows up on the outside of my body. Glutny is one of the 7 deadly sins. I want to be freed of this sin. Addiction is deadly. As a former drug addict, work aholic, shop aholic, ane now food aholic….I have learned that the comfort I am seeking will only be found in Christ Jesus. The emptiness, will be filled, and will spill out of me like a child who just came out of the candy store with an overflowing bag to share. I pray for all addicts, that we will be set free and learn to treat our bodies as a temple for Christ. Life is a gift. A precious gift. Thank you Pastor Steve for teaching us God’s word as it releates to us in our daily lives. Relational indeed. Knowing that my hunger is real, but can only be satisfied by Jesus…changes everything. Praise God.

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