When Food Becomes an Idol

American culture is obsessed with a lot of things, but nothing drives more obsession in our hearts than food. Just think of the commercials for fast food restaurants, hot dogs, fried chicken and candy bars. It’s not surprising that food has so much power over our lives.

You can always find experts who claim to have the answer. There are numerous programs to help you break the diet-indulgence cycle. But those solutions don’t really go deep enough. They don’t get at the real issue.

Because the real issue is idolatry.

When I spoke to Lysa TerKeurst, author of Made to Crave, she gave an excellent answer to how food can take control of our lives and what we can do to fix it. Listen:

Food can become an idol – something we crave, something we live for, something that controls us. But trying to be thin can become an idol too.
Our lives are full of potential idols, and there are two problems we face:

  1. We can spend our lives preoccupied with idols, always wishing for what they seem to offer. And once we get them we might relish the moment but then pretty quickly we realize this thing I wanted really hasn’t delivered true happiness.
  1. Idols steal our lives away from the Lord. We end up seeking from our idols the very things we’re meant to seek—and find—in Jesus. Our idols are in direct competition with the Lord.

We are too often fooled by the claims our idols seem to make:

This is going to make my life better.

I can’t live without this.

This will make me happy.

This will bring me comfort.

We need to know how to respond to these claims. And what better place to turn than Jesus, who was also tempted with idolatry?

Every one of us—starting with Eve in the garden—has been tempted with idolatry. Our enemy is actively engaged in tempting us to turn away from the Lord by directing our energies and desires to other things. Every one of us has been caught in the trap. We’ve all fallen for false promises.

But Jesus didn’t fall for the enemy’s enticements. He had the answers. He emerged from His encounter with Satan as a victorious servant of God. As Hebrews 4:15 says, Jesus was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

So lets’ go to the wilderness and learn from Jesus:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” – Matthew 4:1-3

That was the first temptation. There were three more after that but we’ll just look at the first one because it has to do with food. And not just food, but what food seems to promise—life.

Satan was tempting Jesus in the exact same way he tempts us. “This is the thing that will give you life. You must have this.

When we seek after idols, that’s really what we’re doing—we’re trying to fill our emptiness. We feel a fundamental hunger, a restless need for something, and yet our idols don’t ever satisfy it.
So, what’s the answer? Jesus tells us:

Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. – Matthew 4:4

So where should we look for life? What delivers? What will really satisfy our hunger? Jesus says the answer is this: “Every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

The words God speaks to us are life-giving words. His Word is the only thing that will fill us up. Instead of listening to our idols, we need to start every day filling up on the Word. But that doesn’t mean just reading the Bible. We need to fill up on Jesus.

We can also remember the words of Christ:

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. – John 6.26

For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. – John 6:33

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry.” – John 6.35

Isn’t that beautiful? Jesus doesn’t just give us the answers. He IS the answer.

When we satisfy our hunger with Jesus at the beginning of every day, we can answer our idols, “No, you aren’t my source of life. Jesus is my life. I can live without you because I have Jesus and I am full.”

About the Author

As the leader of the Haven Ministries, Charles Morris is always thinking of ways to lead Christians and non-Christians to Christ—hence the familiar slogan, “Telling the great story … it’s all about Jesus.” Charles is a former secular journalist, who has worked for United Press International, and as a press secretary for two former U.S. senators. He began working in the Christian world after seminary, becoming the fourth speaker of Haven in 2000. He and his wife, Janet, have written several books, including Missing Jesus.


  • Hattie says:

    Just recently experiencing looking to food to fill that restless need for something. Being a person & Christian who is healthy diet & exercise conscious,I am fully aware of my illegitimate use of food when I’m feeling restless. The Holy Spirit absolutely “checks” me each time, yet (not always, but even once is too much)I repeat the behavior. I am concerned. After reading this article, I will (again)began committing God’s Word to mind/heart to combat & overcome this infringing idol. Learning to call it what it is has shaken me. I have erected an idol for myself… Me… really??? Yes me. Please pray with me that God, through Christ Jesus, will destroy this idol, fill the void within me & let me realize being more than a conquered in Christ. In His name, amen. Thank you.

  • Noelle says:

    This is my struggle, food more and more has become an idol in my life. I’ve been stuffing all my worries, all my pains, fears and concerns with food. Excessive amounts of food. I was once addicted to drugs, alcohol and sex but Christ delivered me. Now it seems as if I’ve switched addictions. Please brothers and sisters in Christ, pray for me.

    • Corum Hughes says:

      “Switched addictions” There is no greater way to put it! Thanks for sharing, Noelle. It’s not easy coming to terms with our addictions, but with the power of Christ it is possible. We’ll keep you in prayer.

    • Joshua says:

      I will pray for you?

  • Lori Dunwell says:

    We must also understand that our food today is filled with addictive ingredients which cause us to overindulge. These ingredients mess with our hormones and create unhealthy habits. We need to learn and be aware of the quality of our foods. It’s not always our faults on craving food, but unless people are aware of what to look for when shopping we will always be decieved in the same way the devil deceives us in life. I recommend Foodbabe on learning more. I’ve used her for 5 years and it has truly made a drastic difference in my habits. It’s not always a choice we’ve made to idolize food, but more about being informed of why we may be due to the food quality. In the end it is up to us, but unless we know this we will always be struggling to break the addiction. I thank God for her work and allowing me to have a healthier lifestyle without all the guilt of feeling I’m not doing good enough in my walk with God.

    • Corum Hughes says:

      Thanks for your insight, Lori! When it comes to overeating, there are many different factors that contribute to why someone may find it difficult to break away from an addiction. Addictive ingredients, additives, lack of healthy options, and habit all play a role. What we’re trying to do here is shed light on the spiritual struggle, as well. Though it may not be the obvious answer, we believe some level of idolatry lies at the heart of every over-indulgence we may have.

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