Sin, Grace and Doughnuts

file0001482354766“Is it a sin to eat doughnuts?” A woman asked me that question a couple of months ago after I had given my first talk on the concepts of health discipleship. I was reminded of it last week when my friend Don, who loves doughnuts, brought up the subject in a conversation about this blog. So I thought I’d write about it today.

Well, is it a sin to eat doughnuts? I would say the short answer is “maybe, maybe not” or “it depends.” It’s not a simple question, and it was certainly charged with emotion when it was asked the morning of the talk. Consequently, I’d like to think through the issues involved from a Christian perspective, being careful to avoid legalism and judgmentalism, starting with the basics of creation and sin.

God created the world and it was good. Then sin entered the world and corrupted all of creation, especially our hearts and minds. It’s this internal sinful orientation that causes us to actually sin in our behavior, and much of our sin involves using God’s good creation in the wrong manner.

Work and money are common examples of this misorientation. Work itself is good, but becoming a “workaholic” seeking power or status while ignoring one’s family is wrong. Money is useful and necessary; it’s right for us to acquire and use money to provide for ourselves and our families. It’s wrong to be greedy, or principally oriented towards growing rich for personal gain. We are called to be good stewards, working and earning as necessary to live our lives in a way that glorifies God. Placing something else before God is the underlying commonalty among many different sinful actions.

Given that understanding, I think the question now becomes, “Why are you eating the doughnut?” or “What is the relationship between you and the doughnut?” or maybe “What is the relationship between you, God and the doughnut?” Each of us will have different answers, and we have to decide for ourselves if eating doughnuts represents good stewardship in our lives.

Some questions for discernment might be: Do you feel unable to resist the doughnut? Do you eat doughnuts and other sweet treats compulsively despite being overweight or having diabetes? Do you eat doughnuts to relieve stress? Are you using doughnuts and other “comfort foods” to fill an emotional hole? Does the doughnut seem to have power over you? Do you feel guilt and shame from eating doughnuts? Or, are you completely unconcerned about your health? Do you simply eat whatever tastes good, including doughnuts, in any amount that feels good to you? If these are hitting close to home, then perhaps eating doughnuts is a problem for you.

On the other hand: Do you take reasonably good care of your health and enjoy a doughnut or two from time to time? Do you have coffee and doughnuts with your friends or family, bonding over the shared meal? Are you able to enjoy and celebrate great tasting treats like doughnuts while remaining a good steward of your body? If so, doughnuts appear to represent another of God’s blessings to you.

Perhaps you’re in the camp that struggles with doughnuts, or sweets, or overeating in general. It’s a common problem. Does calling it “a sin” help? I’m not so sure that it does, but recognizing it as a manifestation of your human sinfulness, or brokenness, is essential. Then you know that your help lies in Jesus.

Most importantly, remember the good news! We live under the grace of God.   Followers of Jesus are not condemned for eating too many doughnuts, or for anything else. Jesus has set us free from the power of sin and death. If you really want to eat the doughnut, go for it! If you don’t want to eat the doughnut, but are struggling to control your habits, don’t condemn yourself; rather turn to God for help.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1

Don, thank you for your encouragement.  Let’s get together for doughnuts soon. 🙂