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Who is Philippians 3:19 referring to when it says, “Whose god is their belly”?

whose god is their belly

Our stomachs are insatiable. They can be filled temporarily, but the reality is, no matter what or how much we eat, we are sure to hunger again. For the believer, God satisfies spiritual hunger, but for the person “whose god is their belly,” true satisfaction will never come.

In Philippians 3:18–19, Paul describes “the enemies of the cross of Christ” as those “whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things” (NKJV). These people whose god is their belly seek to fill their own appetites with earthly things and without God. They serve themselves and their fleshly lusts, and their end is destruction. In contrast, believers are citizens of heaven (verse 20), walking in the ways of God and trusting in the only One who can truly satisfy.

False teachers, whose god is their belly, live according to the flesh and pursue physical satisfaction. Unconcerned with spiritual growth, they eagerly take advantage of believers in order to fill their own stomachs. They glut themselves at the expense of God’s people. Self-denial is not in their vocabulary.

Paul urges believers to follow his example instead (Philippians 3:17), as he is committed to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (verse 14). Believers are not to be deceived by false teachers (Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 2:8). Jesus warned His followers that many would come in His name to deceive (Matthew 24:5).

Instead of following and teaching what God says, false teachers whose god is their belly believe and teach what they desire, what their audience wants to hear, or what gains popularity. They are not mistaken teachers with good intentions; they willingly deceive their hearers. They use godliness and faith as a means of financial gain (1 Timothy 6:5). They “are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people” (Romans 16:18).

Enemies of the cross, whose god is their belly, make a stand against God and Christ’s loving sacrifice. The cross is of supreme importance (Galatians 6:14), and there is no neutrality in response to the cross. In sorrow, Paul describes the destiny of these enemies of the cross. “Even weeping,” Paul warns that the end of these people is destruction (Philippians 3:18).

Believers are called to a life of self-denial to follow Christ: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34–35). A person whose god is their belly is not living for Christ but for self.

Believers are also called to live for more than just this temporary reality on earth. The enemies of the cross have “set their mind on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19). Those whose god is their belly are focused only on what is here and now and gratifying to the flesh. Believers are called to remember that their citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). Our heavenly identity changes our perspective in life’s difficulties and fuels the way we live. God’s Word tells us to “put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5; cf. Romans 8:13). One day, “the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, . . . will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20–21). The believer’s body, including the belly, will one day be transformed and fit for glory.

What a person believes is reflected in the way he lives. As Jesus said, “A tree is recognized by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33). Unlike those whose god is their belly, a true child of God displays the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). True believers set their minds on heavenly things and live for the Lord. Their desires and priorities are in their proper place. As citizens of heaven, we remember that only God can fully satisfy. We know the One True God, and He is not our belly.

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Who is Philippians 3:19 referring to when it says, “Whose god is their belly”?
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This page last updated: March 21, 2022