I just finished downing about $75 worth of bbq with some co-workers and am super stuffed (this is yesterday night). It makes me wonder if I’m being a hypocrite on the following topic, but I suppose this’ll serve nicely as a concrete example to consider.
A few months ago, an interesting article blog post was made called: “Everyone’s a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony.” In this post, the author makes the point that and explores why Christians seem to be fixated on homosexuality as a sin that needs to be addressed when there are other sins, such as gluttony, that are just as, if not more, prevalent throughout American society. Now, before I get any further, I want to make clear that I’m not going to be delving into the topic of homosexuality, nor am I really going to delve into her blog post (which can be found here: Link). The main reason I bring it up, though, is because I do agree that gluttony is a sin (out of many) on which we generally don’t focus.
I hope to eventually flesh out a few different facets of gluttony, including food-related temptations that one might not necessarily put under the umbrella of “gluttony” but are nonetheless related. Eventually, I do hope to begin examining why gluttony is an oft overlooked sin and discuss a bit about the consequences of gluttony. For now, I’ll start with a first pass at a definition and a quick application that many of us can relate to, even if we do not profess to find gluttony a struggle.
So what do you mean by gluttony? And what does the Bible say about gluttony?
So before I go any further, what do I mean by gluttony? Wikipedia calls gluttony “over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink, or wealth items to the point of extravagance or waste,” which I think works okay as a first definition. The Bible is quite clear that gluttony is a sin, for example Proverbs 25:16 states: “If you find honey, eat just enough – too much of it, and you will vomit.” Another example is found in Philippians 3:18-19: “For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” Before I move on, I would like to add that I believe an appropriate approach to gluttony should not be overly focused simply on the large quantity of consumption. Usually, we tend to think of gluttony simply to be eating a lot/past the point when we are full. This certainly is gluttony, but I believe a fuller understanding must incorporate this idea that “their god is their stomach.” Hopefully I can refine this definition in future posts, but we’ll leave this as is for now.
So why should I care about gluttony?
Wow, what a stupid question. Gluttony is a sin, so of course you should care, duh … (sarcastic tone, in case you couldn’t tell) But just some more food for thought, we live in a country where it is often stereotyped that people are more overweight and more unhealthy than any other country (this is temporarily putting aside the fact that there is actual data supporting this: Link). Of course, I do want to note that weight is a product of many factors such as genetics, exercise, disease, and more, and food consumption is only one of them. That being said, it cannot be ignored that over-consumption of food is a major player in the obesity and unhealthiness that is prevalent in America.
And as another food for thought, while many of us (meaning most people I know) may not struggle with gluttony in the traditional sense of constant over-eating, we unfortunately do exhibit behavior that is often quite gluttonous. And as I as before, gluttony is a sin, so we should care about it.
Okay, so gluttony is bad, that makes sense. But I’m skinny or I don’t eat a lot or (sadly) I actually have a problem with under-eating; that must mean gluttony isn’t an issue for me, right?
This is where I’m supposed to drop that cliché of answer “Yes! It is an issue for everyone!” But no, not going to do that. Instead, I think I’d rather approach the question of why I believe gluttonous behavior comes to many of us in avoidable doses. At the root (or one of the roots) of gluttony is a desire to please the body. As with most desires, pleasing the body is not inherently bad, but it can often lead to scenarios where we look to food in an unhealthy way that threatens to replace God. Whether it’s the eating ice cream after a hard day, mindlessly chomping away at snacks while we’re doing nothing, pulling out a dessert after an extremely healthy meal, or other common rituals with food, we can begin to subtly fool ourselves into believe that we can always satisfy ourselves with food. “When I eat ice cream, it will make me feel good and I will forget my troubles.” “As I keep munching on these snacks, I am making myself happy which is better than me doing nothing at all and being bored.” “I deserve pleasure from this dessert because I did didn’t get pleasure from my super healthy meal.” When we commit those acts, especially on a repeated basis, these are the things we are saying with our body. We are allowing our stomach (pleasure) to be our god.
So what do I think of the bold question above? Maybe you’re slightly overweight, but it’s not really because you turn to eating to constantly please yourself. Or maybe you’re super fit and healthy, but go on binges of chocolate whenever you’re stressed. Or maybe you’re super fit and healthy and just have a healthy love of food. It’s not really my place to judge whether or not gluttony is an issue for you personally. But, it’s important that we not fall into the trap of using simple appearances to evaluate ourselves regarding gluttony.
So was I being gluttonous yesterday?
So given all I’ve said, was my huge consumption of bbq yesterday an act of gluttony? I hope that at the very least I’ve somewhat made you think that this type of question is one worth asking yourself occasionally. And additionally, I hope you’ll occasionally think about the habits you have with food and whether or not they exhibit gluttonous behavior.
So about that question, I sincerely don’t believe that I was eating so much simply to give pleasure to myself. I certainly wasn’t eating to escape sadness, or because I was bored, or because I thought I deserved to feel pleasure after a healthy lunch (although, side note, I did have a spinach salad that was way too healthy). These subtle things probably weren’t in play, but what about the more traditional definition of gluttony? Was I over-indulging/over-consuming? And where’s the line where a lot becomes “over.” Some questions perhaps to tackle in my next post!