What is Gluttony? What are the definition and consequences of being gluttonous?
Gluttony is defined as the over-indulgence or lack of self-restraint in food, drink, or wealth items, especially as status tokens. The English word comes from the Latin and means “to gulp.” Gluttony worships food to feed our own self-love. Merriam-Webster defines gluttony as "habitual greed or excess in eating...greedy or excessive indulgence".
While gluttony may seem to be a more trivial transgression than the others grouped in the “Seven Deadly Sins,” there is a reason this sin makes the list. With the alarming rate of modern obesity we see today, perhaps many have forgotten or forsaken the warnings against gluttony and its deadly consequences. Let’s look at the biblical references of gluttony to better understand its classification as a deadly sin.
Gluttony in the Bible
- Gluttony plunged the whole human race into a state of sin and misery with the first transgression (Genesis 3:6).
- Gluttony, or “excess of food,” led to a curse of utter destruction upon Sodom, the standard example of God’s wrath and judgment (Ezekiel 16:49).
In Moses’ day, when Israel craved meat in the wilderness, the Lord sent quail. “While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague” Interestingly, the name of the place was called “Kibroth-hattaavah” which means “Graves of Craving” (Number 11:18-34; Psalm 78:26-31).
Consequences of Gluttony
- Gluttony is often connected with idolatry (Philippians 3:19; 1 Corinthians 10:7), and leads to deadness of heart (Psalm 115:4-8, 119:70).
- Gluttony and hopelessness go hand in hand (1 Corinthians 15:32).
- Devotion to food for Christians gives birth to legalism and judgmental-ism in Christians (Romans 14:13-17).
- Gluttony induces laziness (Titus 1:12) that brings forth poverty (Proverbs 23:21).
- Gluttony is a visible expression of rebellion against God and man that destroys life (Deuteronomy 21:20).
- Drunkards (liquid-based gluttons) will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10).
Furthermore, Church leaders from the rigorous Middle Ages developed a more extensive view of gluttony, as St. Thomas Aquinas did in his work called Summa Theologica. St. Thomas Aquinas emphasized a list of five ways to commit gluttony:
- Laute - eating food that is too luxurious, exotic, or costly
- Studiose - eating food that is excessive in quality (too daintily or elaborately prepared)
- Nimis - eating food that is excessive in quantity (too much)
- Praepropere - eating hastily (too soon or at an inappropriate time)
- Ardenter - eating greedily (too eagerly)
St. Aquinas resolves that "gluttony denotes inordinate concupiscence in eating"; the first three ways are related to the food itself, while the last two related to the manner of eating. He declares that abstinence from food and drink overcome the sin of gluttony, and the act of abstinence is fasting.
How to Overcome Gluttony
According to John Piper, there are a lot of reasons for obesity in our culture. It's not just that we eat a lot of bad food. We're also pretty inactive and don't do a lot of walking, running, biking, etc. Oftentimes obesity issues are connected as much to activity issues as they are to what goes into our mouths. Muscles are designed to burn food, but if they aren't being used then any amount of food is going to result in obesity.
But "gluttony" is a better word to use in this context rather than "obesity," because overeating is where the problem is, not how much you weigh. There are all kinds of reasons why a person might weight too much or too little that is not a result of gluttony.
So how do you fight the battle? I think it must be fought mainly not with the word "No" but with an alternative "Yes."
It is very interesting to me that there are so many food and taste analogies in the Bible for God himself:
"Taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:8)
"Desire the sincere spiritual milk of the word." (1 Peter 2:2)
"I am the bread of life. Come to me and you will not hunger." (John 6:35)
"Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food." (Isaiah 55:1-2)
The implication here is that if we give ourselves to being satisfied with spiritual bread, wine, and milk, then physical hunger will lose its supreme power. A lot of gluttony is born of boredom. Life is not satisfying or stimulating, relationships feel empty, and work is boring, but the food is always there and tastes so good.
So we need to cultivate a range of appetites for great and good things, things like good literature, people's fellowship, reading the Bible, nature, work, etc. Discover these other appetites so that things other than food can satisfy you. Then pray earnestly and cultivate and nurture these satisfactions.
Wikipedia.org | Gluttony
Christianity.com | Conquering Gluttony
Article Image is a painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder from the 16th Century, now in the Public Domain.