What is gluttony? In a word…piggishness.
“Don’t stuff your face!”
“Don’t eat like a pig!”
“Man, I ate so much. I feel all fat and sassy.”
These are just a few ways we express the sin of gluttony. Now, there are probably some of you out there who are wondering if this is really that big of deal. I mean, if someone wants to stuff themselves silly, who cares, right? It would seem on the surface that this was just kind of a nitpicky sin, yet it isn’t. It’s one of the capital sins, so what gives?
I’ll admit, when I was first thinking about this sin, I had to sit and think hard. Initially, I didn’t think this was a sin I struggled with at all. I’ve never eaten a sleeve of Oreos, I’ve never sat down and consumed a large bag of potato chips in one sitting. Sure, I stuff myself at Thanksgiving, but on that day we kind of have a national pass. My parents did a very good job of giving me a healthy respect for food, so I didn’t really feel I fell prey in this area. What did St. Gregory the Great say about gluttony?
“Gluttony is also wont to exhort the conquered heart, as if with reason, when it says, God has created all things clean, in order to be eaten, and he who refuses to fill himself with food, what else does he do but gainsay the gift that has been granted him.”
In layman’s terms: God gave us food, food is good, eat it and don’t hold back. It’s a gift, man!
But, can we be controlled by food? Can our greed for food and drink lead us to other sins? Sure, it can. St. Gregory says that gluttony brings with it “foolish mirth, scurrility, uncleanness, babbling, dulness [sic] of sense in understanding.”
Foolish mirth–Have I been drunk? Yep. So much so that it has controlled me and caused me to do things that were unbecoming of me. Is having a drink now and then wrong? No, it isn’t, but to drink to the point that you become a fool? Yeah.
Scurrility–Scurrility is where you say scandalous things about someone with the intention of damaging their reputation. This would follow from downing too many adult beverages. I don’t think I’ve done this, but then again, when one is drunk, it’s hard to remember all that you said and did.
Uncleanness–I’m not super sure what is meant here in relation to gluttony, but when I think about it, I think of someone eating like a pig. Someone just devouring food and shoveling it in their mouth. I picture someone so messy that there is food on their shirts, food on their face, they chew with their mouth open, and the space around their plate is just nasty. Why would this be a sin? Well, I think it speaks of our appreciation for food. It’s almost as if one isn’t taking time to enjoy and appreciate the gift of food. I can understand if you are starving to death just inhaling food in an effort to satiate your hungry, however, I have been around people that create an atmosphere of grossness when they eat.
Babbling–Something again linked with excessive drinking.
Dullness of sense in understanding—Gluttony dulls your understanding? When we just greedily pig out on food and don’t appreciate it, I do see how our senses are dulled in a way. Have you ever bought food through a fast food drive-thru and just left the bag in the seat and reached in blindly to grab food and shove it in your mouth? I’ve done that before. I can’t really do it anymore, because I can’t eat at most fast food restaurants. I’m gluten-intolerant, so a lot of restaurants are off the table. I have, however, done this in the past and in thinking back on when I’ve done that, I wasn’t even acknowledging what I was eating. I was just eating to eat. I think we can do this at home when we get bored and just go to the fridge and pop something in our mouth without really thinking about it. I think it also applies to when we eat a cookie, then another, then another, and then, before we know it, we’ve eaten an entire tray of cookies. Did we really enjoy it? Or did it dull our senses and we just consumed without enjoyment or really thinking about what we were doing? I think this does happen quite a bit.
My oldest daughter used to eat very fast. One day, she decided that she wanted to enjoy her food more and she wanted her eating experiences to be purposeful, calm, and satisfying in a positive way. She decided that she wanted to eat more slowly, she wanted to really relish her food, she wanted to sit with her family and enjoy the whole eating experience, so she changed her habits. I’ve been very impressed with her self-motivation to change and to take what was growing into a bad habit into a good one. From time to time, if she feels that she is just eating sweets to eat sweets, she will go a week with no sweets. Then on the weekend, she purposefully makes something she’ll really enjoy and she delights in it. Mind you, this is all on her own. She recognized some bad habits and wanted to correct them.
My daughter’s actions have made me think about my own when it comes to eating. I want to appreciate the gift of food and all its pleasurable aspects, but I don’t want to be controlled by it. I want to truly enjoy my food, not just suck it up like a vacuum giving little thought to its goodness. I don’t want to eat just because there’s food around. I don’t want to eat past the point of being comfortably satisfied. Some of the portions that restaurants bring out to you are just ridiculous. We don’t need to eat that much food in one sitting, but to waste it, in a way, is gluttonous, because we aren’t mindful of the gift of food. It’s almost as if we say, “Whatever! I can get more later!”
Gluttony isn’t something I struggle with in the classical sense of the word. Living in America, though, with our bountiful harvests and stocked grocery stores can lead us down the path of gluttony. Most of us don’t have to think about food at all–it’s all around us. Easy access can quickly lead to an unappreciative, gluttonous lifestyle with regards to food. Gluttony is a carnal sin, meaning it has to do with the flesh. If we don’t control our carnal desires, they will, in turn, control us. When that happens it’s nearly impossible to give our best to God, to ourselves, and those around us.
If you didn’t catch last week’s blog on envy, check it out here.
*The Book of the Morals by St. Gregory the Great; Book XXXI. www.lectionarycentral.com/GregoryMoralia/Book31.html