Gluttony

Dictionary Definition – 

noun: gluttony
habitual greed or excess in eating.

Wikipedia Description – 

Gluttony, derived from the Latin gluttire meaning to gulp down or swallow, means over-indulgence andover-consumption of fooddrink, or wealth items to the point of extravagance or waste. 

When one brings up the topic of gluttony we often see the image of someone gorging themselves on food. However, gluttony as one of the 7 Deadly Sins applies to far more than food. It includes the over-consumption of anything at all. Sure you can be gluttonous about food, but you can also be gluttonous about extravagance, technology, fashion, and on and on. Anything that you partake of in excess, to a point where it harms you or someone else (physically or emotionally or indirectly), is gluttonous.

I think wikipedia did a great job explaining the Catholic viewpoint on gluttony, so I’m going to use their content directly:

Pope Gregory I, a doctor of the Church, described the following ways by which one can commit sin of gluttony, and corresponding biblical examples for each of them:[2]

1. Eating before the time of meals in order to satisfy the palate.

Biblical example: Jonathan eating a little honey, when his father Saul commanded no food to be taken before the evening.[1Sa 14:29] (Note that this text is only approximately illustrative, as in this account, Jonathan did not know he was eating too early.)

2. Seeking delicacies and better quality of food to gratify the “vile sense of taste.”

Biblical example: When Israelites escaping from Egypt complained, “Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers and the melons, and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,” God rained fowls for them to eat but punished them 500 years later.[Num 11:4]

3. Seeking to stimulate the palate with sauces and seasonings.

Biblical example: Two sons of Eli the high priest made the sacrificial meat to be cooked in one manner rather than another. They were met with death.[1Sa 4:11]

4. Exceeding the necessary quantity of food.

Biblical example: One of the sins of Sodom was “fullness of bread.”[Eze 16:49]

5. Taking food with too much eagerness, even when eating the proper amount, and even if the food is not luxurious.

Biblical example: Esau selling his birthright for ordinary food of bread and pottage of lentils. His punishment was that the “profane person . . . who, for a morsel of meat sold his birthright,” we learn that “he found no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully, with tears.” [Gen 25:30]

The fifth way is worse than all others, said St. Gregory, because it shows attachment to pleasure most clearly.

To recapitulate, St Gregory the Great said that one may succumb to the sin of gluttony by: 1. Time (when); 2. Quality; 3. Stimulants; 4. Quantity; 5. Eagerness

In his Summa Theologica (Part 2-2, Question 148, Article 4), St. Thomas Aquinas reiterated the list of five ways to commit gluttony:

Laute – eating food that is too luxurious, exotic, or costly
Nimis – eating food that is excessive in quantity
Studiose – eating food that is too daintily or elaborately prepared
Praepropere – eating too soon, or at an inappropriate time
Ardenter – eating too eagerly.
Aquinas notes that the first three ways are related to the nature of the food itself, while the last two have to do with the time or manner in which it is consumed.

St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote the following when explaining gluttony:

“Pope Innocent XI has condemned the proposition which asserts that it is not a sin to eat or to drink from the sole motive of satisfying the palate. However, it is not a fault to feel pleasure in eating: for it is, generally speaking, impossible to eat without experiencing the delight which food naturally produces. But it is a defect to eat, like beasts, through the sole motive of sensual gratification, and without any reasonable object. Hence, the most delicious meats may be eaten without sin, if the motive be good and worthy of a rational creature; and, in taking the coarsest food through attachment to pleasure, there may be a fault.”[3]

 Yes, all of that focuses on food. But if you expand it you’ll see what a good point is made by the church. Enjoying something is not a sin. The sin of gluttony lies in seeking too much of a good thing, and enjoying something that does harm to you or another. 

We should all take care not to become gluttonous. As you go through your day look at what motivates your actions, and be sure you’re really making choices in a conscious manner. Additionally, look at the results of your choices; if they’re not pleasant you should change your actions accordingly. Living consciously like this is essential to a fulfilling life.

Photo by artist Petrina Hicks Shenae and Jade, 2005 

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