What do we consider gluttony? Many people base whether an individual is gluttonous based on their waistline. I have been guilty of that myself. We figure that one is gluttonous because their weight is higher than we think it should be, or because they don’t have the diet we think they should have, or they eat more than we think they should eat. In her book “Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies,” Andrea DeYoung explores the historical understanding of gluttony, and how these things mentioned above might not have as much to do with gluttony as we think.
Gluttony is in the list of the seven deadly vices which are sinful habits, a way of life. We typically recognize that gluttony has something to do with eating and drinking, but we should be careful in applying too much certainty outside of this in regards to whether or not someone is a glutton. It’s just not something as simple as looking at numbers on a scale.
Gluttony is a vice that focuses on one’s own excessive and immediate pleasure. Eating is meant to be pleasurable. We can understand this simply because of the fact that we have taste buds and such a wide variety of tastes in food and drink. Rather than how much one eats, the bigger question in regards to gluttony is about why we are eating. What is our goal in eating? While in our eating and drinking we might rightfully find pleasure in the food and the sense of fullness, the habit of gluttony is one where seeking pleasure dominates everything else. In our gluttony, we forsake food and drink as a means to enjoy and find pleasure in God’s good creation, and rather use it as a means to feel as though we are able to supply ourselves with our needs all on our own. Gluttony turns us into pleasure seekers, and that is the true danger with this vice. As DeYoung notes, “the main question we should be asking is not, ‘How much is too much?’ but rather, ‘How dominated by the desire for this pleasure am I? How difficult would it be to have to give it up or do without it?’ The trouble with gluttony is that it reduces eating to an exercise in gratifying my own desires for physical pleasures, consuming whatever I think will make me full and satisfied.”
Historically there have been five different ways that we can participate in gluttony. DeYoung presents the acronym F.R.E.S.H. as a means to help us remember these ways. It represents eating fastidiously, ravenously, excessively, sumptuously, and hastily. Each of these represent a way that we can be mastered by food, rather than keeping food in its proper place. This falls into the categories of why we eat food and how we eat food. Over the next three posts, we will look deeper into what gluttony is and how we can combat it.