Isn’t it interesting how some of these deadly sins aren’t really even part of our vocabulary anymore? We rarely hear the word glutton except in the phrase “glutton for punishment.” Yet many of us eat too much, shop too much, and all-around consume too much. We let ourselves off easy by playing a comparison game. If we aren’t morbidly obese or an outright alcoholic then is it really gluttony?
But once again it’s not solely about outward behaviors. St Thomas Aquinas summarized gluttony as eating “too soon, too expensively, too much, too eagerly, or with too much finicky fussing.” I’ve done all of these things. In fact, I do all of these things.
Years ago, before we started having babies, Will and I had a favorite Indian restaurant. We ate there about once a week, and we knew all the staff. The host would greet us at the door, “Jackson,” he would say, smiling brightly and showing us to our table. We always ordered the same delicious entrees with onion nan and mixed raita, and when they served the food it was as if the aroma somehow overpowered our manners, we became Kobayashi and Chestnutt wolfing down hot dogs. We laughed about it at the time, but now I see it for the picture of gluttony that it was. “Too eagerly” is a bit of an understatement.
So does this mean enjoying food is a sin? Of course not. Think about Jesus. There’s something almost magical about sitting down to dinner with friends, especially in someone’s home, like Jesus often did. Sharing a meal can be a great way to bond, to get to know someone, or to just leisurely learn something new about someone you’ve known a long time. But that doesn’t happen if your focus is on the food instead of the people.
I don’t know if I focus too much on food in social situations, sometimes I think I probably do, but I know that gluttony is a problem for me. I think about food too much and I eat too much. The solution is obviously self-discipline. After all I can direct my thoughts (see last week’s post), and I can intentionally place myself in situations where gluttonous overeating is not even an option. But another important component for the follower of Christ is to have a regular time of fasting. Dunnam and Reisman argue that “fasting is a means of practicing the fact that we cannot feed the spirit with the body’s food.” I’ve long had a ready list of why I do not, can not fast, but I’m feeling convicted about this. So I’m going to start.
How about you? Do you fast? I’d love to hear about it if you do.