“For many conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their God is their stomach”
Saint Paul warns the Philippians that many among them treat their stomach as their god. This is a hard teaching, but I think all of us Americans need to look at ourselves very closely on this one. And it is a particularly timely topic for us this Lent. Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins.
Before diving into the sin of gluttony, I want to acknowledge here in the beginning that some people also struggle with eating disorders…mostly young women…and so it is important for anyone tempted to binge and then force yourself to vomit, or to starve yourself because of athletics or to try and make yourself look like any other person, please see me or any other person you trust, and that person or I can help connect you with a counselor to treat that condition. My sister Laura, when she was in high school, suffered from multiple eating disorders, and she was not aware it for multiple years. She shared her story on my blog (click here to visit her post), and she recommended a website with lots of resources called madeinhisimage.org
Most of us, however, struggle with eating too much. Gluttony can be defined as eating or drinking in excess, or eating in such a way as to damage one’s health or mental capacity.
Food is pleasurable, and God created pleasure as a way to incline us to take care of ourselves, but provided that we do not make pleasure our aim. Some pleasurable things are nonetheless sinful, and some pleasurable things require moderation. Food is a pleasurable thing that requires moderation.
Alcoholic beverages, in moderation, are also okay because, as St. Thomas says, they can make conversation easier, but it is a deadly sin to fall into drunkenness.
Recreational Marijuana and all other illicit drugs are mortal sins because, unlike alcohol which can be enjoyed in moderation, all illicit drugs can rewire and alter a personality after using it just once. Even medical marijuana has a sketchy foundation, at best. The Mayo clinic found: “One of the most common reasons cited for medical marijuana is glaucoma. Data for this, though, is extremely weak; any positive effect is short term.” The Mayo Clinic also found more broadly that there is “substantial evidence for an association between Marijuana smoking and respiratory disease, motor vehicle collisions (MVCs), lower birth weight offspring, schizophrenia and other psychoses”
Another reason that people cite for gluttony is stress, and at the beginning of 2022, a survey found that 80% of Americans report being stressed. 3 or 4 years ago, before my brain tumor, when I was watching TV, had a smartphone and a social media presence, I would stress eat. If we find ourselves stress eating, let us examine what we are doing to avoid stress. Are there things we can cut from our life to still work in the world but avoid stress?
Also, during this Season of Lent, as we think about potentially fasting from some foods, let us approach that fasting in a healthy way, seeing that most of us typically have more than enough to eat, and, when we cut back, we have more time and a clearer head so that we can enter more deeply into our prayer life as well. Gluttony, as with all sins, can only ultimately be defeated in each of us cooperating with Jesus Christ each moment. Do you have a relationship with Jesus? Let us make Jesus the Lord of our hearts, as opposed to making a god out of our stomachs.