The last of the Seven Deadly Sins is gluttony. It’s the one I know you’ve all been waiting for!
It is a sin we obviously don't hear much preaching about these days. Maybe because too many American preachers are over-weight from too much fried chicken and meetings at Ryan’s. It is a sin that strikes a little too close to home, and most preachers like preaching on their congregation’s sins and not their own!
Gluttony is one of those sins we assume other people—big people, I mean really obese people—are guilty of. It’s one of those insidious sins because it’s always easy to find someone heavier then we are and think to ourselves, “See, I’m not that fat” and assume we don’t have a problem with the sin of gluttony. And let’s be honest—compared to the other six deadly sins we’ve looked at, how sinful is it really if we eat one more piece of pizza then we probably should?
While it may not be a sin you or I commit on a regular basis, it is, never-the-less a sin most of us have committed in the past, and—in the era of 72-ounce big-gulp cups, super-sized burgers and fries and all-you-can-eat buffets—it may be a sin we commit this week.
What is gluttony? I like one quote I found that said, A glutton is the person who takes the piece of pastry you wanted. One Bible dictionary defines a glutton as one habitually given to greedy and voracious eating. To be voracious means to be exceedingly eager. To be called a glutton is not a nice thing. A glutton is a person given to loose and excessive living—food being just part of the excess. In the NT the word was used to describe a rascal or scoundrel who had an uncontrolled or excessive fondness for the pleasures of the flesh. And, if we go by that definition, most of us would not be considered gluttons.
We may not be habitual gluttons, but it is a sin that most of us have a problem with more times then we care to admit.
Let me put you to the test by asking you a series of diagnostic questions. Have you ever heard these words coming from your lips?
Why was over-eating considered a deadly sin by our spiritual forefathers? They believed, and rightly so, that self-indulgence is the enemy of gratitude. The early church fathers believed that a person's appetites are linked. Full stomachs and quenched palates take the edge from our hunger and thirst for righteousness. They saw gluttony as a gate-way sin that led to other sins of the flesh such as lust and sloth.
Ultimately, gluttony is not merely about over-eating; it is about overindulgence in general and our attitudes toward overindulgence. It is the mad pursuit of the bodily pleasures that never completely satisfy, because our real need is for spiritual satisfaction in Christ. Frederick Buechner, a Presbyterians minister, theologian and author, says that “ ... a glutton is one who runs to the icebox for a cure to a spiritual malnutrition.”
Gluttony—in whatever form it takes—spoils one's appetite for God. This is exactly the situation found in the text I read a few moments ago and provides the foundation for my first point ...
Why was over-eating considered a deadly sin by our spiritual forefathers? Because self-indulgence of our physical appetite usually dulls our spiritual appetite. Bottom line—do we spend as much time feeding our souls each day as we do feeding our stomachs?
Ultimately, gluttony is not about over-eating; it is about overindulgence. It is the mad pursuit of the bodily pleasures that never completely satisfy. And that is always sin.
Let me close by sharing a Jewish prayer of the 1st century:
Who will set a guard over my mouth, and an effective seal upon my lips, so that I may not fall because of them, and my tongue may not destroy me? O Lord, Father and Master of my life, do not abandon me to their designs, and do not let me fall because of them! Who will set whips over my thoughts, and the discipline of wisdom over my mind, so as not to spare me in my errors, and not overlook my sins? Otherwise my mistakes may be multiplied, and my sins may abound, and I may fall before my adversaries, and my enemy may rejoice over me. O Lord, Father and God of my life, do not give me haughty eyes, and remove evil desire from me. Let neither gluttony nor lust overcome me, and do not give me over to shameless passion.