Weighing all of 70 pounds, I doubt that anyone would accuse me of the sin of gluttony. But I don’t have to overeat to be a glutton.
When I was little, I never wanted to eat one of my family’s favorite meals: Shake ‘n Bake pork chops. Instead, my mother always cooked sausages for me. There were other meals for which I received substitutes as well, because I was a picky child and my mother simply isn’t one to say, “This is what we’re eating, take it or leave it.” The fact that I was a tiny girl with a progressive muscle-wasting disease may have understandably added to the parental indulgences.
Both my father and mother simply enjoy food and are happy when their children, guests, or grandchildren are also enjoying their food. Enjoying food is not a sin, let’s be very clear about that! After all, Jesus Himself experienced the goodness of the meals that His mother made and hosts served. Delicious things like fresh cucumbers, basil, and tomatoes, honey, orange juice, roasted meat and potatoes, or (one of my favorites) ripe strawberries and whipped cream produce natural pleasures that come as a kind of divinely given gift attached to our explicit need for food.
How attached we are to the pleasure is the matter for concern.
Now that I am no longer a child, I have become something of an adventurous eater in my household, more adventurous than my parents, always wanting to try new things. I love variety and the complexity of flavors in food. I don’t exclude things from my diet anymore … but I may try to include too much. Not too much in the sense of over-eating, but too much in the sense of over-demanding. What CS Lewis called “Gluttony of Delicacy.”
Due to my severe disability, I cannot cook for myself, so everything that I eat needs to be prepared for me. Am I too particular in my requests? Yes. I ask for far more than is necessary from my mother and father. Enjoying the blends of flavors and textures, I like my food to be just so, and I give my taste buds carte blanche.
My parents get needlessly burdened as a result.
Of course, my mother and father love me and say they delight in delighting me (most of the time), but that’s really not the point. Sinfulness has to do with the choices that I make every day. Examination of conscience allows me to see where I put myself — my concerns, my tastes, my desires — above others, allows me to recognize when and how I choose to please myself rather than pleasing God, to serve myself rather than serving my neighbor. Lent is the season of self-denial, and, so, now is a very acceptable time to start being truly grateful for what is given to me — even by fully accepting the food that is set before me as it is.
This won’t be a hardship for me, because my mother is a very good cook, and there are always frozen meals and take out when I want variety.
That raises the very important question, however, of what I want.
Where Gluttony Can Lead
Does my happiness and well-being depend upon the satisfaction of my physical cravings and desires? Most people might respond that there’s no harm in indulging my food cravings once in a while. Didn’t I say that I only weigh 70 pounds? And what other physical pleasures do I really get to experience? I can hear the justifications because I make them myself, but self-indulgence is still self-indulgence. My self-indulgence may not have turned into the disease of addiction, but it’s still a danger. One obvious and immediate danger is to my health: the Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos, and chocolate bars that I crave can make me feel ill if I don’t practice temperance and serious moderation, raising my blood pressure, slowing my digestion, and denying my fragile body good nutrients.
Perhaps even more importantly, indulging in certain cravings or feelings can cause me to devote too much of my thought, time, energy, and resources on what is perishable, on what doesn’t truly satisfy, turning me away from the source of true joy. Seeking to satisfy every pleasurable craving puts ME into the center of life — self-centeredness — as I think only about what I want or what I could consume that would give me a delightful sensation in the moment. It stems from the root sin of pride.
And it’s wasteful.
Gluttony unchecked is what leads to the consumerism mentality in our society, to materialism and the thought that everything is disposable. We use up natural resources, over consuming food, alcohol, electricity, gasoline, and the thousand and one products that line our pantry shelves and bathroom cupboards. We lose our senses as our senses take over, as our sensory cravings dictate our choices in daily life. Our disposable, wasteful society is contaminating water and air, as well as glutting God’s beautiful Creation, our earthly home, with all of the junk that didn’t ultimately satisfy and all of the garbage left over from our self-indulgences.
Meanwhile, hunger for necessary food is going unsatisfied in my own community.
I am self-indulgent, overly demanding, and picky. And I repent. I seek conversion and salvation, knowing that I won’t be saved from wastefulness through a new “clean living” diet or government program or activist group, no matter how well-intended.
True conversion and truly clean living come only through Christ.
Lord, fill me with Your mercy and love, so that I hunger and thirst for Your will. May I recognize You as the true source of satisfying and lasting joy and not abuse or waste Your gifts, but rather purely enjoy them and share them in true love of neighbor. Amen.
© 2021 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.