How gluttony becomes a sin

Good morning, Church Family, I am Susan Smith, the associate pastor and I know you are all as tired of the cold and snow as I am, but we are looking forward to Spring like weather this week.  

Sadly, though a quick google search reveals the behaviors of people partying with drinks in hand and an old phrase comes to mind:  They are just gluttons for punishment

Today we are looking at the sin of gluttony.  The word itself gets caught in your throat as you say it, and chances are that when you say it pictures pop up in your mind that show wild beach parties, office parties where the alcohol flows freely, or possibly an image of a patron going through a buffet line with two plates piled high.

How easy it is to feel self-righteous when we think about gluttonous behaviors of others.  We don’t do that do we?  Or do we have gluttony in our lives?

As we begin looking closely at gluttony and how it is a sin that we accept in our daily lives, let’s take a moment to collect ourselves.  Grab your Bibles, your note supplies, and join me with a prayer:

Dear Lord God our Father,

Quiet our minds from all that floods us–the weather, the pandemic, our relationships, and our daily lives.  Open our ears to your whispers as we reflect on our lives and how easy it is to sin.  Open our hearts to forgive ourselves so we can heal and transform our lives so we may truly live a Christ-centered life.  In your name we pray, amen.

Typically the subject of gluttony does not pop up in our daily conversation therefore let’s begin with looking at what our culture defines as gluttony

“Gluttony is the habit of eating and drinking too much.”  Such a simple definition.  Now remember I am a retired English teacher and one of my personal interests is to understand the background of a word so I go to an online etymological dictionary.

There I found a few interesting pieces to share:

  • Glutton first was used in early 13th century and evolved from an Old French word meaning “one who eats and drinks to excess”.
  • Glutton is related to the term ‘scoundrel’ which is a general term of abuse in Modern French.
  • Glutton evolved from the Latin term gluttonem meaning overeater

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, when I hear the term gluttony it triggers an old cliché, “Glutton for punishment.”  And from the entry in that etymological dictionary there is another point to learn about that phrase.  The old phrase we use in casual conversation moves the original definition of glutton referring to eating and drinking and expanded it to anything to excess.  That broadens gluttony to an entirely different mindset–anything to excess.

Gluttony is a behavior that separates us from God–and that is the sin.  Gluttony is a behavior that takes over our personal discipline and puts self before God–and that is the sin.

I am not trying to guilt trip any of you into saying that you are sinful, I am just trying to establish why gluttony is considered one of the deadly sins.  Honestly, I have long struggled understanding gluttony as a sin and wondered why anyone would say that overeating is a sin as I have always battled weight.  Isn’t overeating the trigger for gaining weight?

Using the Life Application Study Bible, I turned to the back and looked up gluttony.  Here I found a slightly different definition for gluttony that helped guide me to better understanding how a behavior can slide into sin:  one given habitually to greedy and voracious eating and drinking.

During the Ash Wednesday service, the message focused on pride as a sin that can easily become accepted as okay in our daily lives.  Still pride, like gluttony, becomes sin when it separates us from God.  When anything, not just eating and drinking, takes over our willpower and interrupts the very disciplines that keep us connected to God, we slip into a sinful pattern of behaviors.

John Wesley created methods to keep believers connected to God thereby avoiding sin.  He believed we should follow practices that held us accountable for our behaviors.  

When developing a personal relationship with God, Wesley felt it was essential to read scripture and pray daily.  He believed that one should attend worship regularly, to fast, and to maintain healthy living–remember he even wrote a health manual.  He also developed small groups in which members were accountable about their faith to each other: sharing faith within that group but also openly with others.

As I continued studying gluttony, I returned to my concordance.  There I found  only three references to gluttony:  Proverbs 23:20, Matthew 11:19, and Titus 1:12.  Not only just three references but three verses.

First, I noticed only one was in the Old Testament, Proverbs 23:20:  

“Do not be among winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat.”

In all the various definitions this is the first reference to the type of foods that are included in gluttony.  The reference to winebibbers is more familiar as we think of the definitions referring to drinking too much which we now usually refer alcoholic beverages.  But, the old Jewish laws were very particular about what one could eat.

Matthew 11:19:

“. . . the son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!. . . “

In this verse’s reference to gluttony is even in reference to Jesus himself.  No longer bound by the ancient Law of Moses, Jesus ate and drank with even those who were not Jewish, who were not living under the Law of Moses.  

The act of eating and drinking is not gluttony, and in this story, Jesus’ behaviors among tax collectors and sinners becomes a model for Christian living.  There is no separation from God in the practice of eating, drinking and sharing with others.  The sin is when gluttony causes us to break our relationship with God, to turn our actions into those that cause pain and loss of one’s Christian disciplines as Wesley defined with the acts of piety.  

The third reference to the term glutton is also found in Paul’s letter to Titus who was left to serve in Crete. 

Titus 1:12–“it was one of them, their very own prophet who said, “Cretans are always liars, icious brutes, and lazy gluttons.”

Paul was warning Titus to be alert to the motives of those pretending to be Christians in order to get “more money, business, or a sense of power” as the study notes in Life Application Study Bible notes (p. 2717):

These three references to gluttony in the Bible builds up our understanding how gluttony can interfere in our lives even in today’s culture.  As we take the next few weeks to reflect on how well we are living our Christian faith publicly and privately, we need to consider how gluttony can creep into our lives and disrupt our relationship with God.

I admit.  I myself had to work with scripture and spend some time thinking about how gluttony could be sinful.  Then I started going through my own history and I discovered that gluttony is not always about eating and drinking too much.  Gluttony is anything that separates me from God.  Anything–not just food and drink.  Anything.

My stash of yarn.  Oh oh, I began to realize that knitting could be contributing to a shift in my Christian discipline. I am tactile and love natural fibers.  I struggle with so many new fabrics that have only synthetic fibers.  As I began knitting, I discovered a passion for looking at, touching, and purchasing various types of yarn.  In the knitting world, the yarn that one purchases and puts away for future projects is known as a stash.  

Every time I went into a store that had yarn, I was pulled to walk through the aisles looking and touching them imagining them knitted into a scarf or a wrap or a baby blanket.  The yarn was beautiful, it was ‘calling’ me.  I began searching for yarn shops, just to go look, and would come home with sale items or a skein that was so beautiful or soft that surely I could find a way to use it.

The truth is out now.  But I also have to tell you the rest of the story.  I had to stop and reflect on my pull to yarns.  I realized I could justify it because I bought it on sale, or I knew it was a color so-and-so would like, or it was a yarn that was difficult to find such as bamboo or silk, or it was given to me.  I could justify the purchases, what I did not realize is that it was causing me to make unhealthy choices in relation to how I was using my resources.

This shifts the discussion about gluttony as a behavior to how it becomes sinful.  Anything we do to excess, anything that becomes such a habit that we lose our focus on God can turn into a sin.  As we continue into Lent as the season for personal Christian reflection, we have the perfect opportunity to consider if we have a form of gluttony that is separating us from God.

Another example that I think many of us can relate to is our fascination with our favorite sports team’s swag.  As we watched and cheered for the Chiefs these last few months, we found ourselves drawn to those tee shirts, the team’s swag, and the memorabilia.  In fact I have the “Run it back” flag still flying outside my front door.

Team spirit seems so innocent, good fun.  What could be wrong with a new tee shirt?  But consider those fans who place team spirit into an entire lifestyle, not just for themselves, but for our entire family.  The news shares their stories and the pictures.  We recognize these fans as ‘superfans’, but God knows everything.  God knows whether they are superfans or whether they have stepped over the line and the mania reaches a sinful level separating them from God, possibly even destroying their own family relationships 

Today, February 21, we stop and review what is controlling our lives.  Have we maintained the very practices that Wesley developed to guide us in growing stronger in our faith?  

  • Are we reading scripture, studying it, reflecting or meditating on it, discussing it with others?
  • Are we in conversation with God through formal and informal prayers?
  • Are we fasting, which is a discipline that subtracts or adds in a change to our daily routine for a set timeframe such as Lent?
  • Are we attending worship services regularly?
  • Are we living a healthy lifestyle?
  • Are we sharing our faith with others?

During the week, our pastor suggested a reading from the gospel of John.  He broke the passage of John 4:1-45 into three readings which includes the story of the Woman at the Well.  The middle section, verses 31-38 speaks to how our true nourishment comes from God:

“Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving[a] wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

This scripture teaches us that nothing is more satisfying or fulfilling than our relationship with God.  Jesus tells the disciples that he does not need food because it is God that takes care of him:  

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. . . “

Then he asks them that they, too have work to do using the metaphor of planting and harvesting:

“. . . But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.  The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life . . .I sent you to reap . . .

God created us, he loves us, he waits for us, and he grants us grace for when we sin.  Our lives are filled with influences and interests that capture our attention and can easily step in between God and us. Let us carefully consider whether we need to make adjustments in our lives to reconnect or to strengthen our relationship with God.  

And God sends us out to reap.  We are called to share our faith with others just as Wesley asks us to do.  We are to avoid the gluttonous behaviors that get between us and God, but also we are to step out and help others to find that God is the food that satisfies the souls. 

Let us use this Lenten season to reset our practices, define our priorities, and rebuild the relationship with God so we can be disciples of Christ, so that we may live that others may know Jesus.  We know the joy of God’s grace and mercy.  We anticipate the life of salvation that leads to eternal life.  Let us be gluttonous with God’s love.

Will you join me in a personal prayer:

Dear patient and loving God, I know that I have been weak and allowed this world to step between you and me.  Speak to me, guide me, and forgive me as I work to listen and to strengthen my faith in you.  It is through your grace, through your son Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit, I pray, amen.

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Filed under Knitting, Lifestyle, Religion

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