Gluttony (Latin: gula), derived from the Latin gluttire meaning to gulp down or swallow, means over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink, or wealth items to the point of extravagance or waste.
In Christianity, it is considered a sin if the excessive desire for food causes it to be withheld from the needy. Some Christian denominations consider gluttony as one of the seven deadly sins, a misplaced or inordinate desire for food/drink.
In Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34, it is φαγος, The LSJ Entry is tiny, and only refers to one external source, Zenobius Paroemiographus 1.73. The word could mean merely "an eater", since φαγω means "eat".
According to the list of 613 commandments that Jews must keep according to the Rambam, gluttony or excessive eating or drinking is prohibited. It is listed as #169: "Not to eat or drink like a glutton or a drunkard (not to rebel against father or mother)".
Church leaders from the ascetic Middle Ages took a more expansive view of gluttony:
St. Gregory the Great
1. Eating before the time of meals in order to satisfy the palate.
- Biblical example: Jonathan eating a little honey, when his father Saul commanded no food to be taken before the evening.[1Sa 14:29] (Note that this text is only approximately illustrative, as in this account, Jonathan did not know he was eating too.)
2. Seeking delicacies and better quality of food to gratify the "vile sense of taste."
- Biblical example: When Israelites escaping from Egypt complained, "Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers and the melons, and the leeks and the onions and the garlic," God rained fowls for them to eat but punished them 500 years later.[Num 11:4]
3. Seeking to stimulate the palate with overly or elaborately prepared food (e.g. with luxurious sauces and seasonings).
- Biblical example: Two sons of Eli the high priest made the sacrificial meat to be cooked in one manner rather than another. They were met with death.[1Sa 4:11]
4. Exceeding the necessary quantity of food.
- Biblical example: One of the sins of Sodom was "fullness of bread."[Eze 16:49]
5. Taking food with too much eagerness, even when eating the proper amount, and even if the food is not luxurious.
- Biblical example: Esau selling his birthright for ordinary food of bread and pottage of lentils. His punishment was that the "profane person . . . who, for a morsel of meat sold his birthright," we learn that "he found no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully, with tears." [Gen 25:30]
The fifth way is worse than all others, said St. Gregory, because it shows attachment to pleasure most clearly. To recapitulate, St Gregory the Great said that one may succumb to the sin of gluttony by: 1. Time (when); 2. Quality; 3. Stimulants; 4. Quantity; 5. Eagerness. He asserts that the irregular desire is the sin, not the food: "For it is not the food, but the desire that is in fault".
St. Thomas Aquinas
- Laute - eating food that is too luxurious, exotic, or costly
- Studiose - eating food that is excessive in quality (too daintily or elaborately prepared)
- Nimis - eating food that is excessive in quantity (too much)
- Praepropere - eating hastily (too soon or at an inappropriate time)
- Ardenter - eating greedily (too eagerly)
St. Aquinas concludes that "gluttony denotes inordinate concupiscence in eating"; the first three ways are related to the food itself, while the last two related to the manner of eating. He says that abstinence from food and drink overcome the sin of gluttony, and the act of abstinence is fasting.:A2 (see: Fasting and abstinence in the Roman Catholic Church) In general, fasting is useful to restraint concupiscence of the flesh.:A6
St. Alphonsus Liguori
St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote the following when explaining gluttony:
"Pope Innocent XI has condemned the proposition which asserts that it is not a sin to eat or to drink from the sole motive of satisfying the palate. However, it is not a fault to feel pleasure in eating: for it is, generally speaking, impossible to eat without experiencing the delight which food naturally produces. But it is a defect to eat, like beasts, through the sole motive of sensual gratification, and without any reasonable object. Hence, the most delicious meats may be eaten without sin, if the motive be good and worthy of a rational creature; and, in taking the coarsest food through attachment to pleasure, there may be a fault."
In the Bible (King James Version)
- Deuteronomy 21:20 - "And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
- Proverbs 23:20-21 - "Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags."
- Proverbs 23:2 - "When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee. And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite."
- Proverbs 25:16 - "Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it."
- Luke 7:33-35 (and parallel account in Matthew 11:18-19) - "For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children."
Popular quote "Eat to live, not live to eat" is commonly attributed to Socrates; without forgetting quotation from Rhetorica ad Herennium IV.28 : "Effe oportet ut vivas; non vivere ut edas" ("It is necessary to eat in order to live, not to live in order to eat"), which Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs states that it is credited to Cicero.
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- Okholm, Dennis. "Rx for Gluttony". Christianity Today, Vol. 44, No. 10, September 11, 2000, p.62
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- St. Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, Book XXX, 60, Lectionary Central
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