#3–Gluttony/ a Cardinal Sin and its Opposite Virtue

Are you ready?  EVERYBODY KNOWS ABOUT GLUTTONY.  Do we really need to write or blog about this?  There aren’t any synonyms listed in the Cardinal Sins list for Gluttony.  That tells us a lot–how about you?  Okay, while we chew on this (pun intended) we will give you another little historical fact about the seven Cardinal Sins.  Remember, Pope Gregory I first had them listed in the 6th century.  But did you know they were updated and elaborated upon in the 13th century by Saint Thomas Aquinas?  Yep.  Evidently people were not taking the Catholic Church and the sins seriously enough.  You’ll also note here that they have not been updated since.  Hmmmm.  Maybe more confessions and less sinning?  We doubt that, but it is interesting, isn’t it?  Or–and more likely here–nobody wanted to be reminded or updated about sins so they kind of faded away except in the minds of the devout.  That would seem obvious looking around today.  But that’s another blog.

GLUTTONY is simply, by definition, overeating.  Well, let’s be honest here–Thanksgiving is a celebration of gluttony that we endorse, look forward to, and usually enjoy to the point of pain in the stomach, and lower parts of the digestive system.  Remember, a sin is an act that is deliberate and purposeful as it violates the will of God.  Awww–come on!  God realizes it’s a holiday after all–and one where we are thankful for things, which is the whole point, right?  We buy this and you probably do, too.  One Thanksgiving we remember being asked what three things we were grateful and thankful for.  They had gone around the table, Gramma asking each of us and forbidding a mouthful until the task was complete.  We say “task” because there we sat, slobbering as we looked at the spread of food.  Pavlov’s dogs had nothing on us!  It came our turn, finally, and we blurted out, “Turkey, dressing, whip fruit salad!”  Gramma was not pleased, but the people around the table waiting and also slobbering said, “Aw, come on Glady!  We’re all grateful for the same thing!  Let’s eat!”  Gramma, who had been standing, shook her head in dismay, sat down, and forks appeared, stabbing turkey, as hands grabbed for the various bowls of tasty food.  No one spoke.  It was silent except for the quiet, “mmmmmm” and an occasional compliment on a particular dish.  We could hear the clicking of dentures, slurped iced tea or milk or coffee, and one great aunt would audibly swallow.  As heaped plates were emptied and scooped clean, and refilled, some small conversations started to take place, but now around slower bites of food.  If ever there was a definition of gluttony illustrated, it was when we were five years old, imitating the adults around the table, shoveling food into our mouths with both a spoon and fingers used to keep as much balanced on the spoon as humanly possible.  We had no clue this constituted the sin of GLUTTONY, but the moans and groans following second and third helpings by the adults with some food actually left on a plate said they knew.  There were remarks, “Never again!  I’m miserable!  I won’t eat for a week now!  But oh, it was soooo good!”  and “I knew better!  My poor stomach!  But if the food hadn’t been so good, or less offered I would have used better judgment.”  (That one made us laugh at age five as the person saying that had been almost whining there wasn’t enough dressing for everyone to get their fill.  We’d made an “oink” sound when he said that.)  Nevertheless, that is gluttony in action.  It happens among Christian, Jew, etc., household in America every November.  Gluttony is a cardinal sin.  Excuse it as you will, it’s still a sin.  Everybody ready for dessert?

When we were nine, sitting in a Baptist church, hot and itchy, bored to tears, our ears perked up when we heard the minister talking about sin and how smoking and drinking were an abomination to God.  We actually focused on him and he listed these as a form of gluttony and said they destroyed the body, which was the temple of God.  Yep, your body, our body, everybody’s body, even old Miss Jean’s body all shriveled up, were the temples of God.  We looked at him closely.  Our dad smoked, Roberta’s dad was known to go on weekend toots with moonshine, and we knew old Miss Jean was half crazy putting certain “drugs” into her body to rise, for pain, and to go to sleep.  The only time she accepted visitors was when she needed someone to go to the drugstore for her.  We kept looking around the church and figured everybody over age twelve must be a sinner.  We had a year or two since we were already on the path of sin.  The preacher promised everyone the fires of hell for committing these sins of gluttony, abusing the temple of God.  Mind you, this was simply an unbiased observation on our part, looking around.  But we were intrigued.  We looked at the preacher, whose suit jacket could not be buttoned over his belly, who couldn’t sing more than one verse of any hymn without sweating and having to sit down, and guessed him to weigh about 300-350 pounds.  Later, subversively innocent, we asked and he weighed 375 pounds.  But that was because he ate at different parishioners houses all the time, don’t you know?  Looking at his red face, watching him wipe his face with a sodden handkerchief, huffing and puffing about abusing your body as the temple of God and the sure descent into hell because of it–we laughed–aloud.  We were envisioning him bending his elbow to put that fork in his mouth.  Without restraint, without hesitance, and wondered how long all that fat would burn as the fires of hell melted it off him.  Without question, we were hauled outside, told how embarrassingly rude we were and kept laughing to ourselves at the preacher burning from his gluttony.  Until we got a whipping.  Then we laughed inwardly, but it was worth every hit.

Gluttony wasn’t our dad smoking, or Roberta’s dad drinking, or even half-crazy old Miss Jean.  Gluttony had stood in the pulpit, condemning others, and being invited to someone’s house for Sunday dinner after the service.  We do know he died of a heart attack and we’ve always wondered where he went afterward.  (Like we don’t know 🙂 )

So, in truth, is gluttony a sin?  We think yes.  There are so many people that feel it is today.  First, it is bad for your health.  It can literally kill you.  We aren’t talking metabolism or genes if someone is overweight.  As has often been said, “I can look at a lemon meringue pie, never touch it, and gain five pounds.”  Overweight is not synonymous with Gluttony.  But to sit and eat, overeat, while others are denied any food at all, or only crumbs, is a sin.  We can think of so many examples of gluttony being a sin.  We don’t tend toward gluttony, except at Thanksgiving, but we found ourselves feeling like gluttons when we would come home from feeding the homeless and their pets, open our refrigerator and see its supply, and know we had more than enough to feed at least five more people and still not be hungry ourselves.  We know–we couldn’t feed everyone.  But we were shamed that we had much more than enough to eat.  They had so very little.

People weep over children starving here in the USA, are aghast at skeletal figures digging through dumpsters behind the same restaurant where they could not eat all of the meal they paid for.  They are not sinful in this.  It becomes a sin when they overeat and do not see the child or skeletal adult, have no compassion for their plight, or totally avoid places where they will see the starving and hungry.  When our bellies being full takes precedence over those who would be grateful for a half a peanut butter sandwich, sating our stomachs by overeating is a sin.  Nothing in WWII was more disgusting than to see Nazis and Gestapo and even soldiers gorging on fine food and wines while people who they held captive would have given anything for an extra hunk of bread for the DAY.

Gluttony is a sin in that it is deliberate and selfish self-gratification while others are ignored, not seen, and shown no compassion in the way of a bit of food.  Do we think we should all feel guilty for eating when others can’t?  No.  But we don’t have to stuff ourselves to the point of being sick just because we can.  Often, we will carry a lunch in our car.  We are not hungry.  But right now, in our present times, we know we will see someone who is.  It is not a big deal and we are not to be thanked for it.  It is what we would hope someone would do for us should our roles be reversed.  Besides, the image of that person will remain with us even as we sleep.

So what is the opposite of Gluttony?  The Virtue that opposes Gluttony?  It is TEMPERANCE.  Maybe you would prefer the synonym of “moderation.”  If we are moderate, we will have enough to eat and have some left over.  Even the homeless we helped feed were not gluttonous.  They would take what they needed, and share with others who were also homeless.  They did not gorge on three or four lunches because they could.  They showed temperance, and they showed compassion and love towards their fellow persons.  Temperance is wonderful virtue to us.  It means if you have enough, and we have enough, we can both share with others so they, too,  have enough.  It is a coming together in both the physical and spiritual sense.

Gluttony is overeating.  Temperance is saying, “I’ve satisfied my hunger.  That is all I need.”  One need not make excuses for either but just be aware, gluttony becomes a sin as you focus strictly on YOU and YOUR NEEDS.  Do you really want to live like that in a world that is so needy and starved?  If you do, EAT to Gluttony.  We would rather not be at your table.


See you tomorrow for another chaotic ride into sins!  Oh my!  They get more personal each day!  Oh my oh my…




2 thoughts on “#3–Gluttony/ a Cardinal Sin and its Opposite Virtue”

  1. “Pavlov’s dogs had nothing on us!” and “We do know he died of a heart attack and we’ve always wondered where he went afterward. (Like we don’t know 🙂 )” had me laughing out loud, Judy! Oh, those poor bastards who thought/ think “sin” meant/s something bad instead of simply turning away from God (because of our trauma and didn’t know any better). Judy, I love your insight and thoughtful expression of it in words. You are entertaining and inspiring.


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