Come On! Is Gluttony Really a Sin?
St Peter’s List featured St Thomas Aquinas’ thoughts on Gluttony from the Summa Theologica.
I would not describe myself as an all out glutton, but I don’t exactly turn down seconds..okay thirds, of barbecue chicken wings either. You see, donuts or cake do not tempt me at all. What does tempt me are fried foods and foods set in rich, tomato-based sauces. And pasta. Oh pasta.
How does one know when one has crossed the line from simply enjoying the ‘gifts of thy bounty” to full fledged gluttony?
St Thomas Aquinas says:
I answer that, Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire. Now desire is said to be inordinate through leaving the order of reason, wherein the good of moral virtue consists: and a thing is said to be a sin through being contrary to virtue. Wherefore it is evident that gluttony is a sin.
So my desire to have three or four servings of wings is inordinate, especially if I’m quite aware that my stomach is full, if not by my ever-tightening skirt, then by my sudden desire to sleep. So the desire for me to take more simply because it tastes good is actually inordinate.
You might say, “inordinate is as inordinate does”. But that’s the interesting thing. Although overeating is a subjective thing (after all, no one can tell us that we are full but ourselves), we do in fact know when we are full, or we can at least learn to know when we are full.
…The vice of gluttony does not regard the substance of food, but in the desire thereof not being regulated by reason. Wherefore if a man exceed in quantity of food, not from desire of food, but through deeming it necessary to him, this pertains, not to gluttony, but to some kind of inexperience. It is a case of gluttony only when a man knowingly exceeds the measure in eating, from a desire for the pleasures of the palate.
So suppose I haven’t eaten all day and I am ravenous. I make myself a big plate of food because I suppose that is what I will need to fill me up. I eat it really quickly because I’m famished. However, as I finish the food, I notice that I am extremely and uncomfortably full. In that case, that would not be sinful because as the saying goes, “The eyes were larger than my stomach.” But, if I know I’m full, but that cheesecake looks so good and I’m just going to continue shoving food in my mouth, then I am committing the sin of gluttony.
The Saints teach us that we are to be modest in all things.
As we strive to live holy daily lives, let us be sure to be moderate in what we eat as well.