The Sin of Gluttony

The Sin of Gluttony

Dr. Jim Denison

The dieting crazes which have swept our country in recent years seem to prove one fact: of all the seven deadly sins, the one we seem most interested in avoiding is gluttony. The dictionary defines the term simply as “excess in eating.” But how much is excess?

The question has been around for millenia. Here was the spectrum in the first century.

Many of the Romans sought pleasure at all costs. Their “vomitoriums” were famous–they would gorge themselves, throw it up, and return to the banquet. Prostitution, concubines, and homosexuality were rampant. Gluttony was a way of life.

The Epicureans, a group to whom Paul witnessed at Mars Hill (Acts 17:18), advocated pleasure as the point of life. Happiness comes from seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. But they cautioned against excess, because it could cause pain. Thus they advocated drinking wine, but not drunkenness. Pleasure in moderation would be their goal.

The Stoics were another group present at Mars Hill. They saw the purpose of life as duty. Eat only what you must to be effective in life. Eat only when you are hungry. Pleasure is a side effect, not the purpose. Health is a means to the end of doing what you are required to do in life.