The Seven Deadly Vices:

5. Gluttony versus Self-control

by Don Schwager


"Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame"

(Philippians 3:19).




Gluttony is the inordinate or excessive desire for the pleasure connected with food or drink. It may become sinful in various ways: by eating or drinking far more than is necessary for maintaining bodily strength; by glutting one's tastes for foods with known detriment to health; by overindulgence in exquisite and luxurious food or drink; by eating or drinking too avidly; by consuming alcoholic beverages to the point of losing full control of one's reasoning powers. The inordinate pursuit of the desireable and of food and drink can lead to other sins, such as theft and injustice. It can contribute or reflect a lack of faith in and love of God.

The virtue of temperance (or self-control) moderates the desire for pleasure. The temperate person exercises control over his or her appetites and desires and protects himself from this self-destruction of pleasure seeking. A drunkard who cannot control his intemperate appetite debases his human nature by delivering his reason and will to the slavery of alcohol. The temperate person does not allow alcohol to enslave his reason and frustrate his will. The virtue of sobriety regulates a person's desire for and use of intoxicating drink. Temperance in eating means to eat just enough to maintain good health. It follows a middle path between gluttony which would destroy health by an excess of food and starvation, or extreme fasting, which would destroy health by excessive lack of food.

Examples from the scripture: There are many examples of drunkenness in the Old Testament. Lot got drunk and committed incest with his daughters (see Genesis 19:33,35). Nabal insulted David; got drunk (see 1 Samuel 25:36-38) and was smitten by the Lord and died ten days later. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus tells the story of a rich man named Dives, a gluttonous and greedy man, who refused to share his bread with the poor man Lazarus. Two biblical examples of people who practiced voluntary total abstinence are the Rechabites who made a solemn pledge to abstain from wine (see Jeremiah 35) and John the Baptist who refrained from wine and fancy food to prepare for the coming of the Messiah (Luke 7:33; Matthew 3:4).