When we fall to the vice of gluttony, we’re letting our appetites control us and our choices and actions. This is the opposite of how it should be. God calls us to control our appetites, and keep them in check.
The Victory in Virtue Series
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Today I present another entry in the Victory in Virtue series. Today we move on to the topic of vices. We’re going to spend some time now talking about things we shouldn’t do as Christians, and some traps for us to avoid. Today’s post is on the vice of gluttony.
The vice of gluttony is one of the most common vices affecting all Christians. We’re always surrounded by tempting pleasures in this fallen world. We even need to partake of the most common one—food and drink—if we want to stay alive! So is the battle against the vice of gluttony hopeless?
No, of course not. Because partaking of a pleasure doesn’t have to make us a glutton for that pleasure. We need to look deeper into what counts as the vice of gluttony to learn when we’re being gluttons for a pleasure.
So that’s what today’s post is about. Let’s get straight into it.
What Is the Vice of Gluttony?
Gluttony. Noun: Habitual greed or excess in eating.
That definition comes from Google. We can search “gluttony” on Wikipedia for more definitions. Pretty much every definition of gluttony involves eating food and drink. Eating and drinking too much, to be more specific. And what is ‘too much?’ Any more than we need. Even one spoonful more than we need.
But if we read further on that page, we can see what Christians throughout the ages have said about gluttony. Their opinions varied a bit. Some said true gluttony doesn’t lie in eating too much, but in taking too much pleasure from eating. Others said gluttony is only eating what you like and take pleasure from.
A final definition is having so much to eat yourself, you don’t give anything to the poor.
OK, so there’s a few different definitions of gluttony. Besides the idea of food, is there anything else in common between all these definitions?
What all these ideas of gluttony have in common is the act of letting our appetites control us, instead of the other way around.
So that would be my definition, 99:9’s definition. It’s not so important to know if we’re eating too much, or only eating foods we like, or whatever. When we fall to the vice of gluttony, we’re letting our appetites control us and our choices and actions. This is the opposite of how it should be. God calls us to control our appetites, and keep them in check.
We have appetites and cravings for many things, and they all need to be kept in check. Any of these appetites can get out of control, and become gluttonous. We can be gluttons for sex (which is related to the vice of lust). We can be gluttons for entertainment, like TV and video games (also related to the vice of sloth). And we can become gluttons for many other pleasures too.
In other words, we fall to the vice of gluttony by not exercising the Virtue of Temperance. This fallen world is full of stimulating pleasures and entertainment, and it’s not sinful to enjoy them. It’s also not sinful to have an appetite for the things we like. But it is sinful to overindulge in these pleasures. It is sinful not to take them in moderation.
And why is that? Refer to my post on the Virtue of Temperance. When we overindulge in the pleasures of this world, we:
- Become driven (and controlled) by our desires instead of the other way around
- Become too attached to this dying fallen world instead of growing closer to the eternal LORD
- Place more value on these worldly pleasures than we do on the LORD and what He provides
- Become less Spiritual, and more tuned to our flesh nature
- Needing more and more of something to enjoy the same feeling of satisfaction (desensitization)
This is the situation warned against in 1 John 2:15-17 (quoted below), a key passage about enjoying worldly pleasures vs. seeking God. This is one thing that happens when we fall to the vice of gluttony. We grow too attached to this fallen world and that is fading away and its pleasures, and less attached to God. We become driven by our quest for more and more pleasure, seeking out short-lived pleasures instead of our eternal God. Soon these pleasures take the place of God in our lives, and we value and seek them more than we do God. This is a kind of idolatry.
We also grow too aligned with our flesh nature. Remember that the flesh and the Spirit are opposed to each other (see Galatians 5). When we overindulge in worldly pleasures, we stimulate our flesh nature, and it becomes more active. When we crucify the flesh by denying ourselves worldly pleasures, we stimulate the Spirit and it becomes more active. When our Spirit is more active, we can more easily control our appetites, because we’re focused on what’s important—the health of our soul.
Another problem with gluttony is needing more and more of the pleasure to sate ourselves. When we don’t control our appetites, indulging in something as much as we want, we become desensitized to that pleasure. Before we know it, the same “dosage” of that pleasure is no longer enough to sate us. Then we need more and more of that pleasure to feel the same satisfaction. It’s like becoming an addict, we could say. Because gluttons are addicts to whatever their pleasure is, to be honest.
Here’s part of what I had to say about enjoying worldly pleasures in my post on the Virtue of Temperance:
The pleasures of this world are immensely enjoyable and tempting. We can enjoy them, but we must enjoy them with gratitude and in moderation. And the pleasures of this world are like a trap. If we indulge in them too much we become driven by our desire for pleasure instead of God. In other words, we can become addicted to this world and the pleasures we enjoy here that stimulate our senses. If that happens we’ll stay in this lower world that’s passing away instead of ascending to Heaven. This is the situation 1 John 2:15-16 warns about, on top of other passages in the New Testament.
(15) Don’t love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. (16) Everything that is in the world—the craving for whatever the body feels, the craving for whatever the eyes see and the arrogant pride in one’s possessions—is not of the Father but is of the world. (17) And the world and its cravings are passing away, but the person who does the will of God remains forever.1 John 2:15-17 (CEB)
The world and it’s cravings are passing away! So we must not get addicted to something that won’t last. We should only be focused on God and desiring reunion with Him. We should love the things of Heaven and think about them instead of anything here on earth, no matter how much we enjoy it (Colossians 3:2). None of the pleasures here on earth can compare to those in Heaven.
We’re chasing after the wrong things here on earth. We’re enjoying the wrong things. It’s our flesh nature that leads us to indulge in food, sweets, sex, drinks, and so on. Even other temptations like video games and TV too. Our flesh nature blinds us to the Spiritual pleasures we should love instead. This is because the flesh is opposed to the Spirit (see Galatians 5). So the more we indulge in the pleasures of the flesh, from sex to chocolate cake, the more we weaken the Spirit. We become less Spiritual by doing this.
So the vice of gluttony can harm us in a few ways. For example, we can get obese if we eat too much all the time. That’s physical, flesh damage. But the most harmful damage the vice of gluttony inflicts is the Spiritual damage. Refer to 1 John 2:15-17, quoted above.
When we fall to the vice of gluttony, we love the things of the world. That means we don’t have the love of the Father. When we fall to gluttony, the sensual pleasure (any pleasure that stimulates the senses) we are gluttons for becomes more important to us than the LORD and our quest to grow closer to Him. It’s a kind of idolatry. We also make our flesh nature stronger, choking our Spiritual side and stopping our Spiritual growth. Gluttony is bad all around.
But before I talk about the “antidote” to the vice of gluttony, the Virtues that combat gluttony, there’s one more part of gluttony that I need to explain.
Most vices have a Spiritual version as well. So what is Spiritual gluttony? To learn more about Spiritual gluttony, let’s turn to the famous classic of Christian Spirituality and guide to Christian Spiritual growth that is Dark Night of the Soul, by John of the Cross. John of the Cross described the Spiritual versions of each of the deadly sins.
I’ll summarize what he says about Spiritual gluttony in Dark Night of the Soul, because he wrote a lot about it. Once again, it’s an issue of letting our appetite for something, in this case Spiritual pleasures, get out of control.
What are Spiritual pleasures? They are the pleasurable feelings of peace, calm, Spiritual growth, and so on that can be enjoyed through Spiritual exercises like prayer and fasting.
On top of that, a Spiritual glutton is more focused on Spiritual pleasure than they are Spiritual purity. What does that mean? It means they’re more focused on the Spiritual pleasures they get from Spiritual activities than they are on truly growing closer to God and obeying Him. They get their priorities mixed up. They focus more on Spiritual activities like prayer, fasting, and ritual because of the Spiritual pleasure these bring, when they should only be focused on growing closer to God and obeying Him better.
In other words, they’re doing these Spiritual activities for the wrong reason. They want the inner peace and calm, not getting closer to God. This defeats the whole purpose of what they’re doing.
A lot of people fall into this trap when exploring their Spiritual side and finding their Spirituality. They want the benefits of a Spiritual life, but they don’t want to live a genuine Spiritual life (especially not one of austerity and self-denial). They don’t want to get closer to God, they want the Spiritual pleasure.
Another possibility is that when they do Spiritual exercises and don’t feel Spiritual pleasure, they think they’re “doing something wrong” or “something isn’t working.” Because they’ve felt Spiritual pleasure before when doing these things. But this is also mistaken. Spiritual pleasure comes and goes, we don’t always get to enjoy it. So you’re not “doing it wrong” if you go on a fast and don’t feel Spiritual pleasure from it. Our Spiritual pleasure is really all up to God.
Anyway, we must never do Spiritual exercises so we can have Spiritual pleasure. Our motivation for these exercises must always be growing closer to God, and nothing else.
Well, alright. Let’s take a look at some of what John of the Cross has to say about this in Dark Night of the Soul.
For many of these, lured by the sweetness and pleasure which they find in such exercises, strive more after spiritual sweetness than after spiritual purity and discretion, which is that which God regards and accepts throughout the spiritual journey. Therefore, besides the imperfections into which the seeking for sweetness of this kind makes them fall, the gluttony which they now have makes them continually go to extremes, so that they pass beyond the limits of moderation within which the virtues are acquired and wherein they have their being.John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, Page 15
That last part is something I didn’t mention. Because a Spiritual glutton doesn’t moderate their appetite, they become desensitized to the pleasure they seek, same as any other glutton. That’s when they start going to further extremes all the time, needing to indulge more and more to get enough of the pleasure they seek.
Can you see how easy it is to fall into this trap? Because we can easily get pleasure from Spiritual activities. But that Spiritual pleasure must not be the reason why we do these things!
We must make sure our priorities are always correct. We do Spiritual exercises to grow closer to God, not for our Spiritual pleasure. We will often feel Spiritual pleasure (such as inner peace, calm) from doing Spiritual exercises. But that’s up to God, not us. And it can never be what motivates us to do anything Spiritual.
OK. Now let me move on to the “antidote” for the vice of gluttony. How do we counteract this vice?
What’s the Antidote?
There’s at least one Virtue that can cancel out any vice. There is no vice that can’t be conquered.
This fallen world is full of sensual pleasures (any pleasure that stimulates the senses). It’s not sinful to enjoy these short-lived pleasures, or even to have an appetite for them. But when we don’t control our appetites, they control us instead of the other way around. This is when we fall to the vice of gluttony. And when we fall to gluttony, we suffer the Spiritual (and physical!) problems described above.
We exercise the Virtue of Temperance to Virtuously moderate our use of worldly pleasures. We also exercise this Virtue to be smart and avoid situations that will tempt us. Avoiding opportunities to be tempted is the best way to ensure we don’t fall to temptation! So the Virtue of Prudence is relevant to that. So many of the Virtues are closely related.
The Virtue of Self-Discipline is also vital to combat the vice of gluttony. Taking control over our appetites is not an easy task. Who isn’t tempted by the short-lived sensual pleasures of this fallen world? No one, that’s who. All these things are intensely pleasurable (but also short-lived). Well, resisting the temptation of these things wouldn’t be an impressive feat if they weren’t so pleasurable and tempting. In other words, taking the Spiritual path would be easy if this world wasn’t one of pleasure. But that’s not how it is.
With the Virtue of Self-Discipline, we do more than Discipline our own appetites. We also Discipline our desire for pleasure in general, understanding that a life driven by the desire for pleasure is not a life that’s worth it. We Discipline our desire for pleasure and stay focused on what matters: Our Salvation and the health of our Soul. Becoming Spiritually stronger, and walking in the Spirit instead of the flesh. Since the vice of gluttony is failing to control an appetite for some pleasure of this world (or Spiritual pleasure), the Virtue of Self-Discipline corrects this by keeping us focused and stopping us from drifting into self-indulgent pleasure-seeking. This keeps our priorities straight, and our motives correct.
So these are the Virtues that counteract and conquer the vice of gluttony. But our most potent weapon against gluttony is prayer. So let’s now move on to some prayers we can use to guard against the vice of gluttony, and fight it in our own lives.
Prayers against the Vice of Gluttony
There are many prayers we could pray to combat the vice of gluttony. The best ones of course will be the ones that we create ourselves—the ones that come straight from the heart. Remember: When we pray we aren’t trying to say the right combination of words to unlock something in Heaven. No, that would be magic, which is an abomination to the LORD. Prayer is much simpler. Simply tell the LORD what you want, what you need, what’s on your mind, what’s bothering you, and so on.
Praying for help in fighting a vice is the best way to fight it. So here are a few short, simple prayers to combat the vice of gluttony that you can try adding to your prayer routine.
Bring Appetites back under My Control
We fall to the vice of gluttony when our appetite for one of this world’s pleasures gets out of our control. Then our cravings for that appetite guide our behavior instead of God’s Holy Spirit. When we recognize this has happened, we have to pray against gluttony.
We need strength and Discipline to fight our cravings and Discipline our appetite, because that’s not easy. We also need Wisdom to understand what tempts us to indulge in this out-of-control appetite, so that we can avoid those things.
So here’s a quick prayer asking for help with all the above:
LORD, I confess to you of the gluttony of vice in my life. My appetite for ( ____________ ) is no longer under my control. I can’t stop myself from indulging this appetite, and my cravings for it influence my behavior instead of Your Holy Spirit. Please grant me the strength and Discipline to fight my cravings and bring this appetite back under my control. Please grant me the Wisdom to recognize what tempts me to this appetite, and to avoid those things. Amen.
A Prayer Against Spiritual Gluttony
Remember that Spiritual gluttony happens when we engage in Spiritual practices so that we can enjoy Spiritual pleasure. We should be doing Spiritual exercises so that we can draw closer to God, and for no other reason. Let’s not forget that, in the same way as any other addiction, Spiritual gluttons need to do more and more Spiritual exercises to enjoy the same amount of Spiritual pleasure as what they’re used to. This is what happens any time we get knocked off the right path, which happens when pleasure becomes our main motivation for anything.
So here’s a quick prayer asking for protection against that. By which I mean, protection against Spiritual pleasure becoming our motivation for doing anything Spiritual. Take a look:
LORD, thank You for the close relationship I can enjoy with You through prayer, fasting, group worship, and other Spiritual activities. And thank You for the joy of the Spiritual pleasures I’m able to enjoy from these. Please convict me in the Spirit if I should ever seek these Spiritual pleasures more than I seek You. Please purify my intentions if I fall into Spiritual gluttony, so that my worship and Spiritual exercises will be acceptable to You. Please protect me from Spiritual gluttony, so that all my Spiritual practices will be done for Your sake and never for my own pleasure. Amen.
A Prayer for Anyone Battling Addiction
For the final prayer today, I’m re-posting the prayer for those battling addiction from Part 8: Temperance. Since many people battling the vice of gluttony feel that their appetites are addictions, this is appropriate. I’m sorry to confess I don’t remember who wrote this prayer. I saw it on Facebook at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdowns, when all that was only starting up. Here it is:
***If you want to pray this prayer for yourself, say we/us/our instead of they/them/their. I’ve put the we/us/our in [brackets] here.
A Prayer for Anyone Battling Addiction
Father God, thank You that nothing we struggle with is impossible for You to overcome. You are above all things, and in You, all things are held together.
This season is hard for all of us, but especially for [those of us] our brothers and sisters battling addiction. Help [us] them realize that [our] their struggles do not define [our] their identity or worth.
[We] They are Your children, called by Your name, and set apart for Your purposes. Show [us] them that [our] their chains have been broken.
Help [us] them to resist temptation so that [we] they can embrace Your fullness of life. Give [us] them Your strength to fight back when [we] they feel overwhelmed, and place people in [our] their lives who will support [us] them.
Protect [our] their bodies, hearts, and minds. Shield [us] them from temptation, and deliver [us] them from evil.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Again, there are so many options for praying against any vice. I could go on and on and on. Everyone is always welcome to leave a comment with prayers of their own.
But once we’re done praying, it’s time to take action (in the physical world). Let’s move on to that now.
Fighting the Vice
To fight a vice, we must change our behavior and be consistent about that. We can’t do something new a few times and stop there. We must stick with our new ways, turning our back on our old sins. This consistency is how we build up a habit. It’s also how we cultivate and strengthen a Virtue, which are the “antidotes” to vice.
So how can we do that to fight gluttony? Let’s look at a few practical ideas. And remember: These are only a start! The possibilities are endless. I welcome any comments with good ideas about this.
Here are just a few ideas of how we can fight the vice of gluttony in our own lives:
- Learn how to cut down on, ration, or restrict the indulgence of whatever pleasure
- Find healthier substitutes for the pleasure we are gluttons for
- Cultivate the Virtues of Temperance and Self-Discipline
- And other ideas you can think of!
The vice of gluttony involves our appetites being out of control, instead of us controlling our appetites. The good news here is that, with the Virtues of Self-Discipline and Temperance, we can conquer our appetites, bringing them back under our control. One way to do that is to cut down on, ration, or restrict our indulgence of the pleasure that we are gluttons for.
Since these pleasures aren’t always sinful in and of themselves, it might not be necessary to give them up entirely (though that’s never a bad idea). It’s up to us as individuals to decide, through the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit gained by repeated prayer, what we must give up entirely and what we can safely enjoy if we cut down on it. What we must completely remove from our life versus what we can keep if we learn to moderate it. We must completely remove anything that has too much power over us, though. Just be aware of that.
I’ll give you an example from my own life: Video games. They’re incredible fun, and I’ve always enjoyed them. They provide great pleasure, and so over the decades I’ve put countless hours into them. The total time, if we add it up, I’m sure would amount to years. Well, this is far too much time spent on video games. Far too much time spent on pleasure-seeking. So in 2020, God taught me to moderate this pleasure. Video games are an option only on Fridays and Saturdays, after I’ve completed my other tasks. If it’s not a Friday or Saturday, I won’t even touch video games or look at them.
I’ve been able to keep up with this new schedule all year, and it works great. So this is an example of being able to moderate the pleasure and not give it up completely. I cut down on video games, rationing my enjoyment of them. Now I would no longer consider myself a glutton for this pleasure. May the Holy Spirit convict me if I’m wrong. And if I had not been able to stick to this schedule, and too tempted to play video games on other days of the week, then I would have taken the hard step of getting rid of them completely. But that wasn’t necessary, in my case.
Another option for fighting the vice of gluttony is to replace our appetite for something unhealthy with a healthier alternative. If we’re gluttons for junk food, for example, we might be able to replace our cravings for junk food by switching to healthier snacks like vegetables if we can find one we really like. Or, we can try to find a completely different activity to replace the activity of snacking and eating. The important criteria being that we find something that’s healthier than overindulging in whatever pleasure we’re gluttons for. We should pray to the Holy Spirit for Wisdom and insight into this area.
Finally, the best way to fight the vice of gluttony through actions is to cultivate the antidote Virtues that counteract gluttony. The antidote Virtues for gluttony are the Virtues of Temperance and Self-Discipline. The Virtue of Temperance helps us not only to moderate our use of worldly pleasures, but also to avoid temptations in general and to battle our addictions through Christ. The Virtue of Self-Discipline is needed whenever we seek to battle our own natures. Our appetites are part of our nature, so this battle calls for the Virtue of Self-Discipline so we can exert mastery over ourselves through Christ’s power.
The temptations of this world are alluring, pleasurable, and attractive. So the vice of gluttony is a powerful vice indeed. Many people fall prey to it, including many Christians. But don’t worry—if we turn to Christ in prayer for help, and if we stay committed to cultivating the Virtues, then we will triumph over gluttony and any other vice in our lives! It takes hard work and dedication on our part, but with Christ on our side, we will always win in the end! Amen!
The Real Pleasures Are in Heaven
The most commonly-available sensual pleasure is food. Food is the most common temptation of the flesh, and we all have some food that we like, that stimulates our senses. Well, food may be a temptation of the flesh, but how can we get rid of it? It’s not like we can “give up” food, because of course if we don’t eat our bodies will wither and die!
It goes without saying that we need food, and that God knows we need food. I hope this example shows you the fact that the pleasures which tempt us aren’t sinful in and of themselves (with exceptions like drugs and pornography).
No, it’s not sinful to enjoy the short-lived, temporary pleasures of this dying fallen world. Hey, if we already have to eat food to live, why not enjoy food then? That makes us more grateful to God, which pleases Him.
And it’s not sinful to have an appetite or craving for these pleasures either. Sometimes we feel like having a slice of pie. Should we REPENT! to God for feeling that? No, of course not! That craving is only a momentary feeling, it’s not good or bad, it’s just a feeling. But the action we take because of that feeling, now that’s where we can go wrong.
Pleasure is not a sin. But the Bible warns us many times not to become driven by pleasure. If we do then we become controlled by pleasure. A life of pleasure seeking is not a Spiritual one. It leads us to walk in the flesh, becoming slaves to our own desires, controlled by whatever we desire in the moment, never enjoying long-term contentment. Refer to Galatians 5 for more.
This is why we must control our appetite for any pleasure. If we don’t, then we fall to the vice of gluttony, becoming controlled by pleasure instead of the other way around. And God intended for us to control ourselves, see 2 Timothy 1:7.
(7) God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.2 Timothy 1:7 (CEB)
The vice of gluttony goes against God’s Will for our lives. We must have control over ourselves, and our appetites. We must control our desire for pleasure, any pleasure, taking it in moderation. We do this so we can walk in the Spirit instead of the flesh, drawing closer to God instead of closer to this world, which is passing away (1 John 2:17).
So while we’re here on this fallen world full of short-lived pleasures, we must make sure that our appetite for these pleasures stays under our control. When these appetites get out of control, that’s when we fall to the vice of gluttony.
And we must remember that we can become gluttons in our Spiritual life too. We must thank God that we’re able to enjoy Spiritual pleasure from doing Spiritual exercises. But this Spiritual pleasure must never become our motivation for doing these exercises. We must control our appetite for Spiritual pleasures too. Because the point of our Spiritual life is to draw closer to God, not to experience pleasure.
The point is, we can never let our desire for pleasure be what motivates us in anything. The pleasure should only be more like a “bonus” to what we’re doing. Our motivation for what we do should always be Virtue, and drawing closer to God.
And any time we do something we know will give pleasure, let’s be sure to thank God for that. Let’s thank God that there’s pleasure and enjoyment on this fallen world along with the suffering and misery. But let’s always keep our hearts focused on the pleasures we can enjoy in Heaven above, if we don’t fall into Satan’s traps (Colossians 3:2). The pleasures we will enjoy there are the real deal, they last forever.
Don’t fall to the vice of gluttony. Don’t fall in love with this world or the things of this world. They aren’t worth it! They can never even hope to compare to what’s waiting for us up in Heaven, with Jesus.
The vice for next time is sloth. Stay tuned for that and Subscribe to my FREE weekly newsletter with the link below so you’ll never miss a post!!
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Until next time, be strong and do good!
Your new best friend in Christ,
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