Gluttony and the Bible

Opitz, the GluttonIs Gluttony a sin? As with so many things, the Bible is contradictory. Paul is clear, making it as evil as (shock, horror) homosexuality: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. While “homosexuality” is a mistranslation, the Greek meaning the abusers of enslaved rent-boys, the words “greedy nor drunkards” mean exactly that.

Proverbs gives a reason: Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags. Here, the problem is laziness rather than gluttony per se (Since when did “persay” become a word? O Tempora! O Mores!)

Jesus did not say it was not a sin, so much as condemn those who condemned it: The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ The “people of this generation”, as overwhelmingly negative as the people of this generation, condemned John for fasting and Jesus for feasting. Ye cannae win with them.

Opitz- Der VöllerIn 1 Cor 8, Paul says what and where we eat is a matter of conscience, which cuts both ways: you know that offering food to false gods is meaningless, so you may eat it. But your fellow-Christian believes the idolatrous ceremony has meaning, and so if he eats that meat he sins. If you by example lead him into what is a sin for him, you sin yourself. Don’t do anything with the tincture of sin to it.

Much condemnation is of the rich, rather than of overeating. Jesus says “Beware of the scribes, who… love… the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” He echoes Amos condemning rulers, who,  caring neither for the poor nor the defence of the realm, will soon be swept away by the Assyrians.

Here is Deuteronomy, being as alien and ridiculous as the Torah can be: parents take their son to the elders and complain “This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.” So the son is stoned to death. Calvinists legislating the Bible in Scotland made “Cursing of Parents” a capital offence, but there is no record of anyone being executed for it. 

Gluttony, a symbol of laziness and uselessness, and the plague of our times in the US and the UK, among children, and perhaps even a conspiracy of the rich against the poor. Why do Christians not campaign against it, as some do against homosexuality?

Bible quotes from Open Bible.

Opitz dogs

23 thoughts on “Gluttony and the Bible

  1. I enjoy this post very much for its understated clarity and gentle ambivalence. One point sticks in mind, which is the plague of gluttony in the young being a possible conspiracy against the poor. So much bad food, which is addictive, is cheap and freely available, despite the harm it causes….

    Thank you! xx :-))


    • From Horizon: eating fat or sugar, you more or less eat what you need then don’t want more. But mix them together in equal quantities, and people can eat it all day. This is not good for us. “Processed foods” are bad for you.


      • Absolutely. Thanks for that reminder – with useful scientific endorsement. I have often suspected that “fat” and “sugar” are not so much the problem as “fat and sugar and refined flour…” xxx 😉


  2. Pingback: Guard your heart | Disciples of hope

    • A bit cheeky, that, tagging nine posts to get the traffic in, but I will let it pass as it is an unobjectionable article about how the roots of sinful acts are in unguarded thoughts occurring before. Be sober, be vigilant, for your enemy like a roaring lion prowls, seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist, firm in the faith.

      And the traffic may go both ways.


  3. If only fundamentalist Christians would first take the time to learn Aramaic, Greek, and Latin, then we could really talk about these things. The problem is, no surprise, that many fundamentalists in the backwoods of America … you know, Florida, Texas, etc. … actually believe the Bible was written in English. Hideous.


    • I came across this post on “Game Changer“. She is not as all for Diversity as I am, and I could object to some of her wording and assumptions, but in the encounter with a lesbian whom she respects, she has changed her mind, and writes simply and honestly about that experience. I find it beautiful. Pink has told her off a bit, and my encouraging comment is awaiting moderation.

      In the encounter with other human beings, our thoughtless prejudices get worn away. This is God’s work.


    • Just as evolutionary biology over the last 150 years has made Biblical literalism untenable, Biblical scholarship has made ideas of the Bible being the direct word of God (as opposed to God through human beings) untenable. Knock yourself out, dearie. When we misuse and misunderstand the Bible, we leave an open goal.

      Gluttony is one of Pink’s angles, but I don’t think he has amassed the actual verses.


      • I saw you found Becky’s sorry post too. I’ve clashed about babies being evil with her before, but there’s something about her I like. She’s earnest in her harmful beliefs, as opposed to nasty. Do you think she’d be sensitive about a gluttony rant?


        • I’m not sure about that distinction. Some bloggers seem to be angry and upset on behalf of those cakemakers, and they lash out, and I do not find that worse, necessarily, than the one who self-satisfiedly says “Gays are wrong, the Bible says so”. It depends how you word your gluttony rant. If you say “gluttony is a bad thing” she will agree. If you say Christians spend too much time on homosexuality when there is all this gluttony about, she will say that Christians condemn gluttony equally, but it is the wicked Liberal news media whipping up controversy.

          By the way, a commenter there cited Luke 11 37-54. From context, that commenter is anti-gay it seems, but Luke 11:46 is “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.” Which seems to be on my side.

          Did you watch the LA Law clip? It is wonderful.


  4. Love the LA Law clip! I can’t believe it’s as long ago as the fashions are telling me, I used to watch it religiously and imagined something much more modern in my memory. You should start posting it on Christian cake-maker sites, I wonder if it would make them think.


  5. Thanks for more thought-provoking stuff. This raises a couple things for me, besides the obvious hypocrisy of calling out homosexuals over other sorts roundly condemned in the Bible – and I love learning about quirks of translation. I’ve studied Latin and Hebrew and it boggles my mind how people take the English version of the Bible at face value, as if it hasn’t been written by many authors over centuries and then translated and then translated again…

    To me, talking about “gluttony” as a sin reminds me of the difficult truth that you can’t ever really see someone else’s internal moral state. How do you recognize a glutton? Are they eating a bunch of junky food? Are they obese? Is some kind of physical or psychological illness behind their eating habits and weight gain? How do you know? What about low-income people in America, who suffer from obesity and diet-related hypertension and diabetes in droves? Are they gluttons? …Or are they victims of a government system that subsidizes sugar, dairy and corn syrup over fruits and vegetables, and a poor neighborhood that’s full of McDonald’s and candy-filled bodegas but no grocery stores or farmers markets? To me, this is all another reminder that it’s usually just too tricky to try to judge other people’s “sins” from the outside.

    p.s. LOVE the face on that little white dog in the painting.


    • Is not the whole painting gorgeous? I like the page on the right, sharing the joke with us.

      I came across a translation issue new to me recently: being in koine Greek, the lingua franca, much of the gospels is in the present tense. Is that because the present tense is the one most people will know, because readers and writers are using the international language, or is it with intent, to make the experience more immediate? Many novelists now use the continuing present.

      Sin may be a useful model for assessing my own conduct- am I missing the target? Could I do better? Do I feel guilty, and need shriven? I don’t find it useful to assess other people. We all do our best under difficult circumstances. As it becomes clearer that corn syrup is addictive, and that a mixture of sugar and fat is irresistible, Christians could concern ourselves with the needless hazards facing others, and stand beside those suffering.

      And- more translation issues on homosexuality.


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