There is a truth that lies within us that will be with us forever.
2 John 2
Recently I was asked to teach a class on one of the seven deadly sins—gluttony. The idea of gluttony as a sin seems almost quaint to us today. It brings to mind the engravings of the 18th century artist Hogarth or the fanciful depiction of Jaba the Hut in Star Wars. We live in a culture that suffers from obesity but we don’t consider ourselves gluttons. It is really not fashionable to be overweight so we manage to drag ourselves to the gym or down to the hike and bike trail. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and others are thriving enterprises. So while you and I may be a few pounds overweight, we don’t see ourselves as gluttons—the idea is absurd. Or is it?
Jeff Cook in his book, Seven, reminds us that gluttony is not about having a fat body but rather it is about having a gaunt soul. We think of gluttony as having to do with food but we can be gluttons for technology, gluttons for work and busyness. Gluttony is first and foremost about excess. The desert fathers and mothers equated sin with inordinate desire—excessive desires—disordered desires. Gluttony is a disordered desire for more than I need.
No wonder gluttony seems a bit archaic to us in twenty-first century USA. We are so immersed in the worldview that more is better, that consuming is the oil that makes our economy go, that it is, in fact, our patriotic duty–that we never equate this excess with that old deadly sin of gluttony. After all, what harm can it do that I have five pairs of black shoes instead on one, that there are four televisions, five computers and three I Pads in my house, not to mention the smart phones that have become essential to our lives.
And surely there is no harm in any of these things themselves. But gluttony is paradoxical; the more I take, the less I have. The poet Rumi puts it this way: “When you’re full of food and drink, an ugly metal statue sits where your spirit should.” Most of the things we consume are not bad in themselves. Rather it is the excessive amount of what we consume that is the deadly sin of gluttony. And it is deadly because it separates us from our True Self. Gluttony makes me so full that I am unable to find the immortal diamond of my true self. All I can see is the “ugly metal statue” that suffocates my spirit.
Richard Rohr describes sin as “a mistake about who you are and whose you are.” The clutter of my excessive consumption threatens to bury “the truth that lies within.” It hides the truth that I was made by Love for love. We should look upon our frantic consumption with the eyes of this compassionate love. For all of our excessive consuming is a misguided attempt to fill ourselves with the love that can only be found in emptying. Our God is a God of extravagant and abundant love. God is constantly giving herself away to us. This is “the truth that lies within us and will be with us forever.”