How Much Pleasure Is Enough?
“Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. ” – Proverbs 23:2
“Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. ” – 1 Corinthians 7:5
The chief error about Gluttony is to think it only pertains to food. Some people can’t have enough toys, television, entertainment, sex, or company. It is about an excess of anything.
There are at least three forms of Gluttony:
1) Wanting more pleasure from something than it was made for.
2) Wanting it exactly our way (delicacy).
3) Demanding too much from people (excessive desire for other people’s time or presence).
More Pleasure Than It Was Made For
The world is full of good things, from the beauty of the stars to the ever-changing and never-changing oceans to the pleasure of human company. We are free to enjoy these things without becoming focused on any one of them to the exclusion of all else. It is possible to become so caught up in a pleasure, whether food or fun, that we can no longer enjoy other things, and would be willing to sacrifice other pleasures for the one.
We enter into Gluttony when we demand more pleasure from something than it was made for. Normally, we can only eat so much food, but some people in Ancient Rome wanted more pleasure, so they threw up after the meal and then ate more. This allowed them to enjoy eating more at the cost of health (and dignity).
In “The Screwtape Letters,” C.S. Lewis describes delicacy as a desire to have things exactly our way. He gives the example of food having to be prepared just right, or in just the right amount, but it isn’t limited to food. We might complain about unimportant defects in a product, the temperature in the room, or the color of a laundry basket. There is a certain amount of discomfort to be expected in life, but the Glutton will have none of it. Instead of becoming strong by suffering the minor inconveniences of life, the Glutton insists on being pampered. No one dares to point out how petty or foolish they are. In fact, some celebrities are praised for their excessive perfectionism, as though it were a virtue.