Abby's Commentary on CS Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, #17
This Letter is about food. I think. Well, maybe it’s not just about food.
Screwtape is writing to Wormwood about the sin (or, as the demons see it, “opportunity”) of gluttony. Eating too much. Gorging. Stuffing ourselves. By whatever name. Which, here at the holidays, is such a timely topic – I’m on Christmas party #4 right now myself.
Gluttony is not a word you hear used much. Just the sound of the word is less than palatable. Screwtape says we don’t talk about/preach against gluttony in the modern church, and I think he may be right. (I find it interesting that Lewis made this observation some 80 years ago). Why is that? How come nobody wants to hear about the sin of gluttony?
Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because we are living in the “ME times”? Where it’s OK to be, want, not want, choose, ignore, do, don’t do whatever works for me. And people don’t want to hear or think about the sin behind that. That wouldn’t be popular. Have you ever seen people eat at a pitch-in luncheon on the grounds after church? A thought..... Since our overindulgence options as Christians are pretty limited, overeating doesn’t seem so bad. It’s not hurting anybody but me, right?
Of course, there are other ways, besides food, that we gluttonize. One of those is Christmas gift-giving. Especially for our kids and grandkids. (Oh, she went there). We stand in line for 3 days, hungry, in the rain, for our chance to spend shameful amounts of money on stuff they don’t even need. But, that’s OK because “It’s not for me, it’s for the children” and “I just want my (grand)kids to have more than I had”. Yeah, no. Still gluttony. (Talking to myself here.)
I just thought of another one….. binge watching. Gluttony.
Exercise in excess. Ok, maybe I don’t own that one, but some ‘gluttons’ do.
Yet, gluttony isn't limited to consuming too much. Chew on this (sorry): Screwtape identifies the “gluttony of determination”, the “insatiable demand for the exact”, and an "all I really want is" state of mind. Screwtape calls it the “gluttony of delicacy” rather than the “gluttony of excess”. Being picky, uppity, high maintenance. (OK, those are my words). Depriving myself and making sure everyone knows what I’ve done.
Screwtape adds into the gluttonous mix, “vanity” and “virtue”. Where gluttony is more about what I “found” than what I “have”. You see, I’m so hip, so sophisticated. I know the best food, the best city, the best fashion, the best deal ….. (I think I just described a social media “influencer”). Knowledge is my gluttony.
Or, where denying myself becomes my act of charity. Suffering and ‘going without’ is my virtue, my gluttony.
Well, as usual, this Letter leaves us with as much to ponder as it does answer any question.
Are overindulgence, pickiness, and prideful restraint equally sinful?