The Common Good

Gluttony: Battling a Culture of Convenience

I tend toward the “eat, drink, and be merry” life philosophy, popularized by the Bible, and also Dave Matthews Band. Growing up in a very large, very loud, very food-centric family in South Texas ingrained this in me, as we gathered many a Sunday around the table(s) to celebrate that month’s birthdays and talk politics, family businesses, and, mostly, the last Seinfeld episode. What you might call gluttony, I call Sabbath — and I’ll quote Scripture at you to prove my point.

Media consumption illustration, violetkaipa / Shutterstock.com
Media consumption illustration, violetkaipa / Shutterstock.com

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So smug was I at my “breaking bread as Jesus did” epicurean lifestyle that I probably should be writing about pride instead. But a few weekends ago, while finishing up season two of House of Cards three days after it released — and also a bottle of Zinfandel — and taking eye-attention breaks to check my Facebook and Instagram feeds (that adorable photo of baby girl only garnered 64 likes?!), and to see how many steps my Fitbit recorded for the day (so much for that post-dinner Skinny Cow), I paused to reflect upon the concept of gluttony.

When does our reliance upon a constant stream of multi-channel entertainment and instant gratification become harmful?

It isn’t true that my quarterly trips to Virginia wineries or occasional prix fixe date nights harm my relationship with God. But obsession with a too-much, I-deserve-this-indulgence, accessibility-at-all-costs culture just might. When we can have groceries delivered so we don’t have to leave our Saturday afternoon binge-watching session, we probably aren’t making time for often tedious biblical study and reflection. And when our first inclination upon a moment of solitude is to fix our eyes on our smartphones, our prayer lives are probably in crisis. Our cling to convenience is an obvious, but not often discussed, stumbling block to spiritual growth.

Because the Gospel isn’t convenient.

The Gospel tells us that Christ did whatever — and recruited whomever — was most inconvenient to bring about his plan of salvation. Our response, then, is not one of convenience either. God doesn’t live in a tidy box any more than our worship to God should be confined by the boundaries of Sunday morning. And our tendency toward gluttony impairs the discipline that allows that worship to flourish. Gluttony is not a sin reserved for the portly; it is the reality of a culture that emphasizes overconsumption and steals our attention away from relationships — especially our relationship with God.

I am a glutton for Netflix and OnDemand with a glass of wine, especially once my infant is in bed for the night and “I deserve the break.”

I am a glutton for an Instagram feed full of people loving how cute said infant’s chubby cheeks are.

I am a glutton for my dashboard of analytics that tells me how popular this blog post will be.

I am a glutton for the technology that tells me how many calories I’m burning “without even trying.”

I am a glutton for Amazon Mom, which delivers diapers and wipes straight to my front door!

I am a glutton for 24-hour news that sensationalizes minutiae to stay relevant and desensitizes us to human suffering.

I am a glutton for a life of convenience and first world problems and a god that works with my schedule.

But what I want to be is a disciple to the God who requires more than what is convenient. What I want is to be the hands and feet of a Christ who calls us beyond our Sunday-morning digestion of the lectionary.

Our Lenten practice is giving up that which withers the soul, that which competes with the Almighty for our attention, that which we are gluttons for. Will we choose a life of inconvenience, discomfort, and startling grace over the empty culture of too-much? That is my struggle, my sin, my daily repentance.

“Do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

Sandi Villarreal is Web Editor & Director of Online Media for Sojourners. Find her on Twitter @Sandi.

Image: Media consumption illustration, violetkaipa / Shutterstock.com

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