|The Deadly Sin of Gluttony|
How does overeating relate to technology? The foods we eat today are technological marvels. Just trying to interpret the ingredient labels on the grocery shelf requires a science degree, where we find a seemingly pernicious concoction of chemicals that makes me question whether it should be ingested or ignited. Still, much of the engineering of food is beneficial, such as preserving the food longer than it naturally would last, or making it look and taste better. At the same time, we get some unfortunate side-effects from our ability to modify our food in complex ways. Much of the food on the grocery shelf is now a high-dose, quick delivery system for sugar and fat, packaged for convenience and priced low, making it easy for me to slip into gluttony.
Gluttony is not only lurking at your local grocery store. Restaurants also tend to cater to our gluttonous tendencies, especially in the US, so that an American-sized portion fills a large plate -- or should I say platter? We love to supersize our meals. Unfortunately, we rarely call this problem what it really is: gluttony. At most we might get some small admonishment from our physician or a health magazine to watch our weight, but rarely is anyone so bold to say that our habit of excessive eating is a sin -- the sin of gluttony.
Beyond the literal gluttony of overeating, technology can also tempt us into more figurative gluttonous sins. Technological gluttony is consuming much more energy and other natural resources than we really need. The United States used 17% of world energy in 2016, but represented only 5% of the population. Much of that energy was likely used for good and valuable reasons, but we may need to also examine ourselves for wasteful usage. Are we using energy-efficient appliances? Choosing energy-efficient means of transportation? Technological gluttony is the purchase of so many technical gadgets that we can’t really even use them all effectively. Engineers can be particularly enamored by high tech devices, justifying that our profession requires that we stay current when, in truth, we are gorging on gadgets. I struggle with this personally. I am too easily tempted by cutting-edge technology, even when it is several times more expensive than technology that I already possess, which is just slightly older and is still functioning perfectly fine. I justify myself by pointing to the enhanced features and capabilities: “...but an 8K television is so much higher resolution! Isn’t that higher quality worth an exorbitant price?” Technological gluttony is binging on Amazon. We receive a stack of boxes at the front door the next day just for the sheer thrill of shopping, even when we don’t actually need or cannot actually afford all of it. The technology of one-click Internet shopping is not evil, but it can enable our bad behavior if we let it.
To avoid the literal gluttony of overeating we go on a diet, measuring our waistline or checking the scale regularly to monitor progress. Likewise, to avoid figurative gluttony, we may need to go on a diet regarding our energy use, gadget consumption, or whatever we are tempted to binge consume. Measure your technological waistline by reviewing your monthly electricity bill. The utility provider in my region even gives me a handy chart to compare my use to similar sized homes in my neighborhood. Measure your technological waistline by counting up how many tech gadgets are gathering dust in a drawer because you bought them on a whim or bought a newer one while the old one was still perfectly functional. Measure your technological waistline by totaling up your annual technological purchases. Are you purchasing more tech than really necessary?
The opposite of the vice of gluttony is the virtue of temperance, i.e., moderation. Temperance is a sign of contentment. Paul writes to the church in Philippi about this virtue: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13, NIV) Perhaps we can seek to emulate Paul, being content in all circumstances, including with our technology.
Technology is not evil, it is in fact a good gift within God’s creation and part of our fulfillment of the Genesis 1:28 call for humans to steward and cultivate the earth. However, too much of a good thing, whether food or tech, can become the sin of gluttony.