Epictetus
Epictetus


Chapter 13: How to Act According to God's Will

"How may a man eat in a manner acceptable to Zues?" If he can eat justly, contentedly, with equanimity, temperately, and orderly, will it not be also acceptable to the gods?

To us this might seem like a trivial question, but in the history of mankind the proper manner of eating food has always been a concern. In the early church there was even a dispute over whether food that had been prepared and offered up to the pagan gods could be eaten by a Christian. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians said that it did not really matter how the food was prepared. In Verse 4 of Chapter 8 he says, "So then, about eating the food offered to idols: we know that an idol stands for something that does not really exist; we know that there is only the one God... (verse 8) Food will not improve our relation with God; we shall not lose anything if we do not eat, nor shall we gain anything if we do eat."

Paul knew what was important. It was not the food itself so much as the manner in which it was consumed. For he goes on in verses 10-13 to caution his readers not to eat in a pagan temple or eat in a way that would be a bad example to other Christians. He would have agreed with Epictetus to eat modestly and "temperately".

Yet the whole question has far deeper implications as we find out in the next paragraph:

Chapter 13:

  1. How to Act According to God's Will
  2. Do Not Be Vexed (13a)
  3. Brotherhood of Man (13b)
  4. Morality Trumps Legalism (13c)
Stoicism and Christianity Index

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This is a translation and explanation of the first book of the Discourses of Epictetus. His words are in regular text, comments are in bold.

Biographical Information on Epictetus


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