What are the 7 Deadly Sins and Why Should we care?

I am no saint.  Most days I find my struggles are so profane and well, human. I don’t want to yell when I am angry at my child.  I don’t want to start smoking again even when provoked by life.  I don’t want spend frivolously, and compulsively, on books or clothes.  I want to be more generous. To be less envious of the success of others.  To respond in love and hopefulness rather than “expect” someone to live up to the low opinion I have of them.  I’m just being honest here.  Life is a struggle!

My children asked the other day if “to lie” was a sin.  “What about to murder?” they asked.  What are the seven deadly sins, they wanted to know?

The only thing that I could remember in the moment was Sloth, probably because I struggle with laziness and lack of motivation at-home.   I struggle to do things that don’t interest me much, like laundry and other forms of housework; to train the dog even though it would make our lives so much better; to be consistent with my kids — book reading before computer, keep your room picked up, clean up after yourself!  I find it easier to just do it myself, than hassle with teaching the kids.

But somehow I could work in the garden all day long, in the burning sunshine, because it doesn’t feel like work.  I could pull a thousand weeds.  Or draw with my kids. 

I might write all day because it feels so wonderful to place one word in front of the other, in a way that I choose.  But sweep, mop, pick up and put away?  I’m loathe to do those things.

I could not remember what the Seven were, so I looked it up.

The Catholic church believes the Seven Sins are:

  1. Pride (or Vanity) is an excessive belief in our own abilities that gets in the way of our ability to recognize and experience the grace of God. Humility is seeing ourselves as we really are and not comparing ourselves to others.
  2. Envy is the desire for someone’s status, abilities, or life situation.  Generosity is letting others get the credit or praise. It is giving without having expectations of the other person. It is love which actively seeks the good of others for their sake. Envy resents the good others receive or even might receive. Envy is almost indistinguishable from pride at times.
  3. Gluttony is consumption of more than what you need, of anything really.
  4. Lust is a craving for the pleasures of the body above knowing and craving God.
  5. Anger (or Wrath) is the person who spurns love and opts instead for fury.   Its opposite, Kindness, is tender, patient and compassionate.
  6. Greed (Avarice or Covetousness) is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual.
  7. Sloth is avoiding physical or spiritual work.

Of course there is no “list” of seven in the Bible, though each of these are there in one form or another  If we truly understood how these qualities make us who we are, perhaps we would understand ourselves better and more importantly our effect on others.

I know this. Sin in our lives deadens our spiritual senses and we become slower to respond to God.  And then eventually we drift into complacency, apathy and even disbelief.

And the sad thing is that I am guilty.  Guilty of this and more.  Aren’t we all?

The good news is that the Grace of God offers me hope that not in my strength but with the power of the Holy Spirit I can forgive myself and I am forgiven.

Envy

I cannot believe how insidious envy is.  As we are in a time of learning about the power of our possessions in our life this is particularly clear to us, to me.  We are learning what’s most important and who our money ultimately serves.

As you list out how you spend it is startling to see your priorities.  Sad. Even embarrassing at times.  Self serving  much?

Okay not always.  There are admittedly many good things that our money is applied toward — ongoing, frequent requests at church to help those with less, extra scholarship money for public school field trips for the kids that can’t afford, the bonus $5 at the grocery store for whatever cause they are raising money for or the extra bag of food for the shelters.  Public Radio.  Our church.  World Vision child.  Compassion International child.  There are lots of ways to give in our culture and it feels pretty good.

But still.  I envy.

Envy is something innocuous.  Invisible.  Like a vapor.  Of the heart.  And the mind.  Originating in the soul.

I read an email vacation message yesterday that said:  “Someplace warmer.”  Envy.  I am not there, that someplace warmer.

“Beautiful jacket” I tell my friend.  Envy.  Mine is from St. Vincent’s is already pilling.  And it is not even close to being “this season.”

Vacations.  Nicer cars.  Newer stuff.  Season tickets to whatever.

Things.  Activities.

Envy. Envy. Envy.

It’s a constant pull. And, possibly because we’re older and are beginning to make wiser choices apparently so they tell us, our children “suffer” for our wisdom.

We put 15% of our budget into retirement.  We haven’t been on a vacation with our kids for three years (since we stopped using our credit cards frankly.)  We limit Christmas presents and birthday presents.  We no longer (I no longer) shop for entertainment.  We haven’t bought furniture in years, though ours is “trashed” by our cats and kids.  I have a nice car (Tom’s belongs to work) and still, I look at the car I wanted, seeing it everywhere, wishing I had the sun roof, leather seats, V6 engine, and a GPS.  Yes, two years after I bought my beautiful almost new Honda Accord I still wish I had upgraded it to to have those features. Will I ever be content?  That is envy.  That is it right there in its ugliness.

The insidious cancer of the discontented my pastor called it.

And yet, reading in 1 Corinthians 13 in the New Testament this morning it says (the Mel paraphrase):

Won’t you just do love, it is what is most important.  Those “spiritual” things that you act like are so important  — they’re not.  Devoid of love, they are nothing.

Even more important than faith and hope, love is what I want you to do.  Because to love the people in your life is to be patient and kind in your responses to them.  Not irritable.  If you are loving you are glad when truth wins, whatever that might be.  Love never gives up or loses faith.  It is always full of hope, and can endure every circumstance.

Love is not JEALOUS. It doesn’t boast.  Don’t worry about what others think of you or about what makes you look good!

It is the opposite of self-glorification.  It is humble.   Love does not demand its own way rudely.   Love does not keep a record (even in your head) of being wronged.  Love is not happy at injustice.

Love is your highest goal.

Not all that stuff?  No.  I haven’t achieved that.  Thankfully Jesus also said in 2 Corinthians 12:9

“My grace** is enough.  My power perfected when you admit you are weak.”

Thankfully I don’t actually do.   He does it in me. And he is perfecting me more every day as I wake up to his priorities.  His focus.  His purpose for us all.

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** If you don’t know what GRACE is, you should look it up.  It’s pretty amazing.  And it is what Jesus gave us as a gift.