INTRODUCTION In the Middle Ages, a group of men and women in the Eastern monastic movement sought to love God with all their heart, all their soul, and all their minds. In order to do this, they reasoned, they first needed to know the Word of God. They needed to let the Scriptures so fill their lives that they became a part of their very breathing, for it was through the Word that God was most clearly revealed. And so, they studied the scriptures diligently. But it became clear to them that it wasn’t enough to know what drew them towards God. They also needed to know those things that drew them away from God. They needed to know the tools of the Enemy. They felt compelled to understand sin in its most concrete forms. In order to be specific, and to provide confessors a catalogue of sins for their work, these monastics developed a list of what they called “the deadly enemy.” These sins were deadly, not because they were more grave than other sins, but because they were originating sins. All other sins flowed out of these seven: pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust. Avarice/greed is about more than money, it is about generosity, which means letting others get the credit or praise. Greed wants to get its fair share plus a bit more, it is taking without thinking of the misery of others.Envy resents the good that others receive or might receive; it is almost indistinguishable from pride at times. Love is patient, love is kindness, love actively seeks the good of others for their sake, but not envy.Gluttony is against our faith, we should trust God to supply tomorrow s needs, so there is really no need to stack up. This does not pertain only to food, it also pertains to entertainment and other legitimate goods.Lust, self control and self mastery prevent pleasure from killing the soul by suffocation. Lust is the self-destructive drive for pleasure out of proportion to its worth. Sex, power, or image can be used well, but they tend to go out of control. Pride is comparing ourselves to other. On the other hand there is humility. Pride and vanity are competitive.Sloth is zeal, which is the energetic response of the heart to God s commands. The other sins work together to deaden the spiritual senses, so we first become slow to respond to God and then drift completely into the ship of complacency.Wrath/Anger is the flipside of kindness, which is taking the tender approach, with patience and compassion. Anger is often our first reaction to the problems of others, impatience with the faults of others is related to this.Stay away from sins because sins take us farther away from God. CHAPTER I Avarice/Greed Avarice is seated in the material level of human life that natural relation to material things gone wrong, the splitting of our creativity and our relation to material creation off from the Creator. Avarice means to turn creation into a sort of black hole, sucking everything into itself. A curious feature of the creation stories in Genesis is that they have little to say about possession… yet possession is close to the center of the sin of avarice. When people create, they become deeply involved with what they make. We give distinctive shape to the things we create, so it is natural that we should consider them ours. Things become ‘mine’ when they are involved with personal experience… Our desire to possess, as things are now, is always infected with our rebellion against God. Avarice is idolatry – putting something created in God’s place. At is deepest, it uses material things as idols, or as a disguised form of self-worship. Avarice treats something that is not God as if it were. That displaces God, and turns the whole story of creation on its head. Throughout the Old Testament runs a vein of astonishment that human beings try to worship created things as God. Augustine thought that human beings created things for substitutes for God… ‘People worship what they own.’ We prefer an immediate, visible glory we can grasp for ourselves to the invisible glory of God. Things carry their maker with them, whether their maker is God or a human being. That ’something’ can be grasped for it own sake, apart from the maker; when it displaces God it is idolatry… It may be that we also adore what we feel we lack in ourselves and seek elsewhere; when we own things we hope to share in the life they carry or convey. When we take these things that we can own and dominate, for our idols, the self is left in control. Accumulation of goods brings power, reputation and glory-an apparent share in the goodness and potency of the things possessed. Yet one’s possessions fall from one’s grasp at death when the spirit returns to God its maker… CHAPTER II Envy I see envy as a sin really close to greed. If you are actively practicing one you are probably involved in the other too. They are both sort of economic sins. People caught up in the sin of envy often look over their shoulder, comparing themselves to others, trying to make sure they stay economically ahead. Special circumstances- poor health, unemployment, a recent catastrophe- these require love to give more to one person than to another. Think about it- if you have two children in your family, or 3 or more, you can love all of them equally but you can never give yourself to each of them equally. If one of your children has a special need, love requires that you give more of yourself to them. The others get a little less of your time and attention, and that’s OK, because love always responds to need, it is not calculating. Envy, on the other hand, is only calculating. The workers agreed to a normal day’s wage, a silver coin. They received a silver coin. Their problem was not their wage, but with their calculation of the other worker’s wage. This is the most prominent characteristic of envy- it is highly competitive, always comparing. Envy is known for its sounds- murmuring, grumbling, the sounds of discontent, irritating sounds that are corrosive, that eat away at a person and a community. Envy is blind to its own gifts. The envious person may have some wonderful assets and abilities, but all he or she can see is the gift that they don’t have, which is found in another. What others have always seem larger and more special. CHAPTER III Gluttony Did you ever think that there is a spiritual element to eating? Probably not, because we Americans are a people who, on the whole, have secularized the ritual of eating. For us, eating is simply the act of stuffing the food in one’s face. That’s all eating is.Breakfast is a pop-tart while we’re running out the door, if we eat at all. Lunch on the job is often eaten as fast as possible, maybe at our desk, maybe alone. Or it’s used as an opportunity to schmooze a client, which is another way of saying that we work through lunch. Dinner in many homes is not the sacred time it once was. Maybe one spouse gets home consistently later than the other and has to warm up their food. Or there is a time pressure to drive a child to a band rehearsal or a swim practice. Or everyone gets lazy and eats TV dinners in front of the TV, too exhausted to even talk to each other. We Americans are the creators of fast food and efficient eating. We know how to wolf down a hamburger and call it a meal, and, in the process, we’ve become the number 1 gluttons in the world, fatter than all the other nations. And, we know it’s bad for our health, but we never think about it being bad for our soul. We’ve forgotten that eating has a spiritual dimension. We are told in Genesis that God made human beings and pronounced us good. The ability to eat is good. Eating is a good part of God’s plan for our lives. The need to eat is built into us by our Creator. It reminds us of how fragile and dependent we are- we hunger. We can’t go on when we hunger. We are moved to relieve our hunger. Too few people eat today and are satisfied. Many people around the world are unsatisfied because they have too little to eat. Others are unsatisfied even through they gorge themselves with food. Society has a word for excessive eating: it’s called gluttony. It comes from the Latin, gluttire, which means to gulp down. Gluttony is eating food without thinking about it, without considering what it means. The Church has always been less concerned with the amount of food people eat than with the way people eat it. .
I think our problem is that we neither feast nor fast- we just eat and eat, on and on, throughout the day, to give our mouths something to do. What has happened to setting times throughout the day to leisurely eat? It is gone in our country. In France, the communal act of eating is so important that all virtually businesses shut down for 2 hours, from 12 to 2, so everyone can eat. Could you imagine our businesses doing that? No. We don’t see eating as an important community event. We are a people with a great hunger. There is a great cavity within each human being that yearns to be filled. We often fill that hunger with things- clothes, jewelry, cars, food. We eat out of boredom. We eat out of frustration. We eat when we are depressed. We eat when we are stressed or angry. We eat because we hope it will satisfy our longing. But it doesn’t. Our real, inner longing isn’t for food. It is for something deeper and more meaningful. CHAPTER IV Lust Lust is an agitated longing, a frightening craving, an out of touch desire for something or someone that is not yours. The Greek word for lust in the New Testament is epithumeo, to set your heart upon, to long for, to crave after, to covet. It is the desire to possess, to own, to consume, without caring about the needs or feelings of any other human being, nor the will of God. Passion is not all that lust is about. Passion is a part of love. Lust is a form of passion that has been misdirected and twisted by the power of sin. Lust bypasses everything else and moves directly to passion. in so doing, lust produces distorted sex, because it eliminates relationships and turns the other person into an object or thing. That’s the most sinful thing about lust- when you lust after a person, that person ceases to be a full person in your eyes. They become another body to conquer. Their feelings don’t matter. Their future doesn’t matter, as long as you get what you want. In the long run this breaks down community and leaves us feeling isolated and alone. Pornography feeds into lust. We have a huge porn industry in this country, and it is the worst thing for us because it objectifies the subjective, personal, intimate act of sex and demoralizes woman. CHAPTER V Pride You and I have seen pride. We’ve easily seen it in others. We’ve seen the person who brags about anything and everything, we’ve seen the athlete who declared himself to be the greatest, we’ve seen the scholar who finds every opportunity to show us how superior they are. We’ve seen the false humility of those who keep denying they have special talents and gifts. We’ve seen the grandparents endlessly boasting about their grandchildren. We’ve come to know pride by observing others. But we come to know the most honestly by looking within ourselves. When I become irritated by someone who has corrected me, when I get upset with someone else dominating the conversation (which usually means I wanted to be center stage and they beat me to it), when I am offended because someone didn’t acknowledge my contribution, my insight, my hard work- it is my pride displaying itself. Let’s be clear, pride is different from healthy self-esteem. Pride is self-esteem propped up at the expense of others. It is the swelling of the heart filled with self-importance. Pride raises us up above others until we can look down on everyone. It is a spiritual cancer, eating up possibilities for friendship and love and community. Pride is a deadly sin. Pride stands behind Hitler’s war on the Jews, apartheid in South Africa, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and racism everywhere. In every case, pride causes people to believe that they are inherently superior to the rest of us. CHAPTER VI Sloth Sloth is a great word. It sort of oozes out of the mouth and just sits there. SLOTH. There is a monkey-like creature in South America called a sloth- they just hang on trees all day and move very slowly. The sin of sloth is just sitting there, when you should be moving. Sloth is just lopping along when you should be running. Most people say that sloth isn t a deadly sin. Sloth allows people to be killed. Sloth allows souls to be lost. Sloth kills off some loving, caring, human part of you and me. Bishop Desmond Tutu put it this way when he thought about those countries that were trying to stay out of the apartheid issue in South Africa. “If an elephant is standing on the tail of a mouse, the mouse will not appreciate it very much if you stay out of it.” Sloth is staying out of it when love requires you to jump right into the middle of it. Sloth is the sin of disconnecting ourselves from the rest of creation, from the rest of the human family. Sloth is a crowd of people turning their heads when a woman is battered in the streets of New York City. Sloth is a chemical company pouring toxic waste into a landfill, and no one in the company taking responsibility for that. Sloth is well fed Americans ignoring the needs of the poor and lonely in their own streets. Sloth allowed Jews to be killed in Germany, unspeakable atrocities to be committed in Bosnia, killing fields to be sown in Cambodia. Sloth is the world turning its back while protesters are locked up in China today. CHAPTER VII Wrath/Anger Anger is wrong wrath, a sin against the gift of social life; anger has no neighbors, only enemies and obstacles. Sinful anger is a destructive movement against a neighbor. It may be internal; a violent though, consented to and enjoyed. Sinful anger may also be external as in murder.Basically, anger can’t be avoided. We all know that. To live in community means we get angry along the way, because things aren’t always done exactly the way we would like them to be done. Because people unknowingly say things that hurt us sometimes. Because there will always be some people that just plain don’t like us, for whatever reason. And, on some level, they become our enemies. And that’s when our natural, human, helpful, gift of God anger is in danger of becoming a deadly sin. When we have people we think of as enemies. When we have human beings to focus our anger upon. Anger tends to escalate when we get in head to head confrontations with enemies. You say something, they say something back, you say something worse, on and on. Anger is a deadly sin when it tends to spin out of control for us. When it leads us to dehumanize our enemy then we are in real danger of hurting somebody, of even killing somebody. Anger is serious business, it must be handled with care. CONCLUSION Sin creates an inclination to sin, it causes a fault by repetition of the same acts. This results in stubborn inclinations, which cloud conscience and corrupt judgement; the concrete judgement of good and evil. Without realizing it, we often commit the Seven Deadly Sins that affect our relationship with God. Some people feel it is better to take a more positive approach to faith and not dwell on sin. Others believe all sin is equally opposed to God, and so any classification of sins is wrong. Still others just want to forget the whole thing. Just because people think that they are saved and God loves them, they really don t care about all this stuff. A combination of good spiritual reading, nearly constant prater and the reflection on the repetitive patterns of life, work well for naming our sins.It is very hard to pass a full day without committing at least one sin. I think this is sort of sad. Sin has become such a part of our daily habit that nowadays we commit sin without even thinking about it.I do not hold puritan beliefs but I do think that if we can avoid sin, then why shouldn t we? So I think that if we put a little bit of effort, we can stop committing sins specially the Seven Deadly Sins and then we can lead a much more productive life. BIBLIOGRAPHY Fairlie, Henry, The Seven Deadly Sins Today, Paris: University of Notre Dame Print, 1983.Lyman, Seven Deadly Sins, Michigan: Ayer Co. Publishing, 1976.Lyman, Stanford, The Seven Deadly Sins: Society and Evil, General Hall Publishing, 1989.Schimmel, Solomon, The Seven Deadly Sins: Jewish, Christian, and Classical Reflections on Human Psychology, Oxford University Paperback, 1997. The Seven Deadly Sins Internet Site found at: http://loki.stockton.edu/ shk10207/sin2.htm.Wilson, Angus, The Seven Deadly Sins, Chicago: Quill Publishing, 1992.