Monday, October 05, 2009

Seven Deadly Sins

The Seven Deadly Sins, contrary to what many believe, are not listed as such in the Bible but is a list assembled over the centuries by Christian Theologians. Even though the list as such is extra-Biblical, this is one tradition that is not only theologically harmless, but actually profitable.

A couple of quick observations.

First off all seven of them reflect attitudes and patterns of behavior rather than actual acts. This fits the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles who emphasize that sin begins in the heart of the person, and that is where true sin lies, while sinful actions are as much as a consequence of sin as they are actual sins. Jesus taught that erotic fantasies are as sinful and destructive to the soul as is the actual act of adultery. He taught that out of control anger and the desire to kill people is as destructive to the soul as the actual act of murder. He knew that we would never totally conquer such things in this life but He wanted us to be aware of the problem and the potential consequences if we make no effort to control them.

Secondly all of them are to some degree inherently good things that have gone beyond their natural and intended roles in our lives to become destructive forces. When pride drives us to improve ourselves it is good but when it makes us unable or unwilling to see our faults or the value of others it becomes a destructive force in our lives. The libido is a good thing that ensures our survival as a species but when you want to have sex with every cutie that you see you've got a problem. Gluttony and sloth are natural and very real bodily needs taken to a destructive level. Greed and envy will force us to improve our situation but when they are allowed to harm others they are again destructive. Anger can be the drive for justice but it can just as easily become a cancer that consumes our soul.

The Sins themselves

ANGER : Proper anger is not in and of itself sin as it is often a force for justice and law, but it must be under control at all times. Paul the Apostle said Be angry and sin not, nor let the sun go down on your anger and do not give the Devil an opportunity. (Ephesians 4: 26 & 27) To paraphrase the passage it could be understood as, If you have cause get angry, but don't do anything evil or stupid in your anger and then get over it so that Satan can't use your anger as a tool against you. When anger is allowed to fester and grow it becomes hatred which is an anger that is insatiable and will be pleased with nothing less than the destruction and damnation of the target of that anger, and it grow to the point that it consumes you and soon there is nothing left of you but that anger. It can also lead to bitterness which is an anger toward the entire world where you are unable to find joy or happiness and eventually it too can consume your soul until it becomes nothing but a mass of bitterness.

ENVY: Believe it or not, in its proper place envy can be a force for good. If I am envious of something worthwhile that someone else has and I take the proper steps to gain the same thing it then it is has driven me to improve myself. It becomes destructive when it drives one not to improve themselves, but to destroy, steal and belittle what another has or is. If I had a neighbor with an Olympian physique I would probably be envious. If it causes me to go to the gym and workout to improve my own physique then the envy was a positive force but if I start belittling him, running him down, and finding every fault with him that I can then the envy has become destructive and can only lead to bad results. Sadly the second route is much easier to follow than the first so envy all too often destroys rather than builds. It is so much easier to complain about greedy rich people than it is to either be satisfied with your place in life or to improve your own life. It is so much easier to belittle the talented people than it is to find your own talents and make the most of them.

GLUTTONY: Let's face it; one has to eat to survive, but as Ben Franklin once commented One should eat to live, not live to eat. Gluttony is not an occasional feasting but a habit of over eating or a habit of bad eating. It may not seem as spiritually deadly as the other sins, though it can be deadly, it has an unavoidable physical consequence of weight, cholesterol build-up, strain on the heart, potential diabetes etc. This could also include drunkenness and drug addiction. In the Dungeons and Dragons Dark Sun campaign there was a type of undead, whose name I have forgotten, that was born of a severe glutton who would rise from the dead and endlessly seek food but the more they ate the hungrier they became and as they feasted they would feel like they were starving. This is true in a spiritual sense because many gluttons are trying to fill an inner emptiness that can never be filled with food and the more they eat the more stark their true inner hunger becomes.

GREED: Greed is kind of hard to pin down. Is it the desire to improve your condition, a desire to take more than you need, or a desire to take what belongs to another? I guess all three of them could be called greed but the first one is generally a positive thing and I'm not sure it can properly be called Greed. The other two are not so positive. Jesus condemned all greed and treated the rich wanting more and more exactly the same as the poor longing for the possessions of the rich. The bad things about greed are that it makes you hostile toward others and that it directs your mind to material wealth and social station rather than spiritual things.

LUST: The desire to have sex ensures the survival of humanity and works also to create a special bond between a husband and wife. Sex for pleasure is not inherently bad but it is not the reason sex exists. The problem starts when the natural sex drive becomes the overpowering thing in your life. You start to see everyone of a given description as a potential partner or as one you wish to have sex with. It has several spiritual problems. It often dehumanizes others as you begin to see them primarily a source of pleasure. It makes it difficult to create that special bond that should exist within marriage as one's sexual relationship is no longer unique in that life. Finally, like gluttony, the desire for sex becomes the driving force in one's life.

PRIDE: I prefer the word ARROGANCE to pride. Pride that drives us to be the best we can be, that forces us to do the right thing, that will not let us fail, is a positive thing. Arrogance is pride gone bad. Pride tries to make us the best we can be while arrogance simply assumes that we are better than others. Arrogance tries to convince us that we don't need others. It makes us try to see others as below us. We fail to see our own limitations and the value of others. Proper pride drives us to improve ourselves while arrogance drives us to destroy and belittle that which is better than us. Arrogance will allow us to have no betters. Sadly that often includes a refusal to bow to God as well. Needless to say this will destroy them in the end. To combat pride one needs humility, which is not a negative self-image but a realistic assessment of one's strengths and weaknesses, an acknowledgment of the weaknesses and a recognition of the abilities and worth of others with no feeling of resentment or strong envy.
I capture more souls through vanity than lust. Al Pacino as Satan in The Devil's Advocate.

SLOTH: Sloth is better known as laziness. Now we all need to rest from time to time as nonstop work will lead to an exhaustion that cannot be assuaged by a good night's sleep but one does need to work in some manner. First off it guarantees one's chances for survival are improved. Secondly it keeps one out of trouble. Third it makes one a useful part of society. Sadly some believe the world owes them a living and they don't have to work for it. I feel contempt for both the idle rich and idle poor; the rich should be closely involved in their enterprises while the poor who receive public aid should be expected to do something for it, even if it's sweeping sidewalks or picking up trash. There is also a contempt for those who believe you earn a paycheck simply by showing up for work, not actually doing it. Only the severely disabled should get a free ride in life. Also physical laziness can lead to spiritual laziness which can result in more problems.

One thing I note is that the deadly sins overlap each other in so many ways. Every one of them is also a natural, potentially good thing, run amok. Also it does not speak of actions, but what is behind the action. If I do not hate because of anger or envy, then I am not going to kill or rob my neighbor. If I do not see women as primarily potential sex partners then I am going to treat them better as I see them as people and, seeing them as fellow humans, I will not rape or seduce them, or cheat with them.

Sinful conduct begins as a sinful heart, driven by one or more of the deadly sins.


Blogger Tim said...

"I'm very well accuainted with the 7 deadly sins
I keep a busy schedule trying to fit them in
I'm proud to be a glutton, and I don't have time for sloth,
I'm greedy and I'm angry, and I don't care who I cross!"

Warren Zevon (Mr. Bad Exazmple)

5:44 PM  
Blogger dons_mind said... favorite deadly sin......

8:41 PM  
Blogger Ducky's here said...

Believe it or not, in its proper place envy can be a force for good. If I am envious of something worthwhile that someone else has and I take the proper steps to gain the same thing it then it is has driven me to improve myself.


How does the ownership of something necessarily "improve" you?
Maybe your labor is better used in something other than copy cat consumption.

9:46 AM  
Blogger shoprat said...

Tim cute

D_M Yeah Iknow

Ducky Material possessions may improve your standard of living, but I also spoke of envy over other things.

2:29 PM  
Blogger christian soldier said...

haven't read the list of 7 in a long time--it's good to review occasionally!

5:59 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Sins are us turning away from God. I believe God gave us each gifts and talents as we live our lives, but they are meant to be shared. The 7 deadly sins seem to be when we hoard our gifts for our own self interest and desires.

Good post, Shoprat!

12:05 AM  
Blogger Z said...

They all seem to involve SELFISHNESS in some way, don't they?
Very interesting, Shoprat, thanks...plenty to think about.

1:52 AM  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Or, regarding all those 7 sins:

Nothing exceeds like excess.


1:12 PM  

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