This year during Lent, we’ll be looking at the Seven Deadly Sins – not to make you feel bad about who you are or anything, but more in the original way they were meant – as a diagnostic tool in order to see where your own sin lies. We all sin, we all have fallen short of the glory of God and are broken. Lent is about stepping back and taking a good look at who we are – and then allowing God to work in our hearts and lives in order to experience the joy of the Resurrection for ourselves for another year.
While the traditional seven “deadly” sins are never listed in the Bible as such – there are Biblical antecedents for them. Particularly in Proverbs 6:16-19 and Galatians 5: 19-21, where there are lists of different sins that God “hates.” Sometime in the late fourth century AD, a monk by the name of Evagrius Ponticus wrote a list of what he called the “eight patterns of evil thought.” This was in addition to what he called “self-love.” His list was gluttony, greed, sloth, sorrow, lust, wrath, vainglory, and pride. He meant them as a way to categorize the way we think so that we might be able to see where we may have gone wrong.
In 590AD, Pope Gregory I rewrote the list to the one that we tend to think of today. He combined vainglory and pride, and placed discouragement along with sorrow, and then added envy to make the list that we know even now. Pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust. Each of these are a type of thought-sin and action that we must beware. They correspond with the Seven Cardinal Virtues of early medieval thought: humility, kindness, patience, diligence, generosity (or charity), temperance, and chastity. Over the centuries since the list was first written, the Roman Catholic church has seen these as “mortal” sins whereas others are “venial”- a distinction that Protestants tend not to bother with but is still important. The difference is mainly one of degree – that is, the “mortal” sins are a bigger deal than other, less problematic sins. However, that was not really the way they were intended originally.
This week we’ll be exploring Greed and to a lesser extent, Gluttony. We’ll be going through the seven traditional sins simply because they are what is commonly thought of, regardless of your church background. We only have five weeks of Lenten dinners and services before Holy Week, so we won’t be having a separate week on “lust,” partly because there are children about on Wednesday evenings. Tonight, we’re talking about Greed, which is the desire for monetary wealth. Gluttony is the same desire, only moved to food and drink. Lust is the same desire moved towards “person” as object. We aren’t desiring the person, rather their body. So all three sins are, if you will, idolatries of material things. Pride and anger are idolatries of ones’ self. I’m still working on exactly how sloth could be characterized as idolatry. If you have any ideas, please let us know!