Sometimes I think the morality of our western culture, especially in the United States, resembles zero-gravity—everything not tied down is coming loose. Some have called this a “zero-morality” culture, with no tethers to hold us back from the abyss of despair and meaninglessness. We are adrift in this world like an astronaut without a tether in space. A large share of our culture has lost the tether of the church and God’s word that in previous times has guided us and we now rely on ourselves to make decisions. Those decisions, made on the basis of our self-interest, leave us in a stormy world without a mooring—a tether. We seem to be spinning out of control with nothing to guide us.
As we are left to our own devices, the Seven Deadly Sins appear to guide our decisions and actions. Remember them? Gluttony, Greed, Envy, Idleness, Lust, Anger and Pride These seem to be hallmarks of our culture in the U.S.
- GLUTTONY. Gluttony means a lot more than just sneaking off too often to sample the 11 secret herbs and spices at KFC. Gluttony, at base, is doing anything to excess. It is an approach to life that knows no boundaries and honors no limits. Gluttony turns our appetites into our rulers—that appetiite might be food—it might be power—it might be sex—it might be money—it even might be golf. We see this in a culture of wanting more and more and more—-more clothes, more “totys”, more cars, larger houses, etc. etc. More than we will ever need!
- GREED. Closely related to gluttony, greed is what we used to call “avarice.” It is not so much the love of possessions as it is the love of possessing. As we exist in a money-driven culture where the bottom line is what is most important and profits are more important than people—-Greed is at the bottom of much that is wrong with our culture. We live in a culture that values money over people. Money over right and wrong. Always wanting more and more because we place value in our culture on what we own, not who we are. Money is power-–money and power are “tighter than ticks together.” In business, we see money as causing immorality, cheating, and lying to get ahead in business and in our lives.
- ENVY. Envy is what happens when we constantly compare ourselves with others. It is the basis of backbiting (tearing down someone else to build ourselves up), gossiping, bigotry, and vanity. When envy rules our lives we are always feeling insecure and our insecurity is compensated for by making those we envy seem less and less so that we feel superior to them.
- IDLENESS. Idleness is sluggishness of spirit that “believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing and remains alive because there is nothing for which to die” as Dorothy Sayers once wrote. The idle person expects everyone else to take care of him or her and will not move a muscle to take care of themselves. The old version is SLOTH.
- LUST. Lust is the perversion of what is good into something that is evil, based on our selfishness. At the base of Lust and driving it is selfishness and the ego. Someone has said that an acronymn for EGO is “Edging God Out”. Lust is extreme selfishness in action.
- ANGER. W.C. Fields once said, “I am free of all prejudice, I hate everyone equally.” Anger is the harboring of grievances that demand revenge and develop into hatred. It is a seething rage that circulates through our bodies into our post-modern culture in ever increasing amounts. It comes out in murder and rape but is also present in attacks on minority groups, the poor, the homeless. Our culture is filled with anger and that is behind all the violence that occurs in it. Read the newspapers and decide just how much anger there is in our world. Pent-up anger comes out in deadly ways all the time—every day.
- PRIDE. The last, but definitely not the least! Someone has defined pride as “people getting drugged on the fumes of their own ego.” I recently read an example of this in a person saying to another person “but enough about me! let’s talk about you. what do you think of me?” Pride is when our own ego is in control of all that we say and do—-IT’S ALL ABOUT ME.” There are all kinds of ways that pride emerges: it may be a “need to-control” pride. It may be a “self-centeredness that comes through low self-esteem. Religious pride is the worst kind of pride. I read somewhere the saying “Have you ever seen a prodigal come home to a Pharisee?” Religious pride turns away the very people that God calls to.
WHAT IS THE ANSWER? WHERE CAN WE TURN? WHERE IS A TETHER THAT WE CAN GRAB ONTO AND HELP OUR CULTURE AND OUR OWN LIVES AVOID SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL? I suggest the TETHER is found in these words of Jesus: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. This is the tether that we need to firmly grasp and that needs to be thrown to a culture that is spinning out of control. Love of God and of neighbor is what we need to base our decisions on. Try it! Proclaim it!