Jesus summed up all we need to do in what is called The Great Commandment. It is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” While this seems simple, it is not, but if we were to follow this advice personally it would transform our lives, and if our society followed it, the results would be revolutionary. We aren’t doing very well in keeping this great commandment, either personally or as a society, and I would like to list Seven Ways that we continue to not live according to the Great Commandment, both personally and as a society. Let’s do it David Letterman style, starting with #7 and working up to #1 way we do so.
#7 – GLUTTONY. Gluttony means more than sneaking off too often to visit those 11 secret herbs and spices at KFC, or sitting down to an all-you-can eat buffet. Gluttony 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—no matter what our appetite might be. It may be food—it may be power—it may be sex—-it may be money—it can even be golf. Most of us go there from time to time, but our society as a whole is increasingly there all the time. We want more and more and more—-more clothes, more adult “toys”, more cars, bigger houses, etc. etc. And we want more because of #6.
#6 – GREED.
Closely related to gluttony is GREED. It is not so much the love of possessions as it is the love of possessing. We live 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 in our society. We live in a culture that values money more than meaning. Money is valued over people. Money over right and wrong. We are always wanting more and more and more because we place value in our culture on what we own and not who we are. Money is power. Ask any successful politician whether money and power go together—they are as the saying goes “tighter than ticks”. We see this not only in politics but in the business world where cheating and lying to get ahead are often utilized. If moraliy stands in the way of monetary gain, morality is trampled. This is not following the great commandment: money is our God, and who cares about our neighbor?
#5 – ENVY.
Envy is what happens when we constantly compare ourselves to others. It is the basis of backbiting (trying to tear down the one we envy), gossiping, bigotry and vanity. When envy rules our lives then we always feel insecure, and our insecurity is compensated for by making those we envy seem less and less, so that we feel more superior than them. We love our neighbor less than ourselves and are willing to destroy them to make ourselves more secure. Building ourselves up at the expense of our neighbor is a long ways from the intent of the Great Commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.
#4 – IDLENESS.
Idleness is the sluggishness of spirit that “believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, lives for nothing and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die,” as Dorothy Sayers writes. The idle person expects everyone else to take care of him or her, and will not move a muscle to take care of themselves or to take care of anyone else. The idle person has no sense of responsibility for what happens to them or anyone else—-They love neither God nor themselves very much if it takes an effort, and certainly don’t care about their neighbors.
#3 – LUST.
Lust is the perversion of what is good into something evil, based on our selfishness. At the base of Lust is selfishness and the ego. Someone has said that an acronym for EGO is “Edging God Out”. As we put our desires before the good of others and before God, we make what we want our God—-whether it be sex, power, money or anything else. We think only of ourselves when we lust. It is extreme selfishness in action and it shuts God and other people out of our lives.
#2 – 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 throughout and is prominent in our post-modern culture in ever increasing amounts. It comes out in murder, rape, attacks on minority groups and the vulnerable, the immigrant, the poor, the homeless, the weak. When anger rules a society the society will be violent like ours in the U.S. today. 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. As the Bible says, we cannot be angry with our neighbor and love God. (I. John 4:7)
And the #1 problem is—-PRIDE.
Pride is defined as “people getting drugged on the fumes of their own ego” An example is when someone you are talking to says: “enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think of me? Pride is when our ego is in control of all that we say and do. It’s all about me! Remember the acronym that I gave you for ego earlier: “E=Edging; G= God; O = Out.” There are many ways that Pride comes out. It may be a “need-to-control pride”. It may be a “self-centeredness” that comes through low self-esteem that says “I’m not much, but I’m all I ever think about” kind of pride. Religious pride is the worst kind of pride. In the words of a theologian “Have you ever seen a prodigal come home to a Pharisee? Religious pride turns away the very people God is trying to reach—the vulnerable, the poor, the weak, the homeless.
You may have discovered by now that I am applying the 7 Deadly Sins to individuals and our society today. Although the seven deadly sins are a product of the past, I think they are very present with us today in our society—-and they are just as deadly as they were in the Middle Ages, both to us and to our society!! What do I mean by “sin”. Sin, biblically is anything that turns us away from God and our neighbor—it’s not just “doing bad things.” It is when we let ourselves become rulers of our lives instead of God.
All of the above are sins because they separate us from God and from each other. That is the deadliness of them. All of them break what Jesus said was the Great Commandment—to love God and our neighbor as we love ourselves.. There is no love for anyone but “self” in any of these “sins”. No love for God. No love for neighbor. Only self-love. What a difference it would make in our society and in our personal lives if we could get rid our lives and our society of all seven of them!