Don’t you think Christmas brings out the best in people? And I’m not talking about people in the mall, or even people in mall traffic, I’m talking about people who take seriously the wisdom that it is better to give, than to receive. It’s refreshing, especially after studying the seven deadly sins for the past six weeks, to witness such widespread generosity. It seems like everywhere I go I see Angel Trees, Toys for Tots boxes, and efforts to support our troops. And you read about professional athletes, like Kurt Warner, who invest not just their money but their time to serve the less fortunate. I am so thankful that there’s something good left in us, despite all the pride, envy, lust, anger, greed, gluttony, and sloth.
A reader wisely pointed out that I have never really talked about where the seven deadly sins come from, and I greatly appreciate his observation because it’s an important point. The seven deadly sins are not listed by Jesus or Paul, or grouped together anywhere in the Bible in a systematic way. It was the early church fathers who came up with the list, although there is ample biblical support for each one. And it is not meant to be a complete list of sins in general, but a list of sins that are pervasive and deaden our relationship with God Almighty. Of course, no sin is deadly in the eternal sense–thanks to the birth we celebrate tomorrow.
So a bit of blogkeeping: we’re in the final stretch here on the deadly sins. I’m going to finish up with the sin of pride before Christmas, and then I plan to do a special post on Christmas Day, which I hope you will check out. Also, I have a Christmas offer for my readers. Thanks to the C.S. Lewis Institute, a couple of years ago I had the opportunity to purchase Mere Christianity at a greatly reduced price. I have now moved a case of Mere Christianity from Virginia to Florida and back. I haven’t been giving away Lewis as quickly as I intended, so I would be very honored to mail you a copy if you’ve never read it. To say that Mere Christianity is a life-transforming, amazing articulation of the Christian faith is a grave injustice. So own your copy today, while supplies last, and Merry Christmas! (email me your address: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Isn’t it interesting how some of these deadly sins aren’t really even part of our vocabulary anymore? We rarely hear the word glutton except in the phrase “glutton for punishment.” Yet many of us eat too much, shop too much, and all-around consume too much. We let ourselves off easy by playing a comparison game. If we aren’t morbidly obese or an outright alcoholic then is it really gluttony?
Outside of Nickelodeon’s Go, Diego, Go! which features a talking, three-toed variety, you really don’t hear the word sloth very often. In its simplest form sloth is really just plain laziness. So would you consider yourself lazy?
It is easy for me to think about all the stuff I do as a mother of three boys, and quickly conclude that laziness is not currently an issue in my life. I do not watch television (except sports on weekends with my family) and some days I barely get to sit down. But once again my interpretation has been a bit too convenient, because it’s really not about what you do as much as the attitude of your heart.
One of the books that I’ve been reading talks about how depression is linked to the sin of sloth. (What Your Counselor Never Told You, William Backus). Dr. Backus didn’t use Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh as an example, but really he could have. He so fits the description of the person who readily listens to that negative inner voice. Certainly clinical depression oftentimes has a chemical component, but can’t you just picture someone like Eeyore in a downward spiral emotionally, believing they cannot do this and they cannot do that. Assuming that person doesn’t like them, and that nothing really matters. I think we all have those voices, and I think anyone would end up like poor little Eeyore if they listened to them.
I am currently vacationing in beautiful Park City, Utah. The last few years I’ve had this intense desire to snowboard. I am six feet tall which means I have a long way to fall. And I can ski pretty well, so I really do not understand why, at thirty-six, I have this thirst to ride. But I do, so today Will and I took a break from the dreaded ski boots and enrolled in our second riding lesson. After a nasty wipe-out, which is currently memorialized by a giant and throbbing left knee, we took our lunch break. I sat there feeling pretty sorry for myself, thinking about how complicated life would be if I tore something or broke something, thinking about how bummed I’d be if I didn’t get to ski with my little boys any more this week.
But then it hit me. I’ve been studying about sloth, about how it is an attitude of the heart, how at its core it’s a denial of Philippians 4:13 which says that “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (NIV). And as truth often does, that changed my whole perspective. I may have torn cartilage in my knee, I may have broken my coccyx too (although I really don’t think I did either), but I need not worry. I need not be like Eeyore or the tired little engine in the The Little Engine That Could. I may have a voice in my head that says, “I cannot. I cannot. I cannot.” But the great news is I don’t have to listen to it!
The message of the Bible is the exact opposite of nay saying Eeyore, and is even better than that of the noble little blue engine. The Bible says that I should always be telling myself that, through Christ, “I know I can. I know I can. I know I can.”