Focal Passage: Proverbs
3:27-28; 11:24-28; 23:17-19
Each lesson in the Learner’s
Study Guide begins with a question: today, “Whom do I harm in my desire to
I once heard John
Vannorsdall, longtime chaplain at Gettysburg College and Yale University,
distinguish between what he called “hot” and “cold” sins.
He identified the hot sins
as sins of passion, excess, and losing self-control — well-known sins, easily
identified, widely condemned. Examples from vice lists in the New Testament
include theft, murder, fornication, adultery, sodomy, licentiousness,
wickedness, drunkenness, carousing, reveling, a hot temper, and filthy language.
In contrast, the cold sins
are calculating, callous and unsympathetic — interior sins, often more
effectively concealed, more plausibly denied. Jealousy, conceit, haughtiness,
selfishness, anger (as in vengeance or grudge-bearing), gossip, slander, backbiting,
deceit, lying, and bitterness make the New Testament lists. So do greed and
envy. (Could we add bigotry and prejudice?)
Vannorsdall noticed that
most of us are quick to spot the hot sins and focus our moral attention on
them. After all, they get the most publicity. It also helps when they’re done
by somebody else.
The cold sins get less
scrutiny. Besides being lower on the radar, they just don’t seem as bad. Is it
because that’s where we do so much of our own personal sinning? Better to point
the finger in another direction.
All sin is harmful: some hot
sins, like murder, especially so. But Vannorsdall wondered, which sins — hot or
cold — cause more harm to more people more of the time? (A clue: In the
Gospels, Jesus says more about money than any other topic besides the Kingdom
Greed is when I want more.
Envy is when it belongs to someone else. Both are harmful.
Greed harms those I take
advantage of, pursuing more. Greed harms those I neglect, chasing after more.
Greed harms those I look down on after I get more. Greed harms people the world
over who must live on less because I must have more. Greed robs me of my own
joy and contentment, desiring more.
Envy does the same, with a
dose of resentment, spite and bitterness thrown in. The antidotes to envy and
greed are trust and generosity: “God is able to provide you with every blessing
in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide
in abundance for every good work. You will be enriched in every way for great
generosity” (2 Corinthians 9:8,11).
A bumper sticker says,
“Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” Don’t you believe it.