Focal Passage: Proverbs
7:4-5, 21-23; 23:1-3, 19-21
“Do this! Don’t do that!”
“This is right, that is
for children and adults alike.
In the first century,
philosophers and teachers composed lists of virtues for their students to
cultivate and vices for them to avoid: “Do this! Don’t do that!”
The New Testament writers
followed suit. Remember the six vices in 1 Peter 4:3, cited in last week’s
lesson? (See also Mark 7:21-22, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 2 Corinthians 12:20,
Ephesians 4:31, Colossians 3:8 and Revelation 21:8 for vices; Philippians 4:8
and 2 Peter 1:5-7 for virtues.)
Paul lists 15 sins, “the
works of the flesh,” followed by nine virtues, “the fruit of the Spirit,” in
Galatians 5:19-23. Of the sins he says, “Those who do such things shall not
inherit the kingdom of God.”
In Romans 1:29-32 he cites
17 sins of the Gentiles, commenting that “those who do such things deserve to
die.” Really deadly.
So a fourth century monk —
some say John Cassian of Marseilles, others Evagrius of Pontus, in Greece — who
listed eight especially insidious habits was on solid biblical ground. Two
centuries later Pope Gregory I, writing about Job, reduced the list to what we
now call the Seven Deadly Sins.
For her high school history
class, Danielle, one of our youth, memorized the sins using the acrostic
WASPLEG: Wrath (anger), Avarice (greed), Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy and
We know that all sins, not
just seven, are deadly: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And it
doesn’t say “sins” (plural), but “sin” (singular) — that rebellion of heart by
which “we have turned every one to our own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Individual sins
are the outward symptoms of an interior spiritual condition.
particular sins helps focus our attention. Today we begin a series of four
lessons, taken from the book of Proverbs, on the Seven Deadly Sins. We start
with lust and gluttony, paired together and labeled “sins of excess.”
It’s a perfect match. TV
programs oozing sensuality are paid for by commercials enticing us to buy junk
food. Screenwriters and advertisers know our weaknesses better than we do.
The problem is not sex or
food, both created by God and declared “good.” It’s when they become
obsessions, dominating our lives.
It’s when they become
perversions, used in ways God never intended. It’s when they become
destructive, to ourselves and to others.
And we can’t condemn one and
wink at the other. Both are sins and, without Christ, deadly.