We have all heard of the Seven Deadly Sins. They are not listed in the Bible as such, but are list of sins that the Catholic Church created as requiring utter contrition and confession; otherwise, a person could be eternally damned. Serious stuff to be sure. The list was created in the Middle Ages by a pope; it no doubt answered the question, "What sin will cause me to go to Hell?" Because seven is a divine number, this list gave a cogent answer to the question, with seemingly divine authority behind it. I am not here to debate this list; I am going to use it to take another tact. Here are the sins:
All of these sins are certainly listed in the Word; so Biblical precedent is here. These sins are ugly in a person, and will lead to all sorts of misery when practiced. If you would like to characterize our nation right now, these sins are regularly practiced with no apologies. Allow me to list where I see these sins most manifested:
1. Envy: The beauty industry is entirely built upon the idea that you are missing out if you don't dress/look/accessorize/behave like the women in the magazine. The magazines stir up insecurity in women ("You look like WHAT?") and then offer a "solution": Take our advice and do/buy ________. This is also why we have a love/hate thing going on with celebrities: We want to have what they have and look the way they do, but our resources won't allow it. So we envy them and look for ways we can be like them, even if it's from a bottle of their signature perfume or their favorite make-up brand. Envy comes from discontentment; discontentment is the lie that happiness is just "over there."
2. Gluttony: Food channels, advertising, super-size, large portions, lots of portions, snacks (whole aisles in supermarkets are dedicated to them), fast food, all-you-can-eat: all shout that food is important and lots of food is really important. Emotional eating and comfort food provide merely a temporary fix to the real hunger within.
3. Greed/Avarice: Wallstreet, CEO's, evangelists with jets and extravagant lifestyles, Trump and his ilk, the green god... We call it "the pursuit of wealth" (when we're doing it) and "you're just being downright greedy" (if our competitor is doing it.). We are fascinated by the lifestyles of the rich and famous, yet we cringe at $1200 air-conditioned dog houses and $139.00 steaks for your portable pet. Money is supposed to buy you everything the world has to offer and so the more of it you have, the more happiness is to be yours. Hollywood should then be the happiest place on earth. Not.
4. Lust: Sex-trafficking, porn, movies, book, animation (Japanese cartoons come to mind), video games, advertising (sex sells), a divorce rate that leaves shattered families in its wake and children growing up with no idea what healthy (yes, I mean Biblical) love and marriage look like. Lust relieves anxiety, provides an escape and in the end, makes sex not a request but a demand. I demand to be happy, and you are going to provide me that sexually, whether you want to or not.
5. Pride: You deserve ______________ is the bottom line of advertising. You are special. You are awesome. You need not work hard, just show up and everyone gets a prize. If families are shattering children, then schools must pick up the slack and make children feel good about themselves. In some churches, prosperity, healing and God wants only the best for you (read, materially) is an appeal to the flesh, which thinks it deserves only the best. It's all about you, you, you. And why not? Aren't you the center of the universe? We may not say that, but we sure act like it.
6. Sloth: The government must provide for its citizens. Several generations later, it is still providing. An easy A, lowered standards and making a challenge less so is leading to apathy and a sense of why bother. "I love to work at nothing all day," says the song. With addictions to help us check out, we do little because we care little.
7. Wrath: "Mean People Suck" was a popular bumper sticker years ago, and those who thought it was a noble sentiment catered to the very meanness they were shunning. Our culture is mean with its jokes, comments, tweets, and overall social media posturing about what everyone else should be doing. Bullying, cyber-bullying, and presidential tweets create an atmosphere of anxiety and a need to strike first. Being offended is the anger-du-jour, and who isn't being offended these days? Fake news to upset us, real news to confound us and so we get angry and stay that way.
But, wait a minute. How about recasting these Seven Deadly Sins as the Seven Soul-Numbing Distractions? The sin element is still there, but in a world of not-so-quiet desperation, people want an escape. Whenever you tell your pride, "Hey! You deserve this!" you will jump on the Distraction Bus and go for a ride. Sadly, for too many people today, this bus goes nowhere.
Wait! Isn't that the point? A sin separates us from God, so we try to avoid sin most of the time. But a DISTRACTION...now that doesn't sound so serious, does it? A distraction is a less I'm-raising-my-fist-against-God and is more of a I-may-be going-nowhere-but-I-deserve-this-darnit kind of thing.
Let's revisit the list, and look at these as distractions:
1. Envy: I am going to spend a lot of time on social media to poo-poo those folks who think they have it all. I will not be overtly mean, but if I need to jab a bit, I will do so. I will distract myself with other people's joys, sorrows, foul-ups and post all of my stuff, with the clock ticking away and my heart not thinking a whole lot about God. It's not SINFUL, but...I am using my time to escape, not engage in His Word and spend time with Him. I am distracting myself from the emptiness I feel inside.
2. Gluttony: The 1/2 gallon of ice cream is a distraction from my inner hunger, my inner emptiness. Instead of feeding on the Bread of Life, I am distracting myself with a feel-good-for-awhile until the next bout of emptiness kicks in--and it will, for only Jesus truly satisfies.
3. Greed: Every moment shopping is a moment not thinking about my emptiness. I think that a new _____ will make me happy but it cannot last. So, I must shop/distract myself again and again. God feels distant because my heart is distant.
4. Lust: It is the one appetite that no matter how often you try to satiate it, it will continue to gnaw at you. Why? Because we were made for God's love and lust desperately tries to counterfeit this.
5. Pride: If it's all about me, me, me, I can distract myself for quite a long time with getting my needs met...but after a while, I get sick of me. I am trying to distract myself from myself. It hits the spot, momentarily, but leaves us hungering for more.
6. Sloth: Distraction, hour after hour, day after day...leaves me wanting to inhabit an alternate universe and there is no shortage of digital material promising a distraction from my hum-drum-accomplishing-nothing-of-meaning world. I have a God-given purpose I am distracting myself from day in and day out, and patiently He waits.
7. Wrath: If I enjoy the rush of pride and superiority that being angry all the time gives me, I am distracted from a fundamental truth: the world with its values cannot be fixed. Only human beings with a transformed heart by the touch of Jesus can change the world, because change is from the inside out.
So, if we allow ourselves to be persuaded that "Well, I am not really sinning..." when our distractions take us our of His presence and into a false Eden of our own creation, we lose the very reason we are here: to have deep fellowship with the One Who made us.