Virtues and the Seven Deadly Sins:
A Potpourri of Thoughts
Laura Brown, Jonathan Castele, Taylor Crawford,
Daniel Ensign, Mary Flowe, Abby Gabor,
Greg Hess, Shaneice Johnson, Anne Lehan,
Tim McGarvey, Dustin McGowan, Candice Misch,
Stephanie Rentas, and Caleb Wood
Edited by Cliff Williams
This material is a product of discussions in a course taught at Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois, during the Spring 2012 semester. The name of the course was Virtues and the Seven Deadly Sins; I was the teacher. Each class period two students wrote down ideas on the virtue or sin that was being discussed that day. In addition, I mined the papers and tests the students wrote for insightful thoughts. The particular virtues that were treated in the course are the ones that appeared in the textbooks for the course, which were:
Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Sins and Their Remedies (Brazos Press, 2009)
Robert C. Roberts, Spiritual Emotions: A Psychology of Christian Virtues (Eerdmans, 2007)
Solomon Schimmel, The Seven Deadly Sins: Jewish, Christian, and Classical Reflections on Human Psychology (Oxford University Press, 1997)
Clifford Williams, ed., Personal Virtues: Introductory Essays (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)
What follows is inspired by these books, but in no case is there a direct quote from the books. — Cliff Williams
• SINS •
PRIDE AND VAINGLORY
• VIRTUES •
Why do we want to be rich?
Having money is fun.
We think we will be happy.
We wouldn’t need to work if we were rich.
We wouldn’t worry or be anxious about the future.
We could do what we wanted to do.
We want to be entertained.
Money gives us power.
Money brings us comfort.
Money gives us status and admiration.
Money gives us friends.
We want to immortalize ourselves in name and influence after we die.
We think having wealth will fill a void in us.
Money gives us the opportunity to take care of our family and give to charity.
Money is a protection against uncertainty.
“The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (I Tim. 6:10). Is this true?
Loving money by itself is not evil, but it is evil when it takes priority over something more important.
Obsession with money causes us to do anything to get it.
An unhealthy love of money fosters pride in us.
Loving money can cause a lack of compassion.
Loving money can cause cruelty.
Loving money can give us a sense of prideful control—“My money can fix whatever the problem is.”
Loving money can cause murder, idolatry, and waste.
Loving money makes us self-centered.
Loving money causes us to neglect the poor.
Loving money causes social inequality.
We put ourselves over others when we have more money than they do.
We buy friendships with money.
How does our culture encourage greed?
By fostering the American dream—a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence
By deifying capitalism
By valuing economic gain over nearly any other value
By communicating that one must prop themselves up with material goods in order to be autonomous
By holding up wealth as the filter through which we determine the value of people
By simply having lots of stuff
By constantly presenting the need for bigger and better things
By putting monetary value on beauty
In automobile advertisements: “The car comes with the girl.”
Often greed subtly and unconsciously leeches into us.
How can we opt out of American materialism?
Leave the United States
Opt out of a consumer mentality
Make generosity a priority
Live a life of sacrifice
Distinguish between needs and wants
Avoid the need to pursue more
Tune out of glitzy advertisements
Does the Bible teach that the rich are more prone to fall into sin, or less likely to love God, or less able to get into heaven?
No: Everyone is prone to fall.
Not all wealthy are greedy. The wealthy can love God.
With God all things are possible.
Job loved God even though he was rich.
Jesus was addressing the cultural oppression of the rich against the poor when he warned of the dangers of wealth.
Yes: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matt. 6:19).
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).
God gave the Israelites the ability to acquire wealth, but warned them not to be proud and forget God because of their wealth (Deut. 8:11-20).
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:24).
The rich young ruler turned away from Jesus because of his wealth (Matt. 19:16-22).
What is a life free of greed like?
Less motivation for financial success
Freedom from obsession
Willingness to help others by relinquishing our comforts
Sticking out in a greed-obsessed culture
Independence—we discover things we can live without
Inner strength and self-reliance
Not holding back on generosity
Valuing other people more than comfort for ourselves
We turn money into something we think is inherently good even though it is only instrumentally good.
There is a crucial distinction between possessing money and loving it or lusting for it.
Money makes society noisier.
A greedy person thinks only about their own desires.
Loving money is different from an appreciation of what money can do.
Greed is an attempt to compensate for something we feel we lack.
Even when a greedy person gets the things they desire, they still desire more.
A greedy person often mistakes their desires for needs.
Greed is a matter of degree—a question of where money rates in our priorities.
Greed is inherently selfish.
Not all rich are greedy; those who revel in their wealth and seek more for their own pleasure are greedy.
Greed is more subtle than lust.
Riches are not part of anyone’s intrinsic identity.
Buying a brand name is a futile attempt to fit in or stand out.
Life is mixed: “Deerfield, Illinois, is affluentist, but you can walk outside at night without fear.”
Historically Christianity has grown when it is under persecution, which shows that Christians put their faith in God more when wealth is not available.
When the wealthy are obsessed with their wealth, considerations of justice or generosity do not move them to part with their wealth.
Greed can spring from our search for immortality.
Greed can spring from a loss of self-identity.
Why do we identify ourselves with possessions? Or with brand name clothes?
What is the difference between prudence and greed in saving for future needs?
How can we resist the lure of money?
Abstain from certain possessions.
Focus on values such as compassion and generosity.
Put yourself in the company of people who do not obsess over possessions.
Use discretion in spending and giving.
Value other people instead of being consumed with acquiring unnecessary gain.
Be nonchalant toward leaving a publicly admirable legacy.
“Even luxury has it place in human life” (Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, Glittering Vices, p. 108). How?
With good works of art
With enriching books
With enriching music
With enriching travel
The marks of sloth
Indifferent to the welfare of others
Indifferent to one’s own welfare
Detached from life
Living without intention
Avoiding spiritual matters
Like Eeyore—no excitement about life
Indifferent to salvation
An attitude that nothing matters
Indifferent to the value God gives things
Not having a purpose for living
Wanting to give up
Feeling that it does not matter whether or not one does something
Not making efforts
“May as well pray;” “may as well get baptized;” “may as well attend church.”
“I can take it or leave it.”
A loss of spiritual yearning
Like Soren Kierkegaard’s despair: losing oneself in something other
Sloth can result from moral burnout and despair about one’s salvation.
Tired of being good
A vacation from morality—giving up
Feeling of futility at being good
Been good for too long and now do not know the next step
Despair about one’s salvation
Apathy toward one’s destiny
What is the difference between sloth and laziness?
Laziness is physically doing nothing, but sloth is doing nothing with your mind.
One can be physically active yet still be slothful.
In laziness, one does not feel like doing anything.
Laziness is usually temporary, while sloth is a lifestyle.
Laziness can be secular, but sloth is always spiritual.
A lazy person can care for others, but a slothful person does not.
A slothful person can have misdirected zeal.
Sloth has to do with motivation more than laziness does.
Laziness is a symptom of sloth.
Why is sloth deadly?
Sloth leads to not caring to know about others’ suffering.
With sloth one is less likely to take responsibility for what one does.
With sloth there is nothing to restrain a person from doing wrong.
Sloth involves not caring about God.
Sloth can lead to inaction.
With sloth the central purpose of life is no longer exciting or engaging.
With sloth things could spiral out of control.
Sloth is a mental, physical, and spiritual illness that can cause depression and lead to giving up on life.
Sloth lowers inhibitions.
It leads to moral chaos.
With sloth one could hurt people without caring about doing so.
Sloth undermines hope, which is integral to faith.
With sloth one loses a sense of meaning and purpose in life.
We can be unaware that we are indifferent to spiritual matters.
We can be so immersed in sloth as not to notice it.
Sloth in our culture
Not caring to be informed about the viewpoints one takes
Not caring about the moral ramifications of what one does
Not caring about people one does not know
Taking sides blindly and angrily
What does sloth in friendship look like?
One of the friends is more emotionally invested than the other.
There are one-sided conversations.
One of the friends does not recognize the emotional needs of the other.
One of the friends is narcissistic.
The friendship feels deficient.
The friends feel unloved.
There is little eagerness.
The friendship is not balanced.
The friendship is not beneficial to both.
“Sometimes love is work” (Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, Glittering Vices, p. 93). How?
One must . . .
find the other’s love language.
ask for advice.
listen as well as talk.
recognize the needs of the other.
do conflict resolution.
bring up the subject of conflict resolution.
have purposeful time investment.
realize that the relationship is not just about yourself.
have a common purpose.
spend time together.
have a level of challenging accountability.
be intentional about the love.
Remedies for sloth
Realize that one has touched someone’s life.
Force oneself to live zealously.
Pursue a godly life.
Do something nice for someone.
Have a sense of purpose in life.
Practice doing faith.
Reflect on who we really are.
Uncover an “existential memory loss.” © 2012 by Mary Flowe
Just get up and do something.
Engage in disciplines of caring: fast, pray, meditate, do acts of penance, confess, tithe, plus other good habits.
Connect with others: one cannot “progress through life alone.”
Recognize your need for God.
Get a sense of drive.
Recognize the importance of life and faith.
Find something to live for.
Practice small acts of virtue.
Do something good for yourself.
Sloth is a disease of the soul.
Sloth is derived from a rejection of God’s purpose for us and God’s love for us.
We need others to open our eyes to our slothfulness.
Sloth is different from weakness of will, which is wanting to do something yet failing to do it.
In sloth we not only do not put forth the needed effort to maintain a relationship with God, but we reject the work God wishes us to do.
If we are indifferent to spiritual matters, we are indifferent to the fact that we are indifferent.
Religious sloth is indifference toward God and spiritual matters, and secular sloth is indifference toward the purpose of life.
If we struggle with sloth, we desire not to be slothful, which means that we are not completely slothful.
Not caring about being informed is intellectual sloth.
Intellectual sloth is tied to moral sloth.
From a secular standpoint, sloth is a combination of indifference toward one’s duties to others and oneself, and despair.
There must be some midpoint between not caring about improving oneself and an obsessive and unrealistic desire to improve oneself beyond perfection.
One of the primary dangers of sloth is the difficulty of escaping it.
The longer someone remains in sloth, the harder it is to recognize that one is slothful.
A culturally expected non-egalitarian domestic structure can cause sloth in women by fostering too much comfort in an accepted role and avoidance of determining life’s direction.
If the consequences of the seven deadly sins are what make them deadly, then even good things can be deadly.
Is slothfulness a sign of lack of faith?
Does everything matter? Does everything have moral gravity?
How could a Christian be slothful if being slothful involves being indifferent to God?
Could one be emotionally slothful yet intellectually be a Christian?
Does holding beliefs obstinately result from intellectual sloth?
Are uneducated Christians slothful?
Can one be both slothful and care about spiritual matters?
Can one simply choose to care?
Are there other deadly sins besides the seven?
© 2012 by the authors and editor
All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced without the consent of the editor.
PART FOUR: Psychological Generosity, Romantic Love, Patience, Forgivingness