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Why the Seven Deadly Sins are Deadly: Greed & Envy

Holding hands with greed is her ugly sister Envy.

In our modern world it seems downright medieval to talk about the seven deadly sins. It doesn't matter if something comes from the middle ages or the prehistoric age. If it's true its true in every age, and the seven deadly sins are a pretty good summary of what's wrong with the world because they're a good summary of what's wrong with me and you. For Lent this column will zip through the seven deadly sins and see how they're killing our culture.


GREENVILLE, SC (Catholic Online) - In our modern world it seems downright medieval to talk about the seven deadly sins. It doesn't matter if something comes from the middle ages or the prehistoric age. If it's true its true in every age, and the seven deadly sins are a pretty good summary of what's wrong with the world because they're a good summary of what's wrong with me and you. For Lent this column will zip through the seven deadly sins and see how they're killing our culture.

In the middle of the worst financial crisis in a century, people are pointing the finger of blame. It's the bankers' fault. It's the government's fault. It's the  insurance companies, the building industry, the mortgage industry, the European Community, the Americans, the British, the Chinese, the Russians.

Why are we in such a financial mess? Because people were greedy. All of us were greedy and the bonus grabbing, money grubbing men in suits are only symbols of the envy and greed that has driven our whole society.

Why were people who were earning hundreds of thousands of pounds grabbing bonuses of several million? Because they, along with most people in our secular society, were simply worshipping the fat little god called Mammon, and the liturgy they follow is the motto of the Wall Street film character Gordon Gecko who said, "Greed is good."

Greed is not good. Greed is bad, and it is not only bad, it's deadly. It's deadly because it kills. It kills charity. How can you be generous towards others if all you do is seek more and more and more money for yourself?

How can you be concerned for the welfare of others if all you live for is the bottom line, undercutting the competition, using people as pawns and grabbing all the loot you can as fast as you can? When a whole society gives in to greed the whole society becomes a violent jungle where only the strong survive.

Holding hands with greed is her ugly sister Envy. Envy is not deadly with the violent rapacity of greed, but with a kind of slow poison that contaminates the soul. When we envy other people it eats away at us. We become discontented and angry, and that inner burning soon turns towards getting what we want at whatever cost. Envy is a deadly sin because it kills gratitude. It kills contentment. It kills happiness, and eventually, like greed, it kills the gift of charity in the soul.

G.K.Chesterton once said, 'Every argument is a theological argument.' He's right. Beneath every human crisis there is a moral crisis and beneath the moral crisis is a crisis of belief. People are greedy because they're not godly. When a society forgets God almighty they start to worship the Almighty dollar (or Euro or Pound) It's logical: if you don't believe in God and heaven and hell, then why bother with morality?

If you believe this material world is the only world you're ever going to live in, then why not get as much of this world's  riches as possible? If you're going to die in a few short years and you believe that's then end, then it makes sense to grab as much as you fan as quickly as you can. Atheism makes people behave like greedy children in a candy shop--grabbing as much candy as possible and shoving it in their mouths until they're sick.

The financial wizards may come up with a package to bail out our economy, but no matter what they do it will be a band aid on cancer. The real problems in our society are much more profound and will take far longer to cure, and the therapy will be just as painful as the problem.

The therapy, of course, is repentance, renunciation and conversion of life. It is a therapy that is impossible to implement from the top down. It can only be accomplished one soul at a time, and the only soul I can put through that therapy is my own.

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Fr Dwight Longenecker is parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He is a prolific author, blogger and sought after speaker. Visit his website and blog at dwightlongenecker.com

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Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.

Keywords: Seven Deadly Sins, Greed, Envy, materialism, conversion, renunciation, Fr Dwight Longenecker



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1 - 10 of 13 Comments

  1. ita
    2 years ago

    G.K.Chesterton once said, 'Every argument is a theological argument.' He's right. Beneath every human crisis there is a moral crisis and beneath the moral crisis is a crisis of belief.-Profound statement-it certainly gives serious pause for thought and reflection.Brilliant article -thoroughly inspiring.

  2. B
    2 years ago

    @GordonHide. Who are the top four out of five philanthropists whom you mention? And what countries have reached the 0.7% GDP target for international giving? Just as you challenge the author for facts, I present the same challenge to you. This is a great opportunity for learning, so please help if you can. God bless.

  3. Kelly Barkell
    2 years ago

    This was a very informative article, but only covered but a few of the seven deadly sins. I would like to know what the author's opinions on lust in our world, or Sloth, or perhaps wrath. Please keep writing. Your message makes sense. People need to see the bigger picture for every small decision they make.

  4. Andre Skowronski
    2 years ago

    Great message, thanks for such a courageous text. .As a reply to Gordon, I understand his point, but having worked for Scandinavian companies, I saw tremendous problems in their "lost youth". Are they happy? that is the question... How sure are we? Countries you mentioned, like Sweden, Norway, etc, ( the " only countries in the world to reach the 0.7% of GDP target for international giving are some of those with the highest rates of organic atheism" ) are among the ones with higher suicides rates, measured by all UN standards...worse, most of them describe themselves as "unhappy". So, that is not a valid point too...What is the point in being "atheist -rich" and unhappy, if you only live once? Not surprisingly, even the most "liberal Netherlands" are reviewing all their policies towards drugs, since they now finally acknowledged, the "experience" did not work well...after years and years of "progressive policies"...

  5. David D.
    2 years ago

    Thank you for a very insightful and timely article, Father Longenecker. I take no issue with the general premise that the rise of secularism, moral relativism, and modern day hedonism, to name a few, can have no positive impact on lessening the spread and growth of greed and envy and the inclination of individuals to fall victim to the lures of those two deadly sins. In fact I would posit that they are the root causes of many of the ills in our society. However, like Gordon Hide, I do not necessarily think that athiesm, or secularism for that matter, in and of itself results in individuals acting like 'greedy children in a candy shop', no more than I accept Gordon's implications that atheists are by and large more generous in their charitable giving. Neither accounts for the fact that as Jesus would no doubt have said (in fact I think He did, but I just can't remember the Scripture passage.) "even sinners do good works" and that it is through the 'deposit of Faith' that God instills in all of us that can lead even those who find themselves in a state separated from God to act in a moral and Christ-like manner. They are the quiet whispers and the gentle nudges we hear and feel in our everyday lives. And they are there to move all of us to fill the void in our hearts, minds, and souls that can only be filled by and with God. (Sorry Gordon, there's just no getting away from God's great love for each of us!) Make no mistake, I am not suggesting a free pass on the conscious refusal of individuals to hear and live the Word and the Truth. And I am struggling with the temptation to judge the motives behind the lavish giving of the lavishly rich. Only God knows that which is in our hearts and it is between the individual and our Sovereign Lord to work out those details over a lifespan and at the time of our final judgement. During this Lenten period as we prepare ourselves to share both in the suffering of Christ's passion and the celebration of His resurrection, let us all pray for an awakening. To open our hearts to the needs of others. Through faithful and unselfish giving of out 'time, talents, and treasures' ... all for the Glory of God.

  6. Wes Lisitza
    2 years ago

    I think it's important to note that "Envy" and "Jealousy" are two different things; "Jealousy" is saying "I see what you have, and I want it, too", whereas "Envy" contends "Because I do not have what you have, therefore, I will destroy it - If I can't have it, no one will." Atheism tends to pull from this mentality, as did Communism. The idea that there are people who have faith in a God they trust and believe in deeply is a bountiful oasis in the harsh, relentless desert of some people's lives, and to atheists, such an oasis ought be destroyed. In a parallel to "Greed", there are those who are unwilling to give up the things that appear valuable to them in order to do good unto others. "Greed" doesn't limit itself to money and property. Have we been generous with our faith towards others? Have we shared God's love with the sick, the homeless, and the elderly? There are those of our faith who simply are bereft of the Love of God because they don't do any sort of outreach. Regarding why the US is in such dire straits, the Greed and Envy within us all doesn't have to simply be about money and giving it to people and other countries. Aren't Americans "Greedy" when we value our youth over maturity and death? Isn't our Greed to remain children what has lead us to vote for abortion advocating politicians? Didn't our Envy of the cost of life-saving benefits of healthcare what encourages us to speak in favor of euthanasia of our elderly? More so, did not Greed motivate us to create self-aggrandizing reality television shows that promote selfish behavior?

  7. GordonHide
    2 years ago

    You should note that four out of the top five philanthropists in the US are atheists. How's that for greed. You should also note that the only countries in the world to reach the 0.7% of GDP target for international giving are some of those with the highest rates of organic atheism. Obviously more atheist greed.

    I suggest you look up your facts rather than go with your gut feel.

  8. David Carlon
    2 years ago

    Or as Bishop Fulton Sheen called them... the seven pall bearers of the soul. However, I disagree with your lumping everyone into the stew of scat that the avaricious hogs roll in... "All of us were greedy and..." My observation of the current financial crisis... is that it was leavened by a small percentage of self worshiping hogs in the unregulated banking and financial industries and they are currently highly leveraged in the European Union nation states... the cynic within me makes me wonder if it was an orchestrated effort to topple the paradigm of the people serving nation state and replace it with a fascist state that serves ONLY the interest of the corporate hog. Greece will implode before the end of the year followed by, and in no particular order, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and France.

  9. abey
    2 years ago

    Man does fear GOD & there is every reason to do so. In the olden times & even today in order to do the desires of his flesh called pagan beliefs or Paganism, man by putting idols in front of him, idols visible & invisible, started worshiping GOD through the idols on which is centered stories wound round the desires of the flesh according to their own desires, for eg. gay relationship is centered on idols with gay stories of their deities to Justification, to justify the lusts of their flesh, even unto bringing in as administration policies, as is currently seen & so on to do every unclean thing to the desires & lusts of the flesh. Another convenient form of late, is Atheism ,to do the lust & desires of the flesh by avoiding god saying no god. To conclude, the sisters, Paganism to many gods & Atheism to no god are to the lusts & desires of the flesh "To Deceit" inclusive of all the seven deadly sins, to the cause of the serpent from Eden, in the fall of man & on this the Lenten period is to the reflection of the rise, in & through The Messiah-Christ off GOD.

  10. Steve
    2 years ago

    Great column. Thank you!


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