Simply Shocking

“It’s not what I expected,” he told me marching out of church.  “I’m not lazy so I thought if there was one of the seven I don’t have to worry about, it’s sloth.”  Week after week the first response to our study of the seven capital vices has been surprise.  They just are not what we thought.  Perhaps, we’d say that we don’t think of life in these terms.  Perhaps, we do not spend much time in self-evaluation.  Whatever the reason, we’ve been caught off guard.

Take envy for example, I was shocked to remember the envy I felt toward both of my brothers when we were growing up.  We typically envy only those in whose place we can picture ourselves.  The person:

A little more gifted as a musician or

who has made a little more money than you

or who has better kids than you, or kids that got into better universities

or who has gotten more public recognition than you

or who has a bigger church than you do

or who has had the business success you set out to have

or who has the marriage you expected you would have.

The fact that you don’t have it just doesn’t seem fair or right or just.  In envy, we are willing to sacrifice others for ourselves.  It results from the almost constant game of comparison we play with others.  In the gospel, Jesus shows us the opposite of envy.  He was willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of others. His actions served to glorify God and to meet our deep need for significance that drives us to grasp for what others have.

Studying sloth was a shock to me.  I echo the feelings of the man who groaned as he walked from church thinking he was good with this one.  If anything, I’ve been called a workaholic. But busyness is no protection from sloth.  Sloth isn’t simple laziness but an inattention to my calling from God.  It is simply not caring about the things that matter most: your relationship with God, your relationships with family and community, and your calling. Rebecca DeYoung, in her book Glittering Vices, used an analogy that was very helpful to me understanding sloth:

Imagine a typical husband and wife.  In general they have a good relationship. One evening, they quarrel at dinner and head off to separate corners of the house for the rest of the night.  They find it much easier to maintain that miserable distance than to do the hard work of apologizing, forgiving, and reconciling.  Learning to live together and love each other after a rift requires giving up their anger, giving up their desire to have their own way, and giving their insistence that the situation can only be seen in one way. Saying, “I’m sorry” takes effort.  It is not the physical energy that it takes to walk to the other side of the house that each of them resists.  It might be that they’ve had the same argument over and over again through the years and they know how it will turn out.  They don’t believe it will change things. So what’s the point of going through the motions of apologizing one more time?

Do they want the relationship?  Yes. Neither wants a divorce, but do they want to do what it takes to be in that relationship? To honor its claims on them?  Do they want to learn genuine unselfishness in the ordinary daily task of living together?   Well, maybe they want to do it… but not today. This is sloth.  It’s more than laziness.  It is resignation.  It is not caring enough to do something.  To give yourself.  It is not following through on what love requires. Sloth is missing out on the opportunities God gives us to enjoy and walk with him, to enjoy our community and to fulfill our calling.  It is saying, “Whatever.”

The gospel is good news not only for those struggling with sins of commission, it is also for the sins of omission.  Jesus came to heal us from the sins of neglect.  The good news is that Jesus did not step away from his mission or push away from his friends.  God never gives up on us.  He was not willing to remain on the other side of the house.  In Jesus he came to us.  He restored our relationship. He makes himself available to us.

I think that looking at the vices has really helped me love grace and God so much more.  I see the cross bigger than ever and God’s love for me in sending Jesus as a wonderful thing indeed.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Sandy on August 8, 2018 at 2:36 am

    It is good to revisit this topic. I have forgotten. Sins of omission are so easy.


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