I was just looking through the list of deadly sins, and it hit me: They’re all based on what we shouldn’t do, where we fail. This is a very common message – we’re sinners, we’re depraved, we’re unrighteous, our very nature is against the nature of God, and our only hope is Jesus. I don’t disagree with this idea, but I think the emphasis of it is misplaced. It’s not the church’s fault, really. What they want is to emphasize Jesus, to make him the hero, which he is, and that’s a great message. But what happens practically is that it sets our default thought pattern to, “I am bad. I am depraved. My very nature is wrong.” This leads us very easily to, “I am unlovable. All of this ‘God-is-love’ business is absurd and cruel.” Do you see what’s happened? We are still emphasized in this thought pattern. We are emphasized, but negatively and without the Good News part of the story.
Here’s my truth: I don’t think God has ever been disgusted with you. I don’t think he’s ever seen you as evil. I don’t think he’s ever been angry, upset, or disappointed in you. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” on the cross, I think he meant it and had the authority to make it true. I think he saved everyone in that moment, and the only thing left for us to do is/was to accept the reality of it and live in that reality. And when we say, “Yes, I like this. This feels real and loving and freeing. I’m on board,” Jesus says, “Cool. Welcome.”
Living in reality is a struggle sometimes, but if your default belief is “I’m bad,” the struggle is even greater, and for some people, this thought pattern will sadly always prevent them from being able to live in it. But when you live in the reality that Jesus established, there is no condemnation for you, even if you struggle. God is not surprised or angry with you because you struggle. He is sad, not because he’s disappointed in you, but because he wants freedom for you.
Imagine you have a friend who is addicted to heroin. My guess is you are not angry with your friend for having an addiction. Rather, you hate seeing your friend in pain and are sad to see your friend make decisions that hurt him/her. I think it’s the same way with God. He hurts for us because we make decisions that hurt us and take him up on so little of what he offers.
With that in mind, let’s talk about greed and sloth.
Greed is wanting stuff, more and more stuff, as much stuff as you can get, and getting it by any means necessary. You do this because you don’t know that you are loved, that who you are is exactly who you were meant to be, that you are accepted and cared for. In your mind, you are unworthy of receiving anything, so you take it for yourself, or you stew about not having it until it makes you depressed or drives you to go out and get it. You want more stuff because that means you have more money, and in almost every culture ever, having more money meant having more power, and having more power means you are worthy of more respect, and respect means people love you. Having not much stuff means you are poor or a hippie, and historically, poor people and hippies don’t have much power (although arguably the hippies have a lot of love anyway).
I’m going to start sounding like a broken record here in a second, but the message doesn’t change. You are loved. You can’t even imagine how loved you are. You are loved like crazy. You are loved immensely. You are loved beyond your ability to conceive of love. You don’t have to collect stuff to show the world how much they ought to love you. We can tell by looking at Donald Trump that it doesn’t work anyway.
You are free from that burden. You don’t have to keep up. You already have the love you desire. You already have the acceptance and respect and dignity you’re looking for. They are yours for the taking. God is yours for the taking.
My old roommates, the Joshes (Whitney and Lauren), used to say that sloth was my deadly sin of choice. It’s true. I was off work for snow last week and didn’t change out of jabambas for two whole days. I got tired from sitting around all day, so I took a nap.
But sloth as a spiritual issue is not about physical laziness. It’s about either not growing spiritually or not using your gifts to do the things you know are meant for you to do. It is not contributing to the world. It is not bringing to the table what you have to offer. It is about withholding the image of God you bear from the world. And a big reason why we do this is because we don’t think we have anything to offer.
Hear me well on this one, friends. When God created you, he didn’t look at you and go, “Well crap. I screwed that one up.” No, he made you in his image so that the world could see him through you and know that they are loved too. Who you are is exactly who you are supposed to be. You are a unique mixture of the attributes of God that he weaved together with your personality to make you you.
You have love to offer. You have grace, peace, kindness, service, strength, joy, justice, creativity, hope, art, encouragement and beauty in you, and we need it. Please don’t hide your joy from me because you think it’s too loud. Please don’t hold your creativity back because you think it’s not good enough. Please don’t keep your peace to yourself because you think it’s weak. Ladies, please don’t stifle your strength because you think it’s not feminine. We need the image of God you bear to the world. We need to see him. We need to see you.
I know this one is hard because it’s dangerous to let yourself be seen by the world. It’s risky to be vulnerable and to let people in, and you should definitely be cautious and wise about who you open up to because there are people out there who will take advantage of you or disrespect the gift you are offering to them. But with people who love you, it’s worth the risk, and you can take it knowing that you are already completely loved, that you are perfectly accepted, and that the God in you is good.
I’ll try to wrap this up next time with wrath, envy and pride. It might be spring break before I can get around to that, but I promise I’ll do it when I can. Love y’all.