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Lent calls us to deal with our own sinfulness

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Aaaargh! Here comes Lent again.

There is no denying it. We must face the music once again. There is something deep within us that resists dealing with our own sinfulness. The Spirit calls us to come back again with all our hearts. This requires painful candor and courage to face the truth of our own weakness.

What can we do to get to the root of our failure and overcome our weaknesses?

Like a yo-yo dieter, each Lent we try, once again, to stop losing our temper, gossiping, over-eating etc. What we are missing is the need to get to the root of our choices. It is like pulling dandelions; you never get rid of them until you dig up the root. These roots are called the seven deadly sins and we have some digging to do this Lent.

This Lent is a good time to get down and dirty concerning what the church teaches us about these seven, classic weaknesses and which one seems to have rooted in our heart. Once we understand why we can’t stop gossiping, cheating, yelling in anger, we can allow redemptive grace to soak into our souls. So readers, here is a review of pride, envy, greed, lust, gluttony, anger and sloth.

First, there is the mighty threesome of pride, envy and greed. They seem to come from the same family. Pride is the root of so much other evil. Pride causes us to ridicule others, to think the rules do not apply to us and whatever we do we will never fail. This poison turns into narcissism at its worst. Envy tempts us to want what others have and to see ourselves as deserving everything.

Envy whispers in our ear, “ You deserve it, get it for yourself.” A close cousin of pride, envy causes us to compare and keep score, making our neighbors into competitors, and our own blessings a prize to be boasted, rather than a gift to be shared.

Envy causes us to want what we cannot afford, belittle others who do well and undermine other’s success. It is nasty germ! Greed rounds out these three by driving us to want more than we need and confusing the difference. Is a functional computer a need or a want? What about shoes for different types of occasions? We are driven to succeed so that we can have more. Rather than wishing and working for more, we should strive to cultivate gratitude for what we already have. A confessor once told me that greed is the root of most of our sins.

The inclusion of lust among the seven re-minds us of the impact of our sin on others. Sex as an act of consumption, of personal gratification, rather than for the benefit of the relationship is a matter of pride, greed, and perhaps envy, pouring fuel on the fire of our selfishness. We think of lust as a private sin, but God who wants every part of us, who is concerned for our thoughts and feelings, knows that these sins of the heart and mind that bear fruit in our actions.

The nature of the seven deadly sins is being about our heart than our actions. So sloth is not so much about laziness or the lack of productive work, but rather as apathy toward doing what is good, right and perfect, those deed that lead us to a relationship with God. Sloth is not caring enough about God to live in His ways. We just do nothing because it is easier.

Then, there is anger. A just anger can quickly turn into a deadly sin. Anger is a response to knowing the world is not as we think it ought to be. Psalm 137 is a sincere cry from people in pain, asking God for justice. But misdirected, anger can lead us to bitterness, violence and resentment. Rather than holding on to or anger, Jesus challenges us to forgive. Forgiveness enables us to move beyond the immediate wrong to proactively work for justice and rightness in the world.

Finally, gluttony is an odd sin to number among the seven, seeming to be harmful only to the sinner and hardly so damaging as anger and greed. Gluttony signified over-all preoccupation too much of everything. We spend too much, eat too much, talk too much. In fact, we push God aside in favor of our pleasures.

We have finished this most deadly list. But our Lent is just beginning. Will it be different this year? Can we face the root of our problem?

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